Viewpoint -- New IT Strategy Drives Improved Financial Reporting At VF Corp.

In developing a new financial reporting architecture we sought to streamline our business processes and our technology infrastructure.

In the apparel industry, business moves fast. For VF Corp., like any other major clothing manufacturer, that means thousands of critical decisions must be made every day.

With some of the world's best-known clothing brands and sales in more than 150 countries, VF managers at all levels and in all regions must act decisively and authoritatively every day on many issues, including marketing, production, and supplier and customer relationships.

This intense business pace, pervasive throughout the organization, made it imperative that the company's financial processes keep pace. This was a tall order for VF, requiring a radical change in our existing approach to financial reporting.

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Over the years, VF had experienced dramatic growth, expanding geographically and expanding our portfolio of brands to include such names as Lee, Wrangler, Riders, Rustler, Vanity Fair, The North Face, Vans, Reef and Nautica. This increasingly complex product line and geographic reach coincided with the expansion of the retail channels we needed to serve. All of these factors led us to conclude that our existing decentralized approach to financial reporting needed a new IT strategy that would position our finance organization for the future.

In developing a new financial reporting architecture, we established several specific strategic goals. Most important, we sought to streamline our business processes and our technology infrastructure.

Because of our growth, our finance infrastructure had evolved to the point where we had 37 separate databases supporting our various business units. Not only was this too time consuming to maintain, but also it created major challenges for our financial consolidation process. We used to spend hours just receiving and loading data at headquarters each month. This was a major hindrance to efficiency because of the staff time that was devoted to consolidate financial results for the corporation as a whole.

A second major objective was to enhance our ability to analyze financial information for better decision making. In addition, there were a number of secondary objectives driving our financial IT strategy. For one, the emergence of more demanding financial reporting requirements, such as those imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley law, meant we needed more robust technologies to help us efficiently and effectively comply with reporting and disclosure mandates in the U.S. and abroad. We also were sensitive to the increasing importance of keeping our data secure.

To meet these strategic objectives, we implemented Infor's MPC Corporate Performance Management solution. We were attracted to the

Infor MPC solution because it is a modern, Web-based application that could support our new centralized architectural approach and help streamline our processes.

Using Infor MPC, we were able to reduce the number of databases from 37 to one. This was a huge step forward because our business units around the globe can now enter their data and submit it directly to the central-headquarters database via the Web.

Data loading of all business units' results once took our headquarters staff approximately four hours per version, per period, to load. The results now are available immediately. This reduction in staff time and the elimination of lag time before we can view results have significantly improved the finance organization's ability to serve the company's needs.

For example, the automation of so many of our monthly reporting processes gives us more time to spend on analysis so we can better support strategic business decisions.

With a new IT strategy in place, the VF financial organization is doing its part for financial consolidation.

Dave Reklau is financial controller and Renee Martin is manager of corporate accounting for Greensboro, N.C.-based VF Corp.

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