Athabasca College (AU), Canada’s Open College, is devoted to eradicating limitations that prohibit entry and success inside university-level examine and growing equality of instructional 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 making certain alignment with their goals required a collaborative built-in planning course of. The problem was that the annual planning and subsequent forecasting processes have been a serious impediment as a result of 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 staff to meet two goals:
- Roll out a Finance Enterprise Associate (FBP) Program, which centered on constructing a staff of finance people 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 experiences.
- Streamline the built-in planning and forecasting course of, making it straightforward for customers to entry data, monitor 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 methods. The outcome was elevated belief and collaboration from all colleges and departments whereas growing the velocity 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 homeowners struggled to know their budgets and had issue accessing related data, 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—reminiscent of HR and payroll—was tough to entry, hindering monetary evaluation and decision-making. They weren’t capable of get insights into labour prices and make correct budgets and forecasts on one in every of their main value centres.
Earlier than implementing the answer, the monetary knowledge was scattered throughout completely different platforms with various ranges of entry. Funds homeowners couldn’t simply entry their funds data, which precipitated them to depend on particular people to clarify experiences attributable to siloed knowledge and complicated 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 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 staff noticed the chance to exhibit the ability of built-in useful resource planning by way of IBM Planning Analytics (PA).
The main focus initially was on growing a variance and forecasting mannequin inside PA that mixed funds and precise knowledge from supply methods in a user-friendly answer accessible to varied stakeholders throughout the college. Not like their outdated system, PA enabled every day automated uploads from their ERP and supplied well timed entry to completely different reporting hierarchies and variances, and it gave the power to drill down on transactional knowledge. Funds homeowners may log in and consider 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 homeowners.
“It was such a foundational change to how we seemed on the budgets—from a handbook add of knowledge that may be a month outdated or perhaps a quarter outdated to each evening. It modified the velocity at which we will make selections and see what is occurring.” — Lengthy Huynh
The second section: Workforce and HR integration
As soon as the preliminary mannequin was constructed and knowledge from Banner was built-in instantly 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 attributable to 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 knowledge by place was included into the mannequin, offering visibility into labour prices, emptiness value 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 grow to be extra agile inside the decision-making course of.
“Payroll is the most important 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 handle privateness and knowledge safety issues, the finance staff 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 quite 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 information, resulting in collaboration challenges, model management points and handbook 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 homeowners collaborate with their Finance Enterprise Companions to replace their funds entries. This supported better possession and eradicated the method of funds homeowners sending numbers to finance and finance doing the entry.
Beforehand, inconsistent finance data throughout completely different colleges and departments led to poor or inaccurate forecasting and budgeting practices.
The rollout of the Finance Enterprise Associate 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 staff—mixed with the streamlined planning processes and methods—that made it attainable.
“Earlier than, lots of selections have been made behind closed doorways. Now, the college has moved to built-in planning, so it is extremely inclusive. Nearly each funds holder is concerned within the course of versus simply finance.” — Lengthy Huynh
Finance Enterprise Companions, assigned to every division, labored carefully with funds homeowners to exhibit how PA could possibly be utilized to enter, monitor and visualize funds modifications over time.
This integration fostered collaboration, transparency and knowledgeable monetary decision-making all through the college.
Via 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 required infrastructure for efficient collaboration and help between finance and funds homeowners.
The journey to reinforce 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 staff not solely remodeled monetary decision-making but in addition contributed to a cultural shift in the direction of data-driven decision-making and collaboration.