Taking Brussels Airlines' business planning to the Cloud

Taking Brussels Airlines' business planning to the CloudThis 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 Anaplans 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 Anaplans 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 processing-time to the minimum.

Quarterly forecasts are now also done at detailed level, as it has become straightforward to change or add data. Anaplans Connect-API synchronizes (master)data with SAP Business Warehouse. It also connects to any other database 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 on 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 totals are then synced with the Budgeting-model, assuring that sensitive data remains confidential.

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

Once data is loaded (manual or automatic), all subsequent modules are immediately updated by the in-memory engine, including even an extensive list of allocation routines, 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 :

  • +/- 800 active Cost Centres
  • +/- 550 active Account numbers
  • +/- 200 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 Anaplans cloud-based in-memory platform, Brussels Airlines has drastically improved its entire financial planning process, including revenue and production forecasting 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 and 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.