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June 1, 2007
Tim Head, Service Manager, Opportunity International | as told to Colin Beasty
Opportunity International Sees CPM's Golden Opportunity
Tell us about your organization. We're a microfinance firm that provides financial services and training to poor entrepreneurs around the world who don't have access to financial services in the commercial banking environment. These are companies that are asset poor and oftentimes have little or no credit history. Last year, we made about 1.5 million loans, averaging approximately $300 apiece, so we interact with large numbers of customers with small credit amounts.
What problems were you facing? The first Opportunity International microenterprise development program was launched in Latin America in 1971. By 2000 we had more than 200,000 clients worldwide, and today, we serve more than 800,000 clients across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Each of these microenterprises is required to keep accounts in local standards and report to local regulatory agencies. The problem is, they also need to report to us, and pulling data from hundreds of different systems configured to meet local needs was a nightmare. In 2000 we developed a manual, Excel-based system, but it quickly became antiquated, thanks to our growth. We could only draw financial and operational data once a quarter, as it would take us 45 days to pull, consolidate, and process all the information. It was a slow, time-consuming, manually driven process.
Why did you select Hyperion? We are a small, not-for-profit organization, but we have a lot of the same information needs and requirements of a Global 500 company. We don't have the budget of a Global 500, but we identified Hyperion, specifically Hyperion System 9 Financial Data Quality Management and Hyperion Essbase. Hyperion was willing to donate some of their software and services to help us get set up, so we've partnered with them and have developed a great relationship.
How did the implementation go? There were two phases to the implementation. In 2005 we implemented Hyperion System Essbase, which we use to perform what-if analysis on the data we receive. In 2006 we implemented Hyperion System 9 Financial Data Quality Management to draw, convert, format, and load data into a centralized database. One of the biggest challenges has been Internet connectivity. Hyperion System 9 Data Quality Management is a Web-based application. While it's great because it doesn't require local installation, it's dependent on Internet bandwidth. For our offices in Africa, and certain parts of Asia, that's an issue because they don't have reliable Internet connectivity. Things have improved dramatically in Asia and Latin America, but Africa is still a couple of years behind. The flip side is we only require low bandwidth, as we're transmitting small text files, nothing that is graphic intensive.
What have been the main rewards? The technology has been well received. We've been able to increase the reporting frequency but reduce the workload by automating a lot of it. We draw data and perform analysis in minutes, rather than weeks, which has freed our microfinance partners to spend more time with poor clients. Now we can analyze the performance of our clients in the Philippines relative to the performance in Colombia relative to the performance in Zimbabwe. We're no longer operating on assumptions--we've got the hard numbers to prove it. We've got a global portfolio of over $300 million so we can make better decisions to manage that and reach as many clients as possible.
5 Fast Facts
>> AGE OF THE INITIATIVE? 2 1/2 years >> WHO WAS INVOLVED? CFO, CIO, vice president of strategic development, and myself >> BEST IDEA? Making the shift to a Web-based interface. It required no installation on the part of our users in 45 different countries, dramatically simplifying the process. >> BIGGEST SURPRISE? The initial pilot program went so well with the first 12 partners that other partners came to us instead of us having to recruit them. >> BIGGEST CRM MISTAKE MADE? Not to have finance and IT aligned when implementing a performance management solution.
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