Antarctica New Zealand manages Scott Base, New Zealand’s Antarctic research station. The organisation is responsible for supporting scientific research, conserving the intrinsic values of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, as well ashelping raise public awareness of the international significance of the continent. Much time and effort goes into managing their financial budget to ensure efficient use of time and resources.
The Antarctica New Zealand financial team needed a complete ‘one stop shop’ system that could deliver budgeting information in an accurate and user friendly manner. With Microsoft SQL Server already implemented, enhancing it further with Analysis Services was the next step. As Brad Phillips, Accountant from Antarctica New Zealand says:
“What we were looking at was fairly straightforward: tracking actual expenditure versus budget expenditure. We’re on a fixed income from the Government and we need to work out how we’re going to spend that. Throughout the year we wanted an easy way to see how much money we’d spent. For example: it’s September now, how much was my budget for July, August and September? How much have I spent? How much is left? What’s the rest of the year looking like? What transactions were processed?”
Having clear insight right down to transactions would not only make Brad’s job a lot easier, but ensure that budget managers could make intelligent business decisions when planning for the year. Most importantly, they needed financial information that could be accessed in both Christchurch and Scott Base.
With Intergen on board, the ‘Ice Cube’ project commenced. With only months until the next annual shipment to Antarctica, it was time to get stuck in and develop a solution based on Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services to ensure budget managers could get their financial planning underway at Scott Base.
The main driver behind the ‘Ice Cube’ [OLAP cube] was getting financial information on the ice, in a compact format that could be accessed locally, instead of remotely over their slow satellite datalink.
As Greg Jack, Information Services Team Leader from Antarctica New Zealand says:
“We wanted to look at our actual expenditure versus budget expenditure at any time, to see how much we’d spent for the year and how much we had left. We need to plan our budgets a year ahead to ensure most supplies are on the annual ship. [Prior to this project] Remote access to this information in Antarctica was painstakingly frustrating because it is hosted in Christchurch - we have a slow satellite datalink down there.”
With power of Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services information could now be accessed in an accurate, user friendly manner, eliminating the manual collation of information. As Brad Phillips, Accountant from Antarctica New Zealand says:
“Budget managers would request an update on their budget versus expenditure. I had to collate a spread sheet which involved the laborious task of cutting and pasting data from different places. By the time I’d finished it might be half way through the following month and the information would be out of date.”
The ‘Ice Cube’ [which utilises Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services] was implemented in time for the budget managers’ annual trip on the ice. They now have access to accurate financial information that is delivered in an efficient, user friendly manner. As Greg Jack, Information Services Team Leader from Antarctica New Zealand says:
"I like the idea of up-to-date transactions; before, our reports were one month in arrears. The pivot table displays the information easily and with Microsoft functions we’re already familiar with, adoption has been successful. We can log into the local server down at Scott Base and can see our financial information which replicates overnight. That’s the beauty about having the ‘Ice Cube’ down there."
Brad Phillips, Accountant from Antarctica New Zealand confirms the benefits the system has delivered:
"I used to spend two days collating data to generate reports for our budget. This is now a thing of the past and our budget managers can now have direct access [to the system] where they can view right down to single transactions. As a Government owned entity we are being directed to create productivity improvements and this is clearly one of them."
Using the ‘Ice Cube’ to track the orders (from request to delivery) is something Antarctica New Zealand is looking into. As Brad says; "This is especially important for our team on the ice – so they can see what’s coming down, when it’s coming and who it’s for."