23 October 2014

Tsogo Sun Streamlines and Simplifies SAP Financial Reporting with GL Wand

GL Wand is an intuitive solution which is immediately familiar to Excel users and requires little training. As a result of using GL Wand, Tsogo Sun enjoys a competitive advantage thanks to the ability of business users to quickly receive crucial insights into rapidly changing operational situations – and make informed decisions based on reliable data.

Founded in 1969, Tsogo Sun is South Africa's largest hotel chain, providing accommodation, restaurants and entertainment across all market segments and regions of the country, servicing both the local and international traveller. The company has a portfolio of over 90 hotels and has also grown to be a leader in the gaming and entertainment industry, since opening its first casino in Nelspruit in 1997.

Cilliers de Klerk, System Support Analyst at Tsogo Sun says, "Given the sheer size of the hotel chain and the obvious complexity of its business structure, having a constant and clear picture of its finances is crucial to the effective operation of the business."

"When we upgraded our old financial system to SAP ERP Central Component 5, there was a requirement that all reporting had to be based on a 'like for like' basis, that is, the same sort of reports were expected by management as those to which they had become familiar," he explains.

Providing more insight into Tsogo Sun's operations, de Klerk says the company is headquartered in Fourways, Gauteng, South Africa. "We are in the Gaming and Hospitality Industry; the Hotel Division consists of 94 properties with 4 regional offices, across which the SAP system is used. In total, we have some 450 users of this business system."

Essential reporting

The reports required by management include Hotel Management Reporting, which is created in SAP Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP), which de Klerk describes as a hybrid of SAP data and data-warehouse reporting logic. In addition, he says, all 'standard reports' have to be created in SAP ABAP, but have to reflect the familiar way in which reports were delivered from the previous system which had been replaced by SAP.

However, those tasked with producing the business intelligence faced several challenges, as de Klerk explains, "The nature of the hospitality business, especially across such a diverse and large organisation, means there are constant requests for ad-hoc reporting directly from SAP. That meant bulk downloads from the SAP business system for one thing; for another, we have no in-house ABAP skills, so we had to rely on costly third parties to provide the necessary expertise."

He adds that the creation of ABAP reports itself is a time-consuming process, depending on several steps including the creation of a specification, creation of the report, testing of the report, and then deploying the report.

These issues meant the analysts tasked with producing reports were under pressure, while the consumers of the report – business people in charge of operational issues – were experiencing frustration in delays to receiving the information required to make accurate and sound decisions.

Rapid deployment, immediate results

When de Klerk and other members of the Tsogo Sun technology department saw and experienced Excel4apps' GL Wand, demonstrated at the 2010 annual SAPHILA Conference, they immediately recognised it as the ideal solution to meet their reporting challenges. Such was the confidence in the GL Wand solution that it was implemented at Tsogo Sun just months later: by February 2011, the software was deployed to 20 users ahead of the hotel group's year end.

"At that stage, we were on GL Wand version 3.30 and SAP ECC5; no other systems or solutions were considered as the demonstration of the solution gave us complete confidence that it could solve issues that had plagued us for years," says de Klerk.

Subsequently, he says Tsogo Sun has upgraded to GL Wand 4.06 and SAP ECC6.

Remarkably, de Klerk says practically no training was required to get GL Wand up and running and delivering the reports required by the business. "We purchased 20 licences and assigned them to people who are all experienced Excel users. With their knowledge of the spreadsheets, the level of training was basic. Once we presented them with a demo, there was zero resistance to the new system as the users could easily see the benefits of working with GL Wand."

GL Wand: Bringing SAP reporting to life

Implementing GL Wand has proven a revelation for Tsogo Sun, with one of the business analysts describing the improvement over SAP ABAP reporting as 'making life worth living again'.

That, explains de Klerk, is thanks to the fact that the tool makes reporting considerably faster. "Because GL Wand is Excel-based with all the bells and whistles, it delivers a major advantage for our users, as it is a familiar tool which works the way they do," he relates.

Not only does GL Wand accelerate reporting, it also reduces the time and cost associated with bringing in outside help. "We no longer need to rely on expensive report development by external ABAP specialists, as it is unnecessary to have these skills to produce SAP-based reports with GL Wand," de Klerk points out.

The solution has had a transformative effect on the business analysis team; not only does de Klerk describe it as 'extremely reliable', but he adds that it has increased productivity and improved collaboration between members of the team, and the business users who rely on the reports generated by the business analysts.

"Employees feel empowered to do their jobs, while there is increased satisfaction in the business analyst team as well as from the consumers of the reports," he notes.

The return on investment achieved from the GL Wand solution is satisfying; de Klerk adds that more licenses can be added to grow the system as required.

Summing up his view of the value which has been added to Tsogo Sun by moving away from SAP ABAP reporting to Excel4apps's GL Wand, he says it delivers a competitive advantage for the hotel group. "We're extremely satisfied," de Klerk concludes.