Leuchtpol gGmbH

Electricity comes from the hole in the wall?! Project management at Leuchtpol gGmbH

Leuchtpol promotes education for sustainable development for topics such as “energy and the environment” at nursery schools. The educational project, which is set to run for five years, must deliver exact budgets and costs to its owner and its sponsor. For optimal control of the available budget over the five-year project lifetime, it was necessary to introduce corporate performance management.

The non-profit organisation Leuchtpol is a project company which is active in the field of education throughout Germany. In a nutshell, it arranges free training courses in the principles of education for sustainable development with reference to energy and the environment for pre-school teachers lasting several days.

Its only shareholder is the National Working Group for Nature and Environmental Education (ANU). The Leuchtpol project company has sole decision-making competence for the specific project, in particular being exclusively responsible for the educational concept and its development and application. Leuchtpol receives academic guidance and assessment from the Institute for Integrative Studies (infis) at Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany. The project is funded by E.ON AG. Its headquarters are in Frankfurt and it has eight regional offices.

External corporate performance management
Fulfilling the demands for transparency of all the companies and institutes involved calls for a professional reporting system for the application of funds as much as for budgeting. The project‘s temporary nature was the reason why Leuchtpol, which was established especially for this project, decided not to set up an in-house corporate performance management department, but instead to bring in an external specialist for this task.

Michael Geskes, Managing Director of the mangement consultancy Xtern-Controlling, was instructed to find a solution and to implement the specifications. As Leuchtpol had only recently been established, a suitable IT environment had to be created first. DATEV had already been chosen for the financial accounting. This meant that the corporate performance management software had to be capable of importing the DATEV data and of depicting the complex account structure prescribed by the tax accountants. Michael Geskes satisfied the management as well as the company‘s owner and sponsor that Corporate Planner, the CP-Suite module for operational management, would fulfil all the requirements and provide excellent support in all corporate performance management tasks.

Next, they needed the buy in of the teachers in the eight regional offices throughout Germany, who were actually going to be the users of the software, had to be won over. These colleagues were initially somewhat wary, voicing their reservations at the prospect of yet more new software being introduced. At regional management meetings, their reservations were eventually dispelled.

Personal views
The external corporate performance management specialist could now get started. First, working closely with the management, the respective tree structures were built. The tax accountants‘ recommendation for using meaningful 8-digit account numbers was of course followed. In the implemented solution, the first four digits constitute the familiar account number from the “SKR49” standard chart of accounts. The next two digits indicate the department to which the account is attributed (e.g. educational work or public relations work). The last two digits reflect the organisational assignment, i.e. the cost centre. “With the help of Corporate Planner, we managed to “break up” the account numbers so that the conventional view of the cost centre structure can be displayed, as well as a rotation of the view in which the departmental structure is placed at the front as a differentiating criterion,” says Christine Sauer, Leuchtpol Managing Director, of the implementation.

A third layout of the structure was added, as the sponsor E.ON had its own budget view for monthly reporting which also needed to be depicted in the Corporate Planner structures. Furthermore, a personnel budget was drawn up and likewise displayed in Corporate Planner. The cost centre database was linked to the personnel budget so that any changes in the personnel budget would have an immediate impact in the cost centre analysis.

Energy for the essentials
In a non-profitmaking project, the preparation of a budget and the monitoring of the costs are the be-all and end-all of corporate performance management. Christine Sauer had a variety of budget variants prepared in order to be able to look at different alternatives side by side. Each month, variances between the plan and the actual values are analysed and a forecast is produced. A thorough check is made as to whether the costs are in line with the budget. The Managing Director of the project company has permanent access to the detailed figures and the overall results, so she can always keep her eye on how the project is developing. However, the information about the trends, the application of funds and the budget overruns was not only required by Ms Sauer at the Frankfurt headquarters.

It is just as necessary for all eight regional offices to have access to the figures and thus to the Corporate Planner module in the CP-Suite. All the regional offices were connected with the headquarters via Open VPN. With one on-site client installation each, the regional offices can access the CP-Server in Frankfurt directly in order to retrieve the respective analyses and standard reports every month. Christine Sauer has been extremely satisfied with the quality and meaningfulness of the reports and analyses since the corporate performance management software was introduced. “Critical remarks from the supervisory boards have been a thing of the past since then. Special requests can be fufilled both easily and quickly,” she happily stresses the success of the roll-out.

With the support of Michael Geskes at her side, she was able to implement this part of the project quickly and smoothly. The amount of time and effort per month has been effectively reduced. This has created a sound basis for her to be able to devote all her attention and energy to other tasks in the project stages ahead.