Budgeting and Long Term Planning in Professional Services

The company

Employing more than 1.500 people in Belgium, PwC provides industry-focused audit, tax and consulting services to build public trust and enhance value to clients and their stakeholders in domains like: Audit & assurance, Family business, People & Organization, Tax services, Consulting, Legal, Private Business and M&A.

The challenge

Being first in class and delivering such a variety of services requires well-tuned performance management processes relying on technology that is able to handle important amounts of data, with sufficient response times and with a minimum of manual intervention. But, let's not forget scalability and flexibility.

At PwC Belgium, SAP BPC was the main system used for planning and forecasting, but given the complexity involved in calculating detailed HR plans, the calculation part was often still executed by Microsoft Excel formulas. As a result, SAP BPC sometimes served more like a database instead of a calculation engine to support the planning process. The key user had to split the same process in numerous Excel files to maintain acceptable speed and overview.

Flexibility was also an issue, as you need expert knowledge for SAP BPC administration tasks like adding or changing dimensions. You also need to master the SAP BPC script logic language to change cost allocation methods. If you had to change an existing formula, the change needed to be replicated in every similar excel file.

The solution

"We were immediately impressed by the ease of use of Anaplan during the demo said Sandy Aers, CFO at PwC Belgium. The fact that anyone could build a simple model from scratch in a matter of minutes opened up new possibilities to explore. And after the enthusiastic reference from Brussels Airlines, we were reassured that Anaplan would also be able to deliver more complex planning models.

Preferably, Anaplan projects are implemented in a coaching & co-development approach together with the lead consultant. In such a collaboration modus, customers are encouraged to co-build as much functionality as possible, supported by experienced modelers, by gradually building up complexity. This allows users to be able to independently build and maintain their models after the initial implementation.

At PwC, two separate models have been built on the cloud workspace. One for budgeting and forecasting and another for long term planning.

The Long Term Plan contains 3 years of historical data used as a basis for the calculation of the 5 future years. The end user can choose which version of the historical data will be used as basis.

The PwC Anaplan users can add or change their assumptions using dashboards and see the immediate impact on the Income Statement and Key Performance Indicators. This process was previously managed in Excel, and now entirely integrated in Anaplan so it can be easily updated by the budgeting and forecasting model.

In the Budgeting model, all the HR related calculations are included. Those were previously managed in Excel after which the data was sent to SAP BPC. Now Anaplan performs these calculations in real time, and that theres no need to wait for the data load or refresh process.

Considering the very short implementation cycle and easy data manipulation, PwC took the advantage to plan on a more detailed level and introduced some other interesting functionality like planning on Project level, similar to work breakdown structures where the data rolls up to Managers, Directors, across Operating Unit, Accounts and Competences Centers.

For each step in the process, element61 built dashboards available on a sliding panel which can be adjusted per user-role, so each user clearly seas actions to be completed for his cycle. Despite the fact that this project has been implemented during a period where PwC controllers had to be available for several software implementation projects at the same time, the project was delivered on time, in budget and exceeding expectations.

Secrets of success

The right combination of software solution and implementation partner selected made the new Budgeting and Long Term Plan-project a success at PwC Belgium.

Anaplan is a solution that allows the user to get started in a very short timeframe because it has preconfigured Time and Version dimensions. In no time, a user has its main setup ready. Additionally, there is nothing to worry about in terms of hardware, installation or scalability issues, as Anaplan is a full cloud solution.

The solution also allows for a very agile development approach. You can literally work with a somewhat Trial and Error approach, without getting stuck because you forgot something initially or messed up something along the way. Less time needs to go to the initial requirements phase, you just start building models based on customer input and user stories. The software is really forgiving along the path of model construction.

Its also very scalable. Starting from small models, up to huge multidimensional models with large lists of products, cost centers and accounts and this without any impact on the calculation speed.

Also nice is that Anaplan comes with new features each quarter. Other software would require experts to upgrade each time to a newer version, while with Anaplan you just get an e-mail that the Anaplan workspace has upgraded to a new release. Finally, the application really is in the hands of the business. Even your IT department is freed from the burden to urgently solve infrastructure or operating systems software-linked problems. These are obviously all advantages linked to cloud-based solutions.

Also the partner choice contributed to project success. element61 was Anaplans first Belgian implementation partner, already since 2014, and is devoted to making every implementation a success story for the customer. Focusing on agile implementation methodologies and best practices in business and financial modelling by certified Anaplan Consultants, element61 already has a series of successful Anaplan implementations realized including Brussel Airlines, Stepstone and PwC Belgium.