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Tagetik's flexibility both a help and a hindrance to LS Travel

While a user said Tagetik's performance management software is extremely customizable, it comes at a price: complexity.

When LS Travel Retail North America swapped its old ERP system for Microsoft Dynamics AX, the reporting and forecasting functions formerly handled by IBM Cognos were left in limbo.

"In that transition, my team went from using Cognos for reporting and forecasting, to [doing] everything in Excel," said Jean-François Lequepeys, director of corporate planning at Lagardere, LS Travel's parent company. "It was very cumbersome, very tricky and just not efficient."

This spurred Lequepeys and his management to start looking for a new system to fill in the gaps, and in late 2012, the Toronto-based company adopted performance management software from Tagetik. While Lequepeys listed several reasons why Tagetik was the ultimate choice over Prophix, the number one consideration was that it could work with the company's new ERP system. "The compatibility of the software with AX was essential," he said.

But it wasn't a perfect fit at first. Lequepeys explained that because LS Travel uses a retail industry-specific version of the ERP system, Tagetik had to build a customized AX connector. A lesser challenge brought the vendor's suboptimal knowledge-sharing system into focus.

Editor's note: After this article was published, Lequepeys said it creates an overly negative impression that does not accurately reflect his overall positive opinion of Tagetik, which he characterized as "definitely not a hindrance to us," and a flexible, easy to use tool that "goes beyond our expectations." He added: "I do not stand behind the tone or content of the article as written.

More knowledge sharing across Tagetik customer base needed

While the CEO and representatives from finance and IT were all involved in the decision to adopt Tagetik, Lequepeys said vendor selection was well-handled by him and the vice president of finance. Besides Dynamics AX compatibility, other factors that worked in Tagetik's favor were its flexibility and low requirements for IT support. In addition, the fact that it's a Microsoft Excel-based system meant that it would be easily grasped by the 40 users.

After discussions about requirements and design, the majority of the implementation work was completed in just three months, Lequepeys said. A project manager and two full-time representatives worked on the initiative from the Tagetik side, while Lequepeys was heavily involved on behalf of LS Travel. "It was a very easy implementation, just lots of work," Lequepeys said. "I think the key for a successful implementation for such a tool is to spend time on it."

The biggest challenge, according to Lequepeys, was building the connector to the custom version of AX, and this hurdle was handled entirely by the vendor. "It was a challenge for them simply because it was the first time they'd done the connector to the retail version of AX," he explained.

Lequepeys said the smaller issues that popped up along the way were aptly resolved. For instance, in the retail industry, comparable store sales is a commonly used business metric, so LS Travel requested that a definition be set up in Tagetik. "We had to have a definition -- basically some [way] to slice the data that allows you to say, 'This store is comparable, this one is not.' It's an easy concept, [but] when you have to do it, it's a little tricky," he said. "Tagetik helped us to make it work within the application."

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But when Lequepeys attended the vendor's user conference a few months later, he found out by talking with a fellow customer that this wasn't the first time Tagetik had fielded such a request. "I discovered that there's a company in Italy that is using a definition very similar to [ours], and they have something in Tagetik that was built two years ago," Lequepeys said. "That's something that Tagetik could've leveraged for us."

And this is one of Lequepeys' chief wish list items for the vendor: better knowledge sharing.

"I think that's something Tagetik's missing today. It's still a small company [that's] growing fast, so they have some challenges in that respect, but I think they could ... share what they've done across the customers. Maybe there's something I'd like to have but I don't know [it] exists," he said. However, "they're working on it. It seems to be something that lots of customers are saying."

Another thing Lequepeys would like to see is an improved user manual, which in his opinion would help users better handle the complexity of the tool, a downside of its customizability.

"Tagetik is a very powerful tool in the sense that you can customize [and] build pretty much whatever you want," he said. "It's very complex. There's a manual, but it's a generic one. I think there will be value for Tagetik in building a manual that is specific [and] user oriented."

Tagetik cuts budgeting cycle time by half, allows greater forecasting detail

Challenges aside, Lequepeys said the software has had a significant impact on LS Travel's finance processes. For instance, the budgeting process in Excel used to take two and a half months. With Tagetik, it's been shortened to approximately a month. In addition, the company is now able to forecast at a much greater level of detail.

Reporting has also been streamlined. Today, it takes "two hours to run all the reports we have, when [it] used to take two or three days," Lequepeys said. The time savings are then applied to analyzing comments, which is "a huge benefit."

The ability to add comments and track when and how users have adjusted data adds visibility. "In Tagetik, you can track exactly who submitted what when, and that's very interesting to me because in the past, some people [would] say, 'This is not the number I gave you,'" Lequepeys said. "In Excel, it [was] hard to track."

Although the system's flexibility adds complexity, it's a key benefit to Lequepeys.

"It's a drawback, but it's also an advantage. When we looked at Prophix [and other] types of solutions, they're very good, but once it's created you can't change much, or you have to ask them to come back and redesign things for you, so it's like doing the project again," he said. "In Tagetik, you can customize [on] your own, and if you're stuck you can call them [to] come in and help, but it's not like you have to repay for an entire application design."

And with such a high level of flexibility, it's important to be specific about needs, Lequepeys said. "Be very clear on what needs to be built. If you're not, there is room for interpretation, so something might be built slightly differently than you expected."

Lequepeys also plans to ask Tagetik to share more customer solutions when taking on future expansions of the software -- for instance, a new cash flow forecast is on the docket for 2014.

"We will start by [saying], 'This is what we do today. We know it's not what we want; we need something more robust," Lequepeys said. "'Can you give us example[s] of what was done for other customers?'"

Emma Snider is the associate editor for SearchFinancialApplications. Follow her on Twitter @emmajs24 and the site @SearchFinApps.

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