An ‘Elegant’ Solution: How Workiva Enabled PPC Africa to Simplify its Financial Reporting Process
- Nearly 30 PDF versions of an annual report created, from first draft to final report
- Risk of delays and errors from reading handwritten edits
- Concerns over audit fees
- Three-quarters reduction in versions of drafts
- Internal teams and external auditors can use the same platform to draft and review work, with PPC controlling who can see or edit sections
- Faster reporting
Why They Chose Workiva
- Statutory Reporting
- Financial Reporting
Find out how the Workiva platform, alongside consultancy partner VantagePoint, is helping construction materials supplier PPC streamline reporting across operations in six countries.
With a production capacity of over 11.5 million tonnes of cement each year, PPC is the largest supplier of construction materials in Southern Africa. For this industry giant, streamlining and modernising operations is an ongoing priority—but with 130 years’ experience across six countries, that’s no small task. That’s where Lauren Fullerton, Finance Manager—Projects, comes in.
What Lauren enjoys most in her job is getting to grips with processes and understanding how to improve them. “I'm a chartered accountant, but I am not excited by the humdrum of monthly reporting. What I love about this role is that I get to do so many different things. I deal with senior people at executive level as well as interacting with our various sites,”said Lauren. When she was brought into PPC Africa’s finance team, Lauren was tasked with participating in an important project to improve PPC’s reporting process ahead of the year-end financials—the deadline was fast approaching.
The challenge: Reimagining a manually oriented process
Management had recognised that the existing process for creating financial reports was simply no longer meeting the company’s growing needs. Traditionally, the team would work with data in spreadsheet software, then send the draft to a typesetter who would return a PDF file for review. The PDF would then be marked up by hand and returned to the typesetter. “It was a very manually oriented process, and that is how we had done it for years,” she explained.
Having worked on year-end reports in 2020, Lauren had already experienced first-hand the time and effort this would take. That year, numerous versions of the document were circulated. As well as being extremely time-consuming, the team was struggling with conflicting edits and issues reading each other’s handwriting. "It was just a very cumbersome and mind-blowingly tedious process,” she said.
The goal: Improving governance and automating tasks
PPC Africa’s management were focused on transforming two key areas: simplifying work by automating tasks where possible and improving governance. With this goal in mind, they engaged boutique technology consultancy VantagePoint to help modernise their financial reporting process by implementing the Workiva solution for annual and interim reporting.
With VantagePoint, Lauren and the rest of the Group Reporting finance team immediately felt they were in safe hands. “They were very professional, and we were impressed with how it went. I think they’re excellent—very fleet footed,” she said.
They were assigned a dedicated project manager to help with the adoption of the platform. For Lauren, this close level of contact with VantagePoint was key to ensuring a smooth transition. “They’re quite a small organisation, so there’s not a lot of red tape from their perspective; they’re quick to respond if there’s a need to change or extend the scope of what they’re doing. They're small enough to be flexible, but they've obviously got enough critical mass to be able to fulfill expectations and requirements—not once have I had an ‘I’m not available’ or ‘I can’t help’ from them.”
Crucially, VantagePoint used their expertise to help accelerate the initial set-up, before letting the PPC Africa team run with it. "It's all about knowledge transfer. They're very good at enabling people, making sure they know what to do and can take it forward themselves.”
“The Vantage Point team is excellent, very fleet-footed.”
Finance Manager—Projects at PPC Africa
Collaboration made easy
With the right support, PPC Africa has been able to streamline its reporting process using the Workiva platform. Describing it as an “elegant” solution, Lauren explained how it quickly enabled teamwork in a way that felt distinct from other collaborative office applications. "It’s different. The ability to collaborate on the same document works well.”
Team members can colour code their comments, label sections and blackline the document at different stages in the process to compare versions. This allows them to easily work together in real time without worrying about version control. They can now link data from a single source to every instance where that data point needs to appear. If they need to change numbers or text at the source, the information will update everywhere it is linked.
They were also impressed by how user friendly the software is. “What I like the most is that it feels similar to other software that we already use, so the learning curve hasn’t been that significant. I think the only thing that took me a while to get used to was that I didn't have to press ‘Control + S’ to save—it does it automatically!”
Processes have improved dramatically as a consequence of implementing the Workiva platform.
Finance Manager—Projects at PPC Africa
Since adopting Workiva, PPC Africa has been able to comfortably meet deadlines while reducing their revision-related workload by roughly three-quarters. “In 2020, due to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, we ended up having to delay our results announcement. Working remotely with a largely manual editing process made finalisation of our annual report difficult. By contrast, in 2021 we were able to file well within our reporting date. We had much fewer drafts of the document as opposed to the numerous versions worked on during the previous year.”
And horizons are already expanding beyond report creation. Thanks to permission settings that protect sensitive data and limit who can see what, external service providers have started using the platform to produce executives’ roadshow presentations. PPC Africa is now also granting their external auditors access at appropriate times, with the aim of migrating the entire financial statement review process to Workiva.
As the company continues its journey towards simplification and automation, Lauren is now working with VantagePoint again—this time to tackle their statutory reporting needs. By implementing Workiva’s global statutory reporting (GSR) solution, she’s confident that they will soon see significant time-saving benefits there too. “I think from next year, the process of filing for individual subsidiaries will go so much quicker and be so much more effective.”
“Processes have improved dramatically as a consequence of implementing the Workiva platform,” Lauren concludes. “External reporting, without a doubt, has seen a significant improvement. I believe there is scope for us to improve our internal reporting using the platform as well. I'm a big fan.”