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 help 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 had been a significant impediment as a result of lack of transparency and entry to related well timed info for decision-making, leading to a scarcity of belief and collaboration. To repair this, Lengthy Huynh, Director of Choice Assist, was introduced on board to work with the workforce to satisfy two aims:
- Roll out a Finance Enterprise Companion (FBP) Program, which centered on constructing a workforce of finance of us who may collaborate with college members and division heads on monetary/enterprise plans, reworking finance into advisors to the enterprise versus compilers and producers of reviews.
- Streamline the built-in planning and forecasting course of, making it straightforward for customers to entry info, observe variances in spend and initiatives and allow college members to re-forecast and in the end 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 programs. The consequence 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 completely different platforms with completely different ranges of entry. Funds house owners struggled to grasp their budgets and had issue accessing related info, understanding variances all through the month and main as much as the quarter.
- Guide and siloed budgeting: The budgeting course of relied on an antiquated system that was not user-friendly and disconnected from the principle ERP system. Budgets needed to be manually uploaded, making it difficult to combine actuals and forecasts.
- Restricted entry to knowledge: Some knowledge—equivalent to HR and payroll—was tough 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 price centres.
Earlier than implementing the answer, the monetary knowledge was scattered throughout completely different platforms with various ranges of entry. Funds house owners couldn’t simply entry their funds info, which brought about them to depend on particular people to clarify reviews as a result of siloed knowledge and sophisticated nuances.
Moreover, Athabasca College’s budgeting course of was hindered by an unintuitive system that operated independently from their ERP system, Banner. Guide uploads and a scarcity 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 workforce noticed the chance to exhibit the facility of built-in useful resource planning by IBM Planning Analytics (PA).
The main target firstly was on growing a variance and forecasting mannequin inside PA that mixed funds and precise knowledge from supply programs in a user-friendly resolution accessible to varied stakeholders throughout the college. In contrast to their outdated system, PA enabled every day computerized uploads from their ERP and offered well timed entry to completely different reporting hierarchies and variances, and it gave the flexibility to drill down on transactional knowledge. Funds house owners may 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 fulfill targets. This enchancment considerably enhanced transparency, belief and accountability amongst their numerous funds house owners.
“It was such a foundational change to how we seemed on the budgets—from a guide add of knowledge that could be a month outdated or perhaps a quarter outdated to each evening. It modified the pace at which we will make selections and see what is going on.” — Lengthy Huynh
The second part: Workforce and HR integration
As soon as the preliminary mannequin was constructed and knowledge from Banner was built-in straight with IBM Planning Analytics (PA), the main focus turned to HR (particularly workforce) to higher perceive one of many college’s main price centres.
Beforehand, HR tightly guarded payroll info as a result 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 workers. Precise college payroll knowledge by place was included into the mannequin, offering visibility into labour prices, emptiness price financial savings and headcount, whereas nonetheless sustaining knowledge 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 develop into extra agile throughout the decision-making course of.
“Payroll is the largest piece of the expense pie, and an intensive and correct understanding of it’s required for an correct forecast. Now, we will forecast by every place and see the influence in-month and into the long run.” — Lengthy Huynh
To deal with privateness and knowledge safety considerations, the finance workforce collaborated with HR to find out the suitable wage element every funds proprietor may entry. Every supervisor can solely see wage particulars for workers inside their hierarchy and solely place numbers are proven relatively than names. This enables managers the transparency and element required to make knowledgeable selections whereas sustaining enough safety and privateness.
Built-in useful resource planning: A holistic strategy
The journey continued with a concentrate on 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 had been submitted as separate Excel information, resulting in collaboration challenges, model management points and guide knowledge 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 better possession and eradicated the method of funds house owners sending numbers to finance and finance doing the entry.
Beforehand, inconsistent finance information throughout completely different colleges and departments led to poor or inaccurate forecasting and budgeting practices.
The rollout of the Finance Enterprise Companion Program contributed to the success of the built-in useful resource planning course of by offering customized finance help and advisory to every division. It was the monetary acumen, ardour for customer support and data-driven decision-making abilities of the FBP workforce—mixed with the streamlined planning processes and programs—that made it attainable.
“Earlier than, loads of selections had been made behind closed doorways. Now, the college has moved to built-in planning, so it is vitally inclusive. Nearly 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 means 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 offered the required infrastructure for efficient collaboration and help between finance and funds house owners.
The journey to boost transparency and belief throughout the college’s monetary processes resulted in important 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 workforce not solely reworked monetary decision-making but additionally contributed to a cultural shift in the direction of data-driven decision-making and collaboration.