In the late 1990s, centuries-old Deutsche Post evolved from a government-controlled national postal service into a global corporation, Deutsche Post World Net (DPWN), with a diverse portfolio including mail, express delivery, logistics, and financial services. Today, its nearly 500,000 employees are active in more than 220 countries and generate revenue in excess of US$70 billion.
The reinvention of DPWN as a global corporation was achieved through a series of more than 100 mergers and acquisitions — a strategy that presented the company with significant integration challenges, particularly in finance. With every new acquisition, partnership, and alliance came increasingly diverse financial reporting structures and terminology. As a result, the company struggled to reconcile financial information from across the enterprise to meet the needs of management, external stakeholders, and regulatory authorities.
Rather than replacing the individual enterprise reporting applications housed in each of the acquired organizations with a large, complex, and expensive new system, DPWN worked with Strategy& to develop a common reporting tool. Dubbed CREST, it would consolidate and deliver financial information for all units across the firm worldwide.
Working with DPWN’s leadership, in just 18 months a joint DPWN – Strategy& team designed the CREST tool, redefining the company’s reporting and planning processes, training 2,000 global DPWN staff how to use the system, and providing program management support and oversight for its successful implementation. To ensure the tool would be used, PwC’s Strategy& went to business unit locations around the world and encouraged buy-in at a grassroots level.
"We brought a lot of different capabilities to the project, not just a deep understanding of financials and information technology, but also our transportation and organization and change expertise," says Dietmar Ahlemann. "This was truly a global effort, involving DPWN operations in locations from Brussels to Kuala Lumpur, as well as an international Strategy& team from across Europe and the United States."
The CREST system became fully operational across DPWN in January 2005, providing management for the first time with transparency into the entire organization’s financial operations.
"The CREST system provides the vehicle and, more important, the common financial language that allows DPWN to know exactly how the corporation and each of its more than 1,000 units are performing at any time," says Alex Niehues, a Strategy& vice president based in Stuttgart.
Although DPWN realizes savings through CREST’s streamlined process for integrating and reconciling data and the retiring of numerous legacy reporting and analysis tools, CREST was not a cost-cutting exercise. The benefit of CREST lies in the improved quality of reporting and planning it provides.