Delivering Global Financial Reporting – a Hogan Lovells case study
In a world where both business risks and opportunities are continuously evolving, Hogan Lovells is a law firm that sees the whole picture and is dedicated to helping clients across the spectrum with their critical business and legal issues. Formed on 1st May 2010 by building on the foundations of two successful organisations, Hogan & Hartson and Lovells, Hogan Lovells is a top 10 law firm by revenue, employs 2,500 lawyers worldwide and is deeply rooted in the largest and most developed markets in the United States and Europe. Hogan Lovells also has an established presence in the fastest growing regions of the world, including Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The need for global financial reporting
The merger of UK based Lovells with Hogan & Hartson from the United States virtually doubled the size of the firm. One of the major requirements for newly merged organisation was the provision of global financial reporting across the consolidated firm.
Both Lovells and Hogan & Hartson used the same time booking system, Elite Enterprise, to track time spent on client engagements. Lovells had previously adopted a Business Intelligence solution developed with the Microsoft SQL Server BI stack for ad-hoc reporting on financial data from Elite Enterprise. Hogan & Hartson had a similar reporting solution, Elite BI, part of the Elite product suite. Following an analysis exercise, Karen Fairbrass, Hogan Lovells’ Deputy Manager of the Information Platform Team explained that the firm took a strategic decision to standardise on Elite BI as the ‘single version of the truth’ for financial data across the enterprise. “Elite BI consists of a data warehouse with a corresponding Business Objects universe and has been developed on the premise of being quick to load data,” said Karen Fairbrass. “However, we found that some queries can take a long time to perform, even on a data warehouse with some aggregates pre-calculated”.
Partnering with the experts
Hogan Lovell’s had previously partnered with IMGROUP on an ‘as required’ basis on a number of projects to supplement the expertise of its in-house IT team. Formed in 1999, IMGROUP has delivered a variety of solutions across the entire spectrum of structured and unstructured information management for clients primarily in the Legal, Financial Services and Insurance sectors. Services include information strategy definition, consulting and advisory engagements, technology selection, end-to-end project life cycle services including project management, requirement and business analysis, design, architecture, development, integration, testing and a complete range of support services including hosting and application management.
“The merger of Lovells and Hogan & Hartson brought many challenges in terms of integrating IT systems,” continued Karen Fairbrass. “We had the in-house expertise to undertake much of the Elite BI rationalisation ourselves, but recognised that we would substantially benefit from partnering with IMGROUP to oversee the technical design, ensure that development and implementation adhered to ‘best practice’ and provide guidance and assistance in the development of our cubes and reports.”
A close working relationship
By working in close collaboration, Hogan Lovells and IMGROUP identified a number of mission-critical factors that were crucial to the success of the project:
- Fast, ad-hoc analysis of global financial data across the new firm
- A reduction in the costs involved in the reporting cycle. Although Lovells had already realised savings with its existing solution, it was expected that this would increase with the full automation of the ETL process, coupled with a reduction in time spent tracing problems during data loading
- Easy to manage month-end processing
- Daily availability of new data (as opposed to the existing monthly reports), allowing for more timely utilisation of the information available
One of the areas in which IMGROUP’s experience and expertise were most valued was in the development of OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cubes to ensure that Hogan Lovells would be able to analyse its data in a multi-dimensional way. “Cubes are extremely efficient entities for storing summary levels and hierarchies,” explained Suranjan Som, Practice Leader at IMGROUP. “By developing and implementing OLAP cubes, Hogan Lovells could achieve unrivalled flexibility in the way that their data can be analysed, evaluated and compared against past performance and trends”.
Substantial savings in time and effort
IMGROUP’s familiarity with complex cube development, combined with Hogan Lovells’ existing technical expertise, enabled the rapid development of the initial cube. “IMGROUP oversaw the process, gave advice and made suggestions as to how we could enhance the process,” added Karen Fairbrass. “The knowledge transfer at this stage was invaluable and has subsequently saved us a considerable amount of time and effort through our adherence to best practice”.
At one stage, a team of stakeholders from the USA based side of the firm flew over to the UK and spent a week discussing objectives, processes and procedures with IMGROUP’s consultants. “This was an extremely valuable exercise as it gave us all a greater understanding of the capabilities that successful cube development would deliver,” added Karen Fairbrass. A separate stream of work was undertaken to build an ad-hoc reporting solution on top of Elite BI using the Microsoft SQL Server BI stack. The use of OLAP in the form of SQL Server Analysis Services provided two key benefits:
- Provision of a semantic layer over the finance data, including the ability to drill down through hierarchies, making it easy for business people to generate ad-hoc reports
- Better performance when reporting at higher levels due to the fact that many of the aggregations will be pre-calculated
“One of the benefits of partnering with IMGROUP is that we have expertise on tap,” continued Karen Fairbrass. “IMGROUP was invaluable in helping us develop a robust platform, based on our specialist requirements, that would deliver the capabilities that we needed well into the future”.
Previously, much of Hogan Lovell’s financial analysis and reporting was undertaken via spreadsheets – a laborious procedure that was prone to error. As the solution delivers daily feeds, the entire analysis and reporting processes is faster, more efficient and provides end-users and managers with the up-to-the-minute financial information that they need. . ”The next step will be to integrate the Elite BI reporting side with Microsoft SharePoint which will provide us with a number of benefits including the ability for managers to generate reports built around their own unique requirements on an as-and-when basis”. continued Karen
“IMGROUP has been an invaluable partner,” concluded Karen. “They have been extremely patient and have worked with us through the merger to ensure that our solution is best-of-breed. Already, we are saving hours of manual labour across our finance teams and in the long term we will extend the capabilities of the solution into other areas, including document management. IMGROUP has provided valued, independent sanity-checks on our ideas and has helped us take these ideas into reality”.
“Partnering with IMGROUP gives us access to the detailed technical knowledge, experience and expertise that we need to ensure that this major project delivers to our expectations, both today and in the future”.
- Partnership with IMGROUP provided expert advice, ensuring that the solution was fit for purpose
- Partnership approach allowed Hogan Lovells to draw on IMGROUP’s knowledge and experience to supplement the expertise of its in-house IT team
- Tailored cube development allows Hogan Lovells unrivalled flexibility in the way that data can be analysed, evaluated and compared against past performance and trends
- A ‘single version of truth’ prevents errors or the use of inaccurate and out-of-date information
- Reports and information can be made available quickly and easily, removing laborious, time-consuming and error prone spreadsheet data manipulation
- Daily information feed ensures that managers have access to the latest available information