Collingwood Lighting was on an acquisition rally. But its finance team was slowed by common spreadsheet limitations. So, the company set out to make its Office of the CFO as innovative and forward-thinking as its creative lighting products.
Founded in 1901 in Sywell, Northamptonshire, Collingwood Lighting Ltd. is a decidedly forward-thinking manufacturer. The company has achieved many firsts in its 120-plus years, including producing the first dimmable LED downlights and the first sealed-for-life outdoor lighting products, and delivers its cutting-edge lighting solutions to distributors around the world.
Being keen on innovation extends to the business side of Collingwood Lighting, too. In a relatively short time, the company has quickly scaled across Europe via acquisitions. But, that fast expansion has created visibility and data-gathering issues for its finance and accounting teams.
“We were a relatively small business 18 months ago,” explained Jon Blythe, Group Chief Financial Officer at Collingwood Lighting. “[Since then,] we’ve grown massively through acquisitions in Italy and Belgium. We’ve now got three main businesses across regions, but we don’t have something at the centre, at the group level, that brings all that information together.”
This fast expansion threatened to create bottlenecks when consolidating group accounts from different currencies, including Euros and GB Pounds, and working to consolidate those into a holistic view of group financial performance. The added complexity of exchange rates, creating trial balances, and dealing with intercompany transactions made it increasingly difficult for the team to gather and consolidate data for management and statutory reports.
At most businesses, regardless of size, the Office of the CFO grows faster than its spreadsheet-driven processes can accommodate. Collingwood Lighting was no different.
“Being largely driven by spreadsheets historically, but we’re now moving towards systems like Planful to start drawing in data so we can start to form more holistic views of our market,” added Jon. “Planful, for me personally, means I don’t have to worry about redundancy from spreadsheets. For investors, it gives them confidence because we’re going from source ERP data directly into Planful, without any interference in between.”
Today’s cloud-based financial performance management solutions offer purpose-built capabilities, native collaboration, concurrent usage without versioning conflicts, point-and-click integrations, language localization, and other modern features users expect and which spreadsheets lack. With Collingwood Lighting expanding at such a rapid pace, into new countries and regions, and with market headwinds growing, its finance and accounting teams needed that visibility and fast access to reliable data to better guide the business forward.
“We’ve got some challenges coming our way in terms of economy and movements around Europe, and because we supply into the residential home market and as interest rates are going up,” Jon said. “We’ve got to think of more interesting ways to sell products to our customers.”
Integrating financial data from across business units and subsidiaries is a key challenge Planful is helping Collingwood Lighting overcome. But, the company’s Office of the CFO is also working to integrate economic and operational data into its analysis to better match business decisions to broader market trends.
“We’re looking at the number of new homes that are being built and how much refurbishment people are doing on their homes as well, because that’s a key metric for us,” Jon added. “If people aren’t refurbishing their homes, they’re not putting new life in their homes and therefore our sales will be impacted by that.”
With Planful in the hands of more than a dozen users, Collingwood Lighting is building capabilities into its financial performance management processes that will help it provide more insights today while preparing the business for whatever tomorrow brings. For such an innovative and tech-focused company, modernising finance and accounting beyond spreadsheets gives the entire business the visibility needed to reach peak financial performance.
“My team loves Planful,” Jon concluded. “They have really been energised by the change. Spreadsheets drained their energy. Planful allows them to ask, ‘What’s next?’ It’s a massive change in our thought process and it’s really pleasing to see.”
Collingwood Lighting Ltd. is a British designer and manufacturer of lighting and related product controls for residential, commercial, and light industrial applications.