EDF Energy is using the Nimbus process management platform from Tibco to reduce inefficiency and risk and improve compliance within its Finance Shared Services division.

EDF's Finance Shared Services team works with the wider business to deliver central support services such as accounts payable, general ledger maintenance and purchasing services.

It is responsible for ensuring that the operating costs and capital expenditure reported to the business units during the monthly accounting process are accurate and include the appropriate accruals and classification of spend.

Speaking to Techworld at the recent Tibco Transform conference in London, Robert Gilhooly, Director of Finance Shared Services at EDF, explained that the organisation had been using a wide range of tools to document these processes, including Microsoft Visio, Powerpoint and Excel.

Most of these process documents were accessible via EDF's Intranet, but the same processes were often uploaded to different places on the Intranet by various different people at different times, making them difficult to find and work out which was the most up-to-date version.

Gilhooly decided to use the Nimbus platform to re-document these processes, after discovering that EDF was already paying for the software. British Energy (which was taken over by EDF in 2009) had acquired Nimbus several years earlier to do Sarbanes-Oxley documentation and control, and the maintenance cost was still coming through Gilhooly's budget.

“I went along to one of these shared service two-day experience things, and someone from BAE Systems came and presented what they were doing with Nimbus – it was like a lights on moment,” said Gilhooly.

“I saw it and thought, actually, I own something to do with that. I then went away and started talking to Tibco about what we could do to move it forward.”

EDF is now in the process of standardising its Financial Shared Services processes on the Nimbus platform. This involves re-documenting processes for raising a purchase order, raising an invoice, dealing with queries and interacting with a finance business partner to accrue costs, among others.

Because Nimbus is delivered via the cloud, it lets multiple users share a common, centrally governed process repository. It also includes version controls, meaning that everyone always sees the latest approved version of the process document.

Gilhooly said that storyboards in Nimbus are constructed in such a way that all employees can easily follow through the process and understand what their tasks are. Policy documents can also be attached to individual steps in the process, so that users can quickly check that they are abiding by company guidelines.

Nimbus integrates with SAP, enabling users to launch SAP transactions from within a process document, and retrieve and display Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data. Nimbus also integrates with Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft SharePoint, and other web-based application.

“Life's an awful lot more straight-forward if you control the whole process, but there are very few instances where that's the case. In my area, most of the work that's associated with my accounts payable team is fixing stuff that's gone wrong in the process,” said Gilhooly.

“We're never going to be able to cure everything because things happen, times change, the price on something can be re-negotiated between them sending the invoice and us having to pay for it, but if you can get people following down the right path for 90 percent of the stuff that they do, you're probably 40 percent better off than you would be today.”

Gilhooly hopes to finish the re-documentation process by the end of this year. In the meantime, he is also using Nimbus to document the change management for EDF's implementation of Concur, (the travel and expenses tool), and hopes to encourage other departments to adopt it.

Licenses are provided on a usage basis, so EDF pays for around 70 employees to use Nimbus on a daily basis, and a further 3,000 to access the software tool from time to time. He said that the investment so far has been pretty modest.

“In the current environment it's very difficult to go in and try and sell a big story to people and ask them to write a big cheque for something that's unproven, so my approach is to pick a couple of areas where it's very obvious that this can fulfil a particular role at a relatively modest cost, and demonstrate the functionality,” he said.

“That allows me to go and speak to colleagues in other areas and say, I'm using this, it's very good, it's something that, for an amount of incremental investment, it should be easy for you to demonstrate a business case, as opposed to walking in and trying to sell an enterprise solution that's going to cost seven figures.”