Through cyber-attacks and the pandemic, Acumentis’ Finance team raises productivity despite triple the workload

Why did Acumentis need CALUMO?

Acumentis was facing a familiar problem, lots of high-quality data, but no systems or processes to make use of it.

Acumentis is one of Australia’s leading property valuers. It has been offering trusted, high-quality, independent property valuation advice for the last 30 years to some of Australia’s most demanding companies, the big banks. With hundreds of valuers and other staff scattered all over the country, it is no surprise that Acumentis’ guiding principle is: “People are the core of our company”. This is a lived principle, even for the traditionally numbers-focused Finance department.

Before CALUMO, Acumentis was facing a familiar problem: lots of quality data, but no systems or automated processes to make the best use of it. Complex commission reports for valuers were created manually, often containing unreliable data – staff did not trust figures, creating more work for the Finance team. To add to this, the Acumentis Board wanted greater depth and transparency in its financial reporting and more strategically relevant information to guide its future growth.

In 2016, John Wise was appointed CFO at Acumentis. He had used CALUMO at a previous role to great success and engaged our services again as part of Acumentis’ comprehensive digital transformation. We helped John pull its disparate data hubs together, better enable integration of other new systems, automate painful reporting processes, and prepare the organisation for growth (and disaster, as you will soon find out).

What was Acumentis looking for in a solution?

John Wise describes his decision-making criteria when looking for a long-term FP&A solution.

When looking for a system that could help Acumentis achieve these initiatives, John Wise had a few key criteria in mind. In addition to being a best-of-breed CPM application, the solution needed to:

• Be swift to implement
• Be simple to use
• Have powerful visualisations
• Automate manual processes to increase efficiency, job satisfaction, and enable better analysis of data
• Not burden the IT department
• Have tight integration with Excel
• Provide access to valuable consulting talent (not just “yes men”)
• Be based in Australia

Ticking all these boxes, John chose CALUMO.

Integrating CALUMO was seamless

Acumentis was able to start generating value from CALUMO in a matter of weeks.

With the support of the wider CALUMO team, Acumentis had its solution up and running quickly.

Within weeks, CALUMO enabled Acumentis to aggregate all its various data systems, including a backlog of historic data. This included information not just from its general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable systems, but also data from its human resources and valuation systems. This allows John Wise and his team to analyse all data through a trustworthy, single source of truth, utilising historic trends to improve forecasting and planning.

From day one, the Finance team were able to use existing Excel skills and knowledge to generate value from the CALUMO system. Over the next few weeks, other non-financial Acumentis employees, like managers and valuers, easily picked up use of the platform to better understand their teams and their own performance.

Acumentis achieved individualised budgeting with CALUMO and Intacct

With this information available at the click of a button, the Finance team is easily able to see the root cause of any discrepancies.

The method used to organise data within the CALUMO system also made it easy for Acumentis to integrate their accounting system, Intacct. As Intacct already lends itself to dimensional analysis, it works hand in glove with CALUMO. Acumentis is now able to effortlessly record its budget at an individual employee level.

As a professional services business, the ability to produce fine-grained plans and compare them to fine-grained actuals provides enormous benefit. It now provides executives with P&L reports that can drill down to show the individual impact of each employee. This creates a more understandable budget and better enables Finance to explain discrepancies.

The Finance team increased efficiency despite triple the workload

By automating painful manual processes, the Finance team was able to stay lean through the two acquisitions.

Despite tripling its workload after two acquisitions, the Finance team experienced a big lift in productivity with CALUMO. Now unburdened by manual reporting and processes, the Finance team could turn their attention to data analysis and providing more strategically relevant reports to the Board. In turn, this has positively impacted the whole team’s job satisfaction and ability to grow their data analysis skills.

Now, each month CALUMO saves the Finance team:

• 1-2 days for each reporting period in preparation and distribution of reports
• 2-3 days of processing, reconciliation, and review
• 2-4 days on valuer fee write reports
• 2-3 days generating commission statements

Acumentis' Board used insights to improve decision-making

In a turbulent market Acumentis' board needed regularly updated financial information to ensure they were making the best possible business decisions.

By now it should be clear CALUMO is not just for finance people. Equipped with more detailed, strategically relevant reports, the Acumentis Board was able to increase its understanding of the organisation’s position and make better informed decisions. The Board loves that the data in its financial reports is now updated in real-time, and they have the ability to drill down past the surface level numbers to see the root cause of any trends or discrepancies.

CALUMO integrated operations data to enable Acumentis valuers and managers

Not just reserved for financial data, CALUMO integrated Acumentis’ HR and valuation data to help its large workforce of valuers and their managers.

Acumentis stored its property risk attributes in CALUMO cubes alongside property data, values, and fees. As such, executives can use CALUMO to look ahead to investigate property trends in their area for business opportunities. Executives can even generate heatmap reporting using valuation data and mapping it to postcodes. This material, along with other visualisations, can be used to support new business pitches, promotional resources, and customer communications.

Heatmaps can be prepared at any geographical level and help to visualise various trend data points that Acumentis routinely collects as it performs tens of thousands of property inspections and valuations each month.

Acumentis heatmap example
For the managers of these valuers, life before CALUMO would involve sending each of their direct reports an Excel spreadsheet with individual budget tracking and performance data. In reality, neither party had complete faith in the data, so it would result in conflict and inevitably the Finance team would need to double- and triple-check their own spreadsheets before a resolution could be reached. This was compounded to variation in commission structures, all managed in spreadsheets.

Now, with CALUMO, valuers can easily access self-service reporting and budget tracking, with all data updated in real-time. With trusted financial data in hand, valuers are now more motivated, informed and engaged. Managers are also enjoying the robustness of the figures, which allows them to have more productive and confident performance discussions with their team members. Also, being cloud-based, CALUMO brings their far-flung teams of valuers together through the same platform.

Acumentis and team prepared for growth

Once Acumentis had the systems in place to support growth, it embarked on the M&A trail.

With CALUMO and Intacct integrated, and the team comfortable with their use, Acumentis was now poised for growth and started on the mergers and acquisitions path.

When looking at companies to acquire, Acumentis completed its due diligence through the CALUMO platform. By uploading acquisition prospect data into the platform and comparing it with other data sets, Acumentis effectively evaluated current performance and forecasts future opportunities. The Finance team then easily transposed this into interactive, in-depth reports to help their Board make an informed decision.

With CALUMO the Finance team maintained size and increase efficiency

Even through acquisition of two new businesses, the Finance team was able to increase its efficiency with triple the workload.

Using this information, Acumentis acquired two local businesses, MVS National and Taylor Byrne, effectively tripling in size over two years. With CALUMO, they were able to seamlessly integrate the systems and data from these organisations to start generating value from the first day. This strong understanding of each business’ fundamentals meant Acumentis could adopt their strengths and leave behind their weaknesses.

After these acquisitions, with the power of CALUMO and Intacct at their backs, the Finance team was able to return to the same size (6 FTE). More than that, the team significantly improved its productivity by leaning on CALUMO’s automated processes, despite the tremendous growth in revenue, complexity, and geography.

And then disaster struck…

Acumentis suffered through two cyber-attacks and the pandemic. A devastating blow for the business. Throughout it all the Finance team stayed lean and efficient, providing vital information to decision-makers guiding the business through this challenging time.

In 2019, Acumentis was the victim of a significant cyber-attack. Given that a lot of Acumentis’ clients were banks who rely heavily on trust, the impact on Acumentis’ bottom line was immediate and devastating; about half its revenue just evaporated.

The first step for Acumentis was convincing the banks they should still work together. CALUMO’s reporting and forecasting tools helped Acumentis secure its ISO certification, in a record time of around four months, and regain the trust and business of many of its banking clients.

Then they suffered a second cyber-attack. This was a more personal attack. Although the alleged culprit was arrested by police, it still resulted in many of Acumentis’ clients suspending their business.

And just as Acumentis started pulling itself out of the rubble for a second time, COVID-19 hit, bringing with it border restrictions, remote working challenges, and a significant downturn in property transactions – the driving force behind Acumentis’ profits.

During all these disasters, CALUMO was critical to Acumentis’ survival. Most Finance teams struggle to reforecast quarterly, sometimes weekly if the situation is really unstable. But for Acumentis, right from the first cyber-attack, it was clear that it needed to reforecast some of its financials daily. This was crucial in re-establishing client trust during the cyber-attacks and keeping the Board informed throughout. Daily forecasting, updated in real-time, enabled Acumentis to stay agile and make changes to the business as the market and economy demanded.

Now, Acumentis is back on track, emerging from the pandemic stronger and more unified than ever.

Looking to the future

Acumentis has big plans for CALUMO

Having survived two cyber-attacks and the pandemic, Acumentis is back on the growth trail, expanding both geographically and in diversification of services.

Acumentis has exciting plans with CALUMO. With a view to monetising property market trends, it is going to re-focus on improving the heatmaps’ functionality. This will help valuers promote their services, while providing real-time information to the market that is currently unavailable through other government statistics, which always lag by at least a few months.

In a game-changing move for the business, Acumentis is also looking to develop a cutting-edge 24-month rolling budget/forecast. This will involve updating the forecast with every month that passes and adding another month to the end. Using the most up-to-date information from its finance, HR and valuation systems, the rolling forecast will effectively do away with the annual budget cycle. Acumentis plans to combine this approach with machine learning to understand trends in the property market. This will enable the Finance team to remove even more manual processes, while at the same time providing the best vision of the future 24 months out. Acumentis plans to make looking to the future part of the culture, allowing it to continually challenge business decisions and take advantage of competitive opportunities.

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