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SEARS ROEBUCK: A 'SPREADSHEET ON STEROIDS'

To assemble an annual financial plan for its 3,500 U.S. stores, Sears, Roebuck & Co. used to collect data scattered across so many computers that it took a 100-square-foot flow chart to describe the 300-step consolidation process. Now, the process is down to just 25 steps, all described on a sheet of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper. Sears' analysts now have two years' worth of detailed budgets and plans at their fingertips, ready for viewing and analysis on their PCs.

Sears' secret is a homegrown financial system called EPIC, based on Essbase, a program from Arbor Software in Sunnyvale, Calif. Steve Beitler, senior director for financial processes and systems, calls Essbase ''our spreadsheet on steroids.'' It stores billions of bytes of financial data, along with information about how each item relates to the others. Each day, after being fed the latest figures, it recalculates all forecasts and plans.

Beitler says Essbase has paid for itself many times over, identifying opportunities--not all pursued--to slash $100 million in costs. Says Chief Financial Officer Allan J. Lacy: ''We've got a real-time system that's allowing us to focus on some pretty aggressive financial goals.''

By John W. Verity in New York


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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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