The UK Met Office is targeting improved financial planning after implementing new IBM Cognos software.

The Met Office runs its finance out of one central department based at its head office in Exeter, Devon. While other parts of the organisation have been using Cognos to run business operations, the finance department was still running its planning, budgeting and forecasting data collection and analysis via multiple Excel spreadsheets.

Richard Martin, financial planning manager, said: "The data proved difficult to collect, validate and aggregate as well as time consuming for the team." He said the team needed a new system to improve collection and consolidation and provide version control and security, allowing more time to review and analyse the budget and forecast information.

He said: "The monthly reforecast is collected from the whole organisation. Individual managers are responsible for their financials so as a finance team we were doing a lot of Excel template collection. Trying to get those in and consolidate them was a very cumbersome procedure, so we needed a solution that could streamline the entire collection process."

To deal with the problem, the Met Office chose to deploy IBM Cognos Contributor software. The software is aimed at end users across the entire organisation, giving them access to a complete linked set of templates specific to their role in the planning process. It would allow them to enter data and evaluate information prior to submission.

"Contributor would allow us to monitor the entire planning process and view the status of every participant," said Martin. To help deploy the software, the Met Office turned to Inca, an IBM Cognos partner.

Having attended several interactive courses at the "Inca Training Academy", the finance team were ready to take on the challenge of implementing the software. It was imperative for the Met Office that Inca "used a very collaborative approach throughout the process to ensure a transfer of knowledge to the finance department", said Martin.

With IBM Cognos Contributor in place the Met Office has benefited from several improvements in its forecasting process across the organisation. Martin said managers now have a longer window to think about their financials and get their input right, because of the shorter time it takes finance to consolidate the data.

He said its also easier to incorporate changes to the business, and managers can change numbers based on the information they have. In addition, the financial actuals are now loaded into Contributor so managers can see past information as well.