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Taking Brussels Airlines' business planning to the Cloud

This case study discusses the work achieved by the Brussels Airlines team, together with element61, in implementing Anaplan for Planning & Budgeting.

The Customer

Brussels Airlines, the
leading Belgian airline, offers about 300 flights a day to more than 60
European, African and US airports. Deploying a fleet of 43 aircrafts, their
3.500 employees operate European Short-haul routes with mainly Airbus A319/A320
and AVRO aircrafts, and Long-haul flights with Airbus A330-300 aircrafts.
Brussels Airlines and its international partners also offer long-haul service
to Middle East China, Thailand, India and Canada, next to the 19 destinations on
the African continent and its transatlantic services to New York.

Brussels Airlines is
owned by SN Airholding and is backed up by more than 80 years of aviation
experience in Belgium. In June 2009, Lufthansa acquired 45% of the company's
shares. Since 9 December 2009, Brussels Airlines is a member of Star Alliance,
the world largest airline alliance.

The Challenge

The Brussels Airlines
budgeting and forecasting process involved loading many different data packages
into SAP-BW/IP and running a series of lengthy calculation and allocation
cycles, consuming up to half a day for the cycles to end. The budgeting process
also relied heavily on Microsoft Excel to fill in the gaps. The outcome was
then copied to a reporting cube.

This meant that
analyzing the impact of changes and additions to the budget was very hard, as
new uploads were postponed and only done in bulk because it required re-running
the lengthy process.

Adapting existing processes
and data structures or adopting new ones had become virtually impossible
without extensive involvement of internal and external technology specialists.

Collaborating with
different departments involved time consuming administration & follow up of
numerous versions of excel files being exchanged, transforming incompatible
data structures and duplicating data input tasks leaving very little room for
value-added analysis and simulation cycles.

Selected Solution

After analyzing
different technologies, Brussels Airlines decided that Anaplan offered the best
solution for their budgeting and forecasting requirements. Having to compete with
SAP-BPC in a predominant SAP environment, this proves the strong capabilities
of this innovative cloud based planning solution.

One of the key reasons
for this outcome is Anaplan’s patented HyperBlock architecture using an extremely
scalable in-memory engine, instantaneously updating all calculations and
allocations instead of running multiple lengthy batch processes.

Another important
factor is Anaplan’s modeling flexibility and ease of use allowing Brussels
Airlines finance users to have complete control over their budgeting
environment with minimal involvement of external consultants and internal ICT
resources. In an ever-changing environment, where rules, regulations and competition evolve
continuously such as in the airline industry, this cannot be stressed enough.


The Result

Not only has the finance
model been built within the projects’ estimates and deadlines, but the
ease of
building and linking models also facilitated the integration of HR data,
resulting in a more homogeneous and collaborative model and reducing
to the minimum.

Quarterly forecasts are now also done at detailed level,
as it
has become straightforward to change or add data.

Anaplan’s Connect-API synchronizes
(master)data with SAP Business Warehouse. It also connects to any other
supporting jdbc, and allows data manipulation using SQL. A scheduling
tool can trigger the Connect-API
to run actions within Anaplan, which is very useful to perform
validations and
updates on a regular basis.

Revenue and production
related data is imported from different airline specific solutions as these
are the
main drivers for the budgeting model. The production data contains Block
Hours (≈ flight hours), Seats, Take-offs & Landings,
per aircraft, service type and destination, and the revenue data
contains the
number of passengers, cargo tons and unit prices.

Brussels Airlines’
HR-system feeds a separate HR-model in Anaplan with detailed information
more than 3.500 employees, resulting in a current-basis forecast allowing
you to
plan individual changes or add new hires on a more aggregate level. The
are then synced with the Budgeting-model, assuring that sensitive data

In case of
non-automated processes, the end-users enter their budget data directly
modules, either manually or using the import wizard for bulk data loads
Microsoft Excel or flat files. For more complex modules, personalized
are used as interactive input forms, for example when costs need to be
entered for
different aircraft types and services, depending on the selected

Once data is loaded
(manual or automatic), all subsequent modules are immediately updated by
in-memory engine, including even an extensive list of allocation
without having to run  multiple processes.
Both traditional P&L views and P&L views per route can be
consulted and
are being fed back to SAP BW for additional reporting.

The overall solution models :

  • +/-
    active Cost Centres
  • +/-
    550 active Account numbers
  • +/-
    active Point of Sales
  • +/-
    70 active
    Routes (Destinations)
  • 24 different Currencies
  • 6
    different Products
    (Check & Go, Light & Relax; Flex & Fast, Bizz & Class for Europe; Economy,
    Business in Africa and US)
  • 5
    different Sales Channels (Agencies; Airport & City offices; Call Centre; Web; Other)

With Anaplan’s
cloud-based in-memory platform, Brussels Airlines has drastically
improved its
entire financial planning process, including revenue and production
and allocation, functional and HR cost forecasting as well as capital
expenditures and savings projects. The airline will leverage Anaplan
further to
perform detailed analysis and simulations determining passenger revenue
cost allocation impact to routes and flight numbers in real-time.

Also look at the video testimonial from Brussels Airlines with Vanessa Rentiers, VP Controlling & Business
intelligence, discussing the results of the Anaplan-implementation
: Taking Brussels Airlines' business planning to the Cloud with Anaplan.

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