Athabasca College (AU), Canada’s Open College, is devoted to eradicating obstacles that limit entry and success inside university-level research and rising equality of academic alternatives for grownup learners worldwide.
To assist their mission, AU outlined their “Think about” Technique, which was a five-year plan outlining strategic precedence outcomes for the establishment. Underpinning the execution and guaranteeing alignment with their aims required a collaborative built-in planning course of. The problem was that the annual planning and subsequent forecasting processes have been a significant impediment because of the lack of transparency and entry to related well timed data for decision-making, leading to an absence of belief and collaboration. To repair this, Lengthy Huynh, Director of Choice Help, was introduced on board to work with the crew to meet two aims:
Roll out a Finance Enterprise Accomplice (FBP) Program, which centered on constructing a crew of finance people who might collaborate with college members and division heads on monetary/enterprise plans, remodeling finance into advisors to the enterprise versus compilers and producers of experiences.
Streamline the built-in planning and forecasting course of, making it simple for customers to entry data, observe variances in spend and initiatives and allow college members to re-forecast and finally personal their numbers.
To help with this transformation, AU started working with us at ActionKPI—a Efficiency Administration Consultancy specializing in built-in useful resource planning—to assist outline a roadmap and phased strategy to re-architecting their planning processes and methods. The end result was elevated belief and collaboration from all colleges and departments whereas rising the pace and agility of the monetary reporting, budgeting and forecasting processes.
Lack of transparency: The info for monetary reporting was nested inside totally different platforms with totally different ranges of entry. Funds house owners struggled to know their budgets and had issue accessing related data, understanding variances all through the month and main as much as the quarter.
Handbook and siloed budgeting: The budgeting course of relied on an antiquated system that was not user-friendly and disconnected from the primary ERP system. Budgets needed to be manually uploaded, making it difficult to combine actuals and forecasts.
Restricted entry to information: Some information—equivalent to HR and payroll—was troublesome to entry, hindering monetary evaluation and decision-making. They weren’t in a position to get insights into labour prices and make correct budgets and forecasts on one in all their main value centres.
Earlier than implementing the answer, the monetary information was scattered throughout totally different platforms with various ranges of entry. Funds house owners couldn’t simply entry their funds data, which induced them to depend on particular people to clarify experiences because of siloed information and sophisticated nuances.
Moreover, Athabasca College’s budgeting course of was hindered by an unintuitive system that operated independently from their ERP system, Banner. Handbook uploads and an absence of integration between their outdated system and Banner added to the complexity and time-consuming nature of the budgeting course of.
The journey begins: Improved funds visibility
After preliminary discussions with ActionKPI, Lengthy Huynh and the finance crew noticed the chance to exhibit the facility of built-in useful resource planning via IBM Planning Analytics (PA).
The main target at first was on creating a variance and forecasting mannequin inside PA that mixed funds and precise information from supply methods in a user-friendly answer accessible to varied stakeholders throughout the college. In contrast to their outdated system, PA enabled every day automated uploads from their ERP and supplied well timed entry to totally different reporting hierarchies and variances, and it gave the power to drill down on transactional information. Funds house owners might log in and think about their budgets at any time, clearly understanding their monetary place and empowering them to actively take part within the budgeting course of and take corrective motion to satisfy targets. This enchancment considerably enhanced transparency, belief and accountability amongst their varied funds house owners.
“It was such a foundational change to how we seemed on the budgets—from a guide add of knowledge that may be a month outdated or perhaps a quarter outdated to each evening. It modified the pace at which we are able to make selections and see what is occurring.” — Lengthy Huynh
The second part: Workforce and HR integration
As soon as the preliminary mannequin was constructed and information from Banner was built-in immediately with IBM Planning Analytics (PA), the main target turned to HR (particularly workforce) to raised perceive one of many college’s main value centres.
Beforehand, HR tightly guarded payroll data because of privateness necessities, leading to restricted entry and inadequate granularity.
To beat this problem, AU and ActionKPI developed a workforce variance mannequin inside PA that encompassed the FTEs and positions on the college, versus staff. Precise college payroll information by place was included into the mannequin, offering visibility into labour prices, emptiness value financial savings and headcount, whereas nonetheless sustaining information safety and privateness.
Having this workforce element allowed college members and departments to revise their FTE plans and subsequent labour prices, making a rolling forecast. This not solely improved the forecast accuracy however enabled AU to turn out to be extra agile inside the decision-making course of.
“Payroll is the largest piece of the expense pie, and a radical and correct understanding of it’s required for an correct forecast. Now, we are able to forecast by every place and see the impression in-month and into the long run.” — Lengthy Huynh
To handle privateness and information safety considerations, the finance crew collaborated with HR to find out the suitable wage element every funds proprietor might entry. Every supervisor can solely see wage particulars for workers inside their hierarchy and solely place numbers are proven slightly than names. This enables managers the transparency and element required to make knowledgeable selections whereas sustaining sufficient safety and privateness.
Built-in useful resource planning: A holistic strategy
The journey continued with a give attention to built-in useful resource planning. The college aimed to transition from closed-door decision-making to inclusive, built-in useful resource planning that concerned stakeholders from throughout the group.
Previous to this initiative, useful resource plans and proposed funds modifications have been submitted as separate Excel recordsdata, resulting in collaboration challenges, model management points and guide information entry.
ActionKPI built-in the funds and useful resource planning processes into IBM Planning Analytics (PA), permitting for a streamlined strategy. This additionally enabled a democratized course of the place funds house owners collaborate with their Finance Enterprise Companions to replace their funds entries. This supported larger possession and eradicated the method of funds house owners sending numbers to finance and finance doing the entry.
Beforehand, inconsistent finance information throughout totally different colleges and departments led to poor or inaccurate forecasting and budgeting practices.
The rollout of the Finance Enterprise Accomplice Program contributed to the success of the built-in useful resource planning course of by offering customized finance assist and advisory to every division. It was the monetary acumen, ardour for customer support and data-driven decision-making abilities of the FBP crew—mixed with the streamlined planning processes and methods—that made it potential.
“Earlier than, loads of selections have been made behind closed doorways. Now, the college has moved to built-in planning, so it is extremely inclusive. Virtually each funds holder is concerned within the course of versus simply finance.” — Lengthy Huynh
Finance Enterprise Companions, assigned to every division, labored intently with funds house owners to exhibit how PA may very well be utilized to enter, observe and visualize funds modifications over time.
This integration fostered collaboration, transparency and knowledgeable monetary decision-making all through the college.
By way of this mannequin, Athabasca College achieved improved forecasting consistency and high quality. The FBP mannequin wouldn’t have been profitable with out the implementation of PA, because it supplied the mandatory infrastructure for efficient collaboration and assist between finance and funds house owners.
The journey to boost transparency and belief inside the college’s monetary processes resulted in vital enhancements.
By implementing IBM Planning Analytics and integrating budgets, actuals and useful resource planning, the college achieved higher visibility, streamlined processes and elevated stakeholder involvement.
The initiatives undertaken by Lengthy and his crew not solely remodeled monetary decision-making but in addition contributed to a cultural shift in direction of data-driven decision-making and collaboration.
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