ABB is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs around 100,000 people.
The challenge was to automate and standardize the way to handle the approval process for all major investments and divestments within ABB worldwide. In most cases this meant to replace paper-based processes.
This new electronic approval process needed to be user-friendly, and reliable so that it made absolutely sure that all major investment / divestment decisions that are made within the ABB Group are fully in line with the corporate strategy, and the business objectives of the various organizational units involved. It particularly needed to ensure that major investment proposals are only realized if the required profitability of the proposed transaction is sufficiently and reliably substantiated.
The financial planning team within the ABB Group, together with the IS Applications department in Switzerland developed a new tool to solve this.
In the beginning of 2004 ABB started the development of a new application to electronically handle the approval of investments / divestments proposals. The tool automatically involves the required approvers depending on proposal type, and amount.
“In an early stage we realized that the best solution would be to use Lotus Notes for the workflow functionalities, and MS Excel for the calculation sheets,” said Roger Lingmerth, Senior Consultant / System Engineer. “At the time of the startup phase of the project SWING Integrator was a relatively new product at ABB, and had just been implemented in another system for exporting data to MS Word. After a short evaluation period we decided to use the integration function in SWING Integrator to exchange key financial data between MS Excel and Lotus Notes.”
By doing so, the approvers, and decision makers could get a quick overview of the important figures, and data of a proposal without getting into details by opening attachments etc. With the integration functions provided by SWING Integrator the development team was also able to exchange other financial data in order to create reports directly in Lotus Notes.
“For the different proposal types we were also able to use different MS Excel calculation templates, which of course was a big advantage. The templates are maintained by the financial planning team, and don’t need extra development work to be changed, or updated. Another important requirement for the integration tool was that we did not want to install integration components on either server, or clients.”
In conclusion, Roger Lingmerth states: “The result is that we now have a complete system for electronically submitting and approving investment / divestment proposals, automating and standardizing our approach around the world. It provides the appropriate templates, and automatically involves the required approvers. Throughout the approval process, all authorized process participants can track the latest approval status at any time from everywhere around the world.
The system is perceived as very user-friendly, and since the users are used to both the Lotus Notes client, as well as MS Excel there has been almost none education of users at all. And SWING Integrator integrates these two tools seamlessly for the users. During the period we have been in production with the new tool, soon 1 year, we have had very few problems, and hardly any related to SWING Integrator. I cannot see how we would have implemented a better integration solution without SWING Integrator.”