One of the challenges of operating a holding company is coping with complex accounting and tax structures across a spate of diverse businesses. Without a high level of oversight and control, and lacking adequate attention to detail, an array of problems can occur. These can range from diminished overall performance and impaired business decision making to potentially costly and damaging regulatory and legal issues.
At Wind River Holdings, a nearly century-old private investment firm based in King of Prussia, Pa., the quest for better financial controls and improved data visibility led to a significant change in enterprise data management, including the adoption of a more advanced analytics platform. In the past, the firm relied on a legacy enterprise ERP application to manage data. However, over time, the system—along with piles of spreadsheets and printed reports—had become unwieldy and increasingly difficult to administer.
“We have a diverse set of business conditions,” explains Paul Peterson, corporate control for Wind River. “Each of the operating companies has its own reporting nuances and requirements, and each has its own general ledger software. The lack of a standardized structure and the sheer volume of entities we roll up are challenging.”
In fact, the holding firm encompasses more than 150 entities across sectors such as real estate, financial services, facility management, manufacturing and franchising. “While we’re not a huge organization in size, we must deal with an enormous amount of complexity and detail,” he adds.
Among the specific problems: applying system updates and patches without interrupting data flow; keeping spreadsheets updated and in sync; and pulling together data manually from a variety of sources. With an IT force consisting of only 15 people, there was the potential for the IT infrastructure to impact bottom-line performance.
“We constantly had issues with whether the data in hand was up to date and accurate,” Peterson says. “There was a lot of wasted time and effort involved with getting answers.”
In January 2014, the company switched to a cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) solution from Host Analytics. Among other things, the consolidation module has simplified IT administration, reduced CAPEX costs, and ushered in far better data management, business intelligence and reporting practices.
“We are now able to get accurate information and answers in a matter of minutes, and can obtain data summaries at the corporate level, along with more detailed data at the local level,” he explains. “And we have a more secure IT environment.”
The system, which is highly configurable, is able to pull data from local ERP systems seamlessly—even with data stored in different native formats. “We have gained a great deal of flexibility,” he says. This, in turn, helped the company advance its ability to understand issues and trends, and to react more quickly and decisively.
“We have moved to an environment with greater agility, flexibility and accountability,” Peterson concludes. “We are now driving a level of understanding and business performance that wasn’t possible in the past. We’ve simplified IT and improved business performance.”