Africell

Leading African telecommunications group is glad it connected with Opal Wave

Executive overview

Company: Africell
Industry: Telecommunications
Products and Services: Voice, 3G, 4G, various technology-enabled value-added services, mobile money, micro insurance and microcredit.
Web Site: www.africell.com
Partner: Opal Wave Solutions Ltd

Solutions:

SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC), version for Microsoft.

Africell is one of Africa’s fastest-growing telecommunications operators. After the group received investments from a consortium of multinational financing partners, it switched from annual to quarterly reporting. It therefore needed to upgrade its consolidation methodology from manual means, using Microsoft Excel, to utilising an automated solution. After assessing three potential suppliers, Africell appointed Opal Wave to implement the consultancy’s recommendation of the SAP BPC solution. Opal Wave delivered the project without problems, on-time, to a very high standard and within budget, without disrupting Africell’s vital business activity.


Africell SAP BPC implementation benefits
  • Highly competitive capital cost
  • Far faster consolidation process
  • Automation vastly reduces scope for errors
  • Easy to use
  • Capacity to extend easily to other functions, such as budgeting
  • Advice and practical help available 24:7
Africell 1

Company

Africell, based in Beirut, Lebanon, has more than 12 million active subscribers. The group is the number one telecommunications provider in The Gambia, where it was founded during 2001, and in Sierra Leone. It also operates in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The business is divided into more than 25 operating entities, with holding companies in territories such as Jersey, the Isle of Man and Lebanon. Shaped by traditional African values, including placing the communities in which it operates at the heart of its business, the group’s core strategy is “to connect and empower local communities”. At the time of writing in mid-2019, Africell was planning to add new affordable solar power services to its portfolio.

Solution

SAP BPC is the world’s most advanced enterprise performance management (EPM) software, addressing business planning and consolidation requirements. It is relied on by thousands of successful organisations across the globe for planning, budgeting, forecasting, statutory and management reporting, compliance, analytics and many other purposes.

Uniquely, Opal Wave offers a managed cloud version of the SAP BPC software, the BPC Cloud, on which clients can literally Go Live in a Day™, as an alternative to the traditional on-premise approach requiring hardware and installation. The company has thus made the application affordable by all sizes of enterprise, irrespective of sector.

Whether operated on-premise or in the cloud, SAP BPC makes an organisation’s reporting more speedy, efficient, consistent, relevant and accurate, via its ultra-fast-to-deploy, fully customisable templates. Capable of handling high demand across multinational networks, such as Africell’s, the solution integrates easily with other business systems, providing a single version of the truth across the entire organisation. After initial deployment, the SAP BPC software can expand and adapt to the evolving needs of a business, which can add functionality easily.

Among the many operational benefits clients can secure from SAP BPC are: reduced errors; better, faster decision making; shorter budget and closing cycles; and compliance with financial and other reporting standards.

The data in the solution is capable of being accessed in real-time and is supported on multiple platforms, including SAP HANA, today’s leading in-memory platform.

Vision

Africell is an ambitious, growing business and when it secured new funding from a consortium of multinational investors, it needed to provide enhanced information to them, involving a switch from annual to quarterly reporting. The group therefore needed to reduce the effort involved in running its consolidation and reporting manually, using Microsoft Excel, a process it had followed for several years. To achieve this, it decided to deploy an automated system instead.

Pierre Fenianos, Africell’s audit director, explains: “We have complicated consolidation arrangements, as we need to convert financial information from our many separate businesses, supplied in their local currencies, to dollars, which is our reporting currency, for example.

“We were finding that doing the consolidation manually took a lot of time and the human errors that could creep in when we linked all the Excel documents together could be an issue.”

Although Africell knew in general what it wanted to achieve from the automation, it was seeking a supplier who could both recommend a suitable system – as the group was not an expert on the software – and install it.

Africell looked at three potential external partners for the project, including Opal Wave, which had been recommended by one of the group’s auditors. He had become aware of the consultancy’s work at another of his clients, the major financial services provider Bank Audi SAL, which is the subject of a separate case study. The other two contestants were another multinational organisation and a local, Lebanon-based supplier.

Opal Wave recommended SAP BPC, SAP’s market-leading solution for planning and consolidation, which was perfect for Africell’s needs.

Pierre says: “Among other things, the process taught us that you can’t compare a local software provider to an international brand like Opal Wave. Our other reasons for choosing them included their highly competitive pricing and that we felt entirely comfortable with their people.”

Africell 2

Implementation

Once begun, the implementation project ran for six months, client-based work taking place exclusively at Africell’s Beirut headquarters. Opal Wave were the sole external organisation involved, its contribution being delivered mainly by two Lebanon-based staff and a colleague in the UK.

Fouad El Hage, Opal Wave’s Beirut-based managing partner, says: “Africell played their full part in ensuring the project went smoothly. There was no need for us to provide a temporary hosted development environment, for example, as they supplied all the necessary servers. They also gave us data that was exclusively clean, correctly mapped and validated, which was a big help too.”

Now, financial data from Africell’s main business and other companies around the world are posted into their enterprise resource planning and accounting systems. This data is transferred daily into SAP BPC, through a process run at the group’s headquarters, which is part of the solution delivered by Opal Wave’s experts.

The new arrangements enable the group to undertake a complete consolidation monthly, rather than a simplified version of the process quarterly and a full one yearly, as happened previously.

Pierre continues: “We have no doubt we made the right decision in employing Opal Wave. They hit all their deadlines, delivered exactly what they promised and cost us precisely what was agreed.” 

Benefits

Africell now has the confidence of knowing it no longer has to construct its reports manually and will always meet its deadlines, by producing the complete set of financial statements required every three months quickly and accurately.

Pierre adds: “The SAP BPC solution from Opal Wave is easy to use, the human input it requires is minimal – so it greatly reduces the chance of errors creeping into the process – and we save time…and time is money!”

 

Opal Wave now provides the client with a comprehensive support and maintenance service for the system. Africell is also considering asking the consultancy to help extend the solution’s uses to its budgeting requirements, a broadening which will probably take effect in 2020. The SAP BPC system’s versatility makes this kind of expansion achievable easily.

Pierre says: “Opal Wave are transparent and professional. I can contact them at any time and they’re always happy to provide advice and practical support. From both the technical and service viewpoints, we’re very happy with what Opal Wave have delivered to us.”

AboutOpal Wave

Opal Wave was founded in 2008, the brainchild of three SAP BPC enterprise performance management (EPM) software specialists: Ivor Herman, Simon Bell and Ahtishaam Khan. Having worked for over 20 years each within the EPM domain, including with best practice processes, systems and technologies, they wanted to combine their experience and expertise to offer clients a genuinely valuable service that provided real benefit to their businesses. Since then, they have never looked back, with Opal Wave having gone from strength-to-strength, as more and more clients have discovered the benefits of better performance management.