7(S)-Group

Fast business, a quick solution

No other sector is so directly affected by fluctuations in the economy as the temporary work agencies. No matter whether companies are laying off staff in times of crisis, or whether extra staff are required in an economic upturn, the demand for personnel services is always rapidly changing. The 7(S) Group based in Hamburg responds to this highly volatile market with a high-speed planning, analysis and reporting system: Corporate Planner.

With its 163 branch offices throughout Germany, a massive amount of data converges in the 7(S) Group headquarters in Hamburg each week. The teams in the branch offices for the most part consist of up to three employees who are fully occupied with acquiring and looking after customers, and acquiring and allocating personnel. They simply have no time left for management accounting tasks as well.

Claudia Breckwoldt, responsible for sales and contract management in Hamburg, analyses the sales and recruitment activities of the individual offices each week. The current data are read into Corporate Planner from the specialist pre-system L1. On the basis of these data, she produces rolling twelve-weekly reports. These include, for instance, timeline reports, benchmark figures for making comparisons between the branch offices, relevant key performance indicators and plan-actual or previous year-actual comparisons, which she sends by e-mail to the sales manager every Friday. Some important key ratios which are used again and again for planning further sales activities are the number of visits per employee per week, prospect visits in relation to customer visits and the number of eligible proposals.
The staff with operational responsibility for individual sales regions or industry sectors, or the company managers, are regularly and promptly supplied with results and analyses by Claudia Breckwoldt. Only then are they able to react and plan accordingly.

The process is speeded up by means of the master-client structure and flexible time axis in Corporate Planner. Changes in the branch offices (new offices, mergers, closures) can be incorporated in the structure quickly. With the help of the flexible time axis, the bookable working days, which vary between the German federal states, are displayed and planned separately for each state.

Even during the course of a month, the weekly reports can be compared with the plan and previous-year values in a detailed calendar. “We are only able to plan with this much flexibility and in such detail with Corporate Planner. Other solutions like, say, Excel, just aren’t up to it,” is how Claudia Breckwoldt describes a major advantage of the software developed by Corporate Planning

Profit analysis
The cooperation between the 7(S)-Group and Corporate Planning goes back many years, to when a typical profit management system was set up for the group, which at that time consisted of 2 operational companies and 13 branch offices. Since then, the group has grown into 28 companies with 163 branch offices in Germany and abroad. In the choice of software, being able to plan and display values in small units of time was crucial. Apart from that, a solution was required from the outset which would go along with and support the rapid growth of the group and thus, as it were, grow with it.

For each operational company, a P&L, balance sheet and cash flow statement was drawn up. As well as that, a cost centre analysis (a cost centre being identical to a branch office) and a cost unit analysis (a cost unit being an industry sector or service) was built. Then, as now, Jana Sass, Team Leader for Profit Management, was impressed by the intuitive handling and simplicity of the software: “Without expensive consultancy, we were able to get started unassisted and we introduced the software in our company very quickly. If we take perhaps one or two days of consultancy per year, then just to pick up tips on how best to implement particular aspects in the software.”

What’s more, new employees who use Corporate Planner attend introductory training at Corporate Planning in Hamburg. That also serves to keep user knowledge up to date.

Financial position
In the 7(S)-Group, the liquidity position is examined in just as much detail as the sales figures. This is where the day-based flexible time axis comes into its own. The weekly plan is reviewed each day, whereby all cash inflows and outflows are recorded according to company and mode of payment. The outflows are assigned to the categories of creditors, wages/salaries, health insurance funds, PAYE income tax, VAT and taxes on income. The outflows are likewise recorded by the day for the plan, as the exact dates can be determined in advance. Inflows cannot generally be planned with as much certainty, so an even distribution is assumed for each one.

Receipts from major customers can be predicted more accurately and are therefore planned asymmetrically. By adding the bank balances and the transfers between the companies (cash pooling), the financial management at 7(S) is provided with the group’s liquidity status by the day which can be compared with the plan.

Getting safely to the target
When humans work to tight schedules, errors often slip in somewhere. For this not to be the case at 7(S)-Group, the management accounting staff place their trust in Corporate Planner alone. Because: “There’s been no such thing as a miscalculation since we’ve been using Corporate Planner,” says Jana Sass. With the vast amount of data and reports passed to and fro between headquarters and the 163 branch offices every week, with any other solution the likelihood of error would be far too great.

“We can no longer imagine work without Corporate Planner,” Jana Sass describes the situation. With more and more colleagues using the software, who are to have restricted access and write permissions to selected data only, she is already planning the changeover to Corporate Planner 3.0. The sophisticated rights management system in the CP-Control Center matches the complex specifications of the service provider.

The appointment with a consultant from Corporate Planning has already been fixed. Once again, the staff at the 7(S)-Group are not prepared to wait for long and wish to introduce the new version as soon as possible. Speed and flexibility are all part of the business. In Corporate Planner they have found the solution which can keep up with them.