Kreason Naidoo heads up the financial reporting team at the South African real estate development and construction company Steyn City, who became a Prophix customer in 2020. In a recent webinar, he shared how Prophix has improved both his work life and the company’s bigger picture. Here are the main takeaways.
On the outskirts of Johannesburg lies a place unlike any other. Steyn City, dreamed up by South African billionaire businessman Douw Steyn, is basically a city within a city.
At four times the size of Monaco and 2 ½ times the size of New York City’s Central Park, it is the largest development of its kind on the African continent. In addition to its numerous residential buildings, it currently boasts an office park, its own golf course (designed by Jack Nicklaus), an equestrian center, 2,000 acres of parkland, a lagoon, an indoor pool, restaurants, and a school – the list goes on.
We wanted to dig a little deeper into the story behind this fascinating project and recently held a webinar with Kreason Naidoo, Steyn City’s Financial Reporting Manager.
When he started working here several years ago, both the city and the construction company creating it looked very different. “I actually started here at Steyn City when there was no finance department, so I was tasked with setting up the whole finance process from scratch,” Kreason remembered. Much like the city itself, the office of finance had to be built from the ground up.
Since then, lots has changed. Both Kreason’s team and Steyn City have grown significantly, making effective reporting even more crucial. To address this issue, the team implemented Sage – which Kreason believed was the only ERP solution capable of addressing the company’s very specific needs. In 2020, the finance team sought to further improve Steyn City’s reporting capabilities by adding a CPM solution. They chose Prophix.
So, after a year with Prophix, what were his main takeaways? What changed? Here are the 3 most important benefits Prophix has brought about:
1. Improved Efficiency
This will hardly come as a surprise, but Prophix has had a profound impact on the efficiency of Steyn City’s finance department. Over the course of the interview, Kreason mentioned several examples of how he’s saved massive amounts of time thanks to Prophix.
Here is one of them, in his own words:
“I’m so happy that I had Prophix because [laughs] I don’t have to do all of this manually on Excel. […] Where I spent, say, about 90 percent of my time doing, I’m now spending that time reviewing and analysing and fixing.”
With regards to the overall process speeds, Kreason had the following to say:
“When we first started the process of Prophix, I didn’t know how powerful the tool was. We were more interested on the printed reports, and the graphs and the pie-charts and things like that that the Board wanted. But then, as we were building, we realised that – whoa, hold on guys, I mean, if you can do this and you can do that, then my budgeting process is simplified by weeks. My forecasting process is simplified by months. I mean, we forecast here up to 2026, and sometimes 2032, and that’s something that can be done in a week.
So it’s actually made my life quite a lot easier. I won’t lie – there is still some manual processes that need to be done, but that’s not Prophix’s fault at all [laughs].”
2. More Dynamic Reporting
As mentioned above, Steyn City offers so many services that the result is a highly diversified – and complex – business. There is residential and commercial real estate, there are restaurants and event services, construction activities, retail, a warehouse, a private school, sports facilities and more. This makes for a grand total of 13 business units (possibly even more by the time you are reading this), each with their own revenue stream.
To help with the board’s ambition to “know everything”, Kreason and the Prophix implementers built out reports that offer an overview of each segment as well as a consolidated statement if the big picture needs to be considered.
This is how Kreason puts it:
“So say for example, construction would have one report and everything that relates to construction filters into that report, and I can present that. Okay, you want to look at hospitality only; well, I can do that because I can […] pull in all of the areas that relate to that dimension, as we call it, or business unit, and report on that. I don’t need to go and build five different reports; I build one and I literally, as Prophix calls it, […] flip through the pages […] and select the different types of pages, and I can report on that. You want to see them as a group, consolidated? Well sure, no problem, I can show you that as well.”
3. Better Internal Communication
Even with the best CPM solution will not be a cure-all with regards to effectively communicating company numbers. However, in the case of Prophix and its collaborative features, it does offer a significant upgrade over with a static spreadsheet attached to an email.
As Kreason points out, the latter can lead to different interpretations of the same data:
“Communication is not something that is always possible, because I may send you an email and you may interpret that in a different way from what I’m actually trying to explain to you. Whereas if you have one common reporting tool, and everybody uses this one tool – I mean you can clear up inconsistencies and confusion and misunderstandings relatively quickly. […] [With Excel, it’s like] “which version of this am I looking at? Am I looking at the right version? Have you sent me the right item? What number is this – has this changed?” Everything is now plotted and managed on one tool.”
Both Kreason’s team and Steyn City as whole have been on a remarkable transformative journey for the last couple of years. As Kreason’s examples have shown, the introduction of Prophix has helped accelerate this process further – but how do you guarantee a successful CPM project?
The first stage is finding a CPM vendor that fits the bill. In Steyn City’s case, it wasn’t just about the capabilities of the Prophix software. In addition to its strong integration with Sage, Prophix’ track-record of successfully seeing through customer projects and the continued commitment to customer success played a big part in the decision.
Kreason, despite working in a very non-technical role, also found himself heavily involved in the implementation process. Looking back, he considered this to be crucial for the whole project, despite being skeptical at first: “I’ll be honest with you – I wasn’t really thrilled to be part of the [implementation] process,” he professed during our talk. He thought, “I simply don’t have the time to do it.”
However, his outlook changed dramatically when the Prophix team explained the benefits of his being involved more deeply:
“Once I got into it, and once I actually started working with you guys, I found it to be the most important part of the whole build. Especially as a finance manager, you have to understand how it works and how everything fits together. […] Prophix does have very nice features where you can drill down and annualise numbers, but it’s quite important that you are part of the implementation from the start so that you, in a sense, map things the way you want them.”
This process also included re-evaluating and optimising existing processes before building them out in Prophix. Thanks to this approach, Kreason and his team now have a solution they know their way around, more efficient processes and numbers they be confident in – a perfect set-up for future growth, just like the city they helping to build.