- Provide an industrial-strength, automated system to acquire business events and transform them into accounting entries for the general ledger
- Ensure full integration with the company’s ERP and other third-party systems
- Provides data-flow governance at the business level
- Delivers fully structured financial data
- Achieves end-to-end traceability
- Ensures ability to meet very tight deadlines
- Handles very large volumes of data (over 30 million accounting entries per month for payroll alone)
- Secures the account closing process
- Provides a robust, reliable environment
France’s national railway company, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), operates the country’s rail services including the TGV, its high-speed rail network. In addition to operating rail services for passengers and freight, SNCF handles the maintenance and signaling of rail infrastructure.
With €32.6 billion in revenue in 2011, SNCF has 245,000 employees in 120 countries, carries 4 million passengers per day and handled 34 million ton-kilometers of freight in 2011.
Implementing a Modern ERP
In 2001, SNCF launched an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program to improve the company’s performance and management, and enhance productivity by standardizing and rationalizing processes. The initial scope of the PeopleSoft ERP program covered purchasing, supply chain and inventory management.
In 2006, a project was launched to extend the scope of the ERP to include general accounting and cost accounting, in order to:
- Produce consolidated accounts that comply with international regulatory standards such as International Accounting Standards (IAS) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)
- Structure the cost-accounting process to produce complete accounts by branch
- Establish a new organization for the accounting function
- Reduce the time required for end-of-month closings
The new project was implemented by SNCF’s Information Systems and Telecommunications Division (DSIT), in a team led by Christian Denis, Core Business Manager responsible for project implementation. The new system was designed to cover all SNCF corporate divisions, including finance, legal, logistics, project management and purchasing.
Acquiring and governing data from business units: a complex process
A complex process
Data from SNCF business activities had to be captured in order to provide input for the ERP accounting system. “We needed software to acquire the business events that are fed into the general ledger and costing-accounting systems,” explained Mr. Denis. “The software platform had to connect to the upstream IT systems that generate data for accounting.”
“Axway is effectively a standard for accounting data acquisition. Virtually all the banks and financial institutions on the Paris stock exchange use Axway.”
To handle this complex process, SNCF chose Axway’s Accounting Integration Suite, with its Accounting Interaction Platform. The Axway platform uses a rules engine to govern all data flows coming from the businesses, translating and transforming business events into accounting entries for the general ledger and cost-accounting systems.
When asked why SNCF chose Axway’s solution, Mr. Denis replied, “We were already using Axway systems. Axway had a proven track record with their RDJ software, which we used to input data to our accounting system. Choosing Axway’s solution enabled us to capitalize on our knowledge and experience, while obtaining a modern, state-of-the-art platform that provides end-to-end traceability.
“In any case, Axway is effectively a standard for accounting data acquisition. Virtually all the banks and financial institutions on the Paris stock exchange use Axway.”
Building the Axway platform: the full package
The heart of the solution is the Axway Accounting Integration Suite, which governs all data traffic between SNCF information systems and the ERP. Business events received from some 45 upstream SNCF businesses are translated and transformed into accounting entries for the ERP. Throughout the process, the accounting integration engine verifies the data against the relevant business and accounting references, ensuring data integrity.
The SNCF solution also includes the following components:
- Axway Sentinel. Provides supervision and monitoring
- Axway ProcessManager. Models and manages processes, making changes easier to implement
- Axway Automator. Automates batch processing for some 600 installations
- Axway Interplay. Performs exception handling
In other words, “We took the full package,” said Mr. Denis.
Moreover, SNCF selected Axway to build the platform and integrate the solution. “We were very fortunate during the construction phase,” said Mr. Denis, “as we had easy access to Axway’s R&D team. This made it possible to quickly find solutions to any problems encountered during implementation. Our access to Axway’s R&D team was a guarantee of success.”
Once in production, the solution has proved highly reliable. “Any incidents that occurred have been resolved rapidly and professionally,” said Mr. Denis. “We particularly appreciate the competence and commitment of the Axway team.”
“Axway’s solution is robust, and the platform is highly reliable. I’d give it a grade of almost 10 out of 10.”
Benefits of the Axway solution: governance, structure, traceability, security, reliability
- Provide data-flow governance at the business level. With SNCF’s legacy system, IT staff managed the flow of data, giving the businesses very limited visibility. With Axway’s solution, SNCF businesses, organized into 45 families of data flows, directly govern the data flows and have continuous visibility. These families correspond to activities such as payroll, budget, infrastructure, finance, and equipment and are broken down into 144 types of data flows. Each data flow has a manager to oversee business-event acquisition, translation and transformation into accounting entries, and transfer to the ERP.
- Structure the flow of financial data. The Axway solution enables SNCF to fully structure the information that goes into the ERP. Mr. Denis explained, “For each data flow, we have identified all the rules for transforming elementary events into accounting entries. We know the company’s accounting rules (e.g., for T-accounts), and how to interface with the company’s accounting databases. We know the company’s chart of accounts, and this way, the right information goes into the right accounts.”
- Ensure traceability. The Axway solution provides a rigorous audit trail with end-to-end traceability, a critical feature for data-flow managers and auditors. “We can trace every item of data from the source that generated it all the way to the accounting function,” said Mr. Denis. “We know exactly how the data was transformed, and at which step. We can also do the reverse: start with an accounting entry and work back to the original business event.”
- Handle massive volumes of data of the various businesses that generate accounting data. The employee payroll system produces the largest volume. “At SNCF, payroll is a very complex system, with frequent changes to rules and many categories of payments and deductions,” Mr. Denis said. “Payroll itself generates over thirty million accounting entries at end of month.” All businesses combined, the Axway solution processes 2.5 billion accounting entries per year at SNCF.
- Secure the account closing process. The Axway solution ensures that data files don’t go missing. If a file is expected by a given date but doesn’t arrive, an alarm is automatically issued to the business involved, enabling the data-flow manager to intervene and correct the problem. “We have to issue our accounts three days after end-of-month,” said Mr. Denis. “With Axway, we meet our deadlines — because we have an automated, industrial-strength solution.”
- Provide a robust and reliable environment. Asked to assess the Axway solution, Mr. Denis replied, “It’s robust. The platform is highly reliable. We have no significant issues with it. I’d give it a grade of almost 10 out of 10. If only our other systems worked so well!”
In summary, Mr. Denis added, “The project with Axway was a success. It came in on budget and on time. There were no surprises. We’re convinced — and satisfied.”
“The project with Axway was a success. It came in on budget and on time. There were no surprises. We’re convinced — and satisfied.”