RAC Outgrows Excel and Switches to Quantrix for International Budgeting (Customer Interview)

There are so many variables involved in managing an international farming business that Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC) had more than 566 Excel workbooks and still couldn’t look beyond a one-year budget. Kyle Bunstein, Vice President, Treasurer, is more than halfway through the process of moving to Quantrix to improve budgeting for this leading supplier of fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

Q. You inherited a very complex web of Excel spreadsheets that were created to manage the company’s budget. So many companies find themselves in this position, where spreadsheets just grow organically – no pun intended. Where are you in your process of migrating to Quantrix?

We have a separate budget for each area – we’re a farming business, and each set of acreage has cost centers, equivalent to Excel workbooks. Each budget outlines a part of a field, for a total of 566 “jobs” in the US. We’ve been able to cut that down from 566 Excel workbooks to 60 Quantrix models. I’m close to 90 percent done with the implementation and roll out in the US, but still have to work on our international companies.

Q. What are you most looking forward to?

Having one data source to leverage, and the ability to use Quantrix’s data integration functionality so that we can pull from and push data to a specific database rather than a bunch of links to spreadsheets. We’re a large company, and when you start to get into this magnitude, you just cannot manage with Excel.

Q. What kind of productivity gains do you foresee?

One of the real gains will be to reduce the amount of time that we spend to just prepare for the budget process. We spend weeks – even months – just prepping all of the information that’s required to complete a budget and mapping it into Excel properly so that we can feed it into spreadsheets. Our old process was to do massive data dumps into spreadsheets, review the data, validate it, and map it to Excel. With Quantrix, the time savings will be very large since we can connect directly with Cognos.

Q. What other benefits will you get from the Cognos connection?

The step that is the most detailed and problematic is the loading process into Cognos. The number of human error mistakes is large, so directly connecting to Cognos to output the budget data will be a huge, huge improvement. Rather than creating a bunch of spreadsheets to make sure the data is correct, I can set up validations within Cognos to see if there are any discrepancies. I will save three weeks just doing that process, once I get this nailed. The end result after implementing all of the things that I want to do will be two months of time saved, at least. It’s a big, big number.

Q. Are errors a big issue?

We’re juggling 566 workbooks – the human error can be rampant. We have controls in place, we’ve done our best, but it’s 566 times four or five different tabs for each one, and that’s not even counting the number of formulas. Our goal is to have all the business functions in one model, use it as a template, and cut down to having at most 50 models to drive.

Q. What finally prompted you to make a change?

We had way more demand to cut up and look at the data differently. Our executives also were pushing for a two-year window for a budget. It’s almost impossible to manage the 566 workbooks in Excel just for the one-year budget, so there’s no way we could do a two-year budget without a tool like Quantrix. In Quantrix, once we perfect our one-year system, all we will have to do for a two-year window is create a new dimension. It essentially should calculate itself.

Q. What types of requests are you getting for data views?

We’re getting more ad hoc requests not only for what-if scenarios, but also to do things like look at a full four-year cycle of a specific product. Each berry we grow has a different cycle, different land types, etc. There are a lot of variables to consider in deciding what we want to grow each year. We have a lot of moving parts in terms of ROI – how fast can we recoup the cash investment from a specific product? We also have specific covenants we have to adhere to in our banking relationship, and we have to view how they impact our balance sheet and cash flow.

Q. Why did you pick Quantrix?

One of the reasons was definitely the ability to use natural language formulas. My staff and I can actually understand what formulas to write and how to write them. I also like the ability to create what-if scenarios at a moment’s notice. We’re not there yet, but I know that will be helpful. The ability to push and pull from pretty much any database was a big deal to me. We will get more standardized information, and a lot of the work of validation will be done in the database and not with formulas and spreadsheets.

While price really wasn’t a primary driver, the cost of Quantrix was substantially less than what others were quoting. With Quantrix, we don’t need an IT person to manage it. It’s standalone.

Q. Can we check back with you when you’re done with your implementation to see how things are working?

Absolutely. I will continue to power through and will be happy to share when I reap the benefits.

Kyle Bunstein is the Vice President, Treasurer for Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC)