Customer Q&A: Saving Finance’s Most Valuable Asset

Without a doubt, spreadsheets are the most widely used business tool, and that doesn’t stop short at finance. We get it – finance professionals like the familiarity of the spreadsheet. The rows, the columns, the formulas – we’re excited just thinking about all the possibilities, too. But what happens when spreadsheets stop working for you, and start working against you?

We recently conducted a webinar to address that question and more. We heard from one of our customers about his experience with spreadsheets and how he finally moved off of them.

Jason Talley, Lead Business Analyst at Dynegy (recently acquired by Vistra Energy), shared his story about how his business was originally using spreadsheets and how his team moved off of them. Without drill-down capabilities, automated data loads, or audit trails, finance and operations were faced with hours and hours of manual work just to create basic budgets and forecasts. With 45 plants, $4B in revenue, and around 350 users, Jason needed a solution that was scalable, flexible, and manageable by finance. Most importantly, he needed to save on his team’s most valuable asset – their time.

Check out the Q&A below to hear more about Jason’s experience:

Q: “You mentioned your pre-Host environment where you were data-wrangling in Excel, validating in Excel, etc. Can you share how much of your time would be spent on those kinds of tasks?”

A: “I would say 50-75% of our time was spent wrangling spreadsheets and trying to handle any issues that were coming from the consolidation of those spreadsheets. I know the FP&A team had a very manual and tedious process, especially with the size of organization we had, and the number of folks involved. We were able to significantly reduce how long that cycle took and were able to include commentary in the reports straight from the system which saved time in communication as well.”

Q: “Was there an “Ah Ha!” moment? A revelation when something happened you said, “Enough is enough, we have to find something better.”

A: “I’m going to reiterate the time spent and the lack of automation. That was the “Ah Ha!” moment for finance – as well as getting a single source of truth and get everyone in the same platform using the same templates. There’s no data wrangling. Maybe the occasional question comes up or you spend time orienting a new user, but those were basic needs once the platform was built out for us. I should mention, our project was implemented in about 3 ½ months at most, so we were able to get set up for the new budget year and start our forecasting process with just a little bit of training time for power users. Then the power users rolled it out to the remaining users. So, that was really a huge win for us.”

Q: “Where are you getting your data? Is it coming from the general ledger?”

A: “At first we were able to quickly build manual data load rules to pull in that data from several sources we had identified. Once we mapped that out, we were able to automate the data loads to populate in Host Analytics on a schedule. That was something we really liked – the ability to start simple with our data loads and move to more advanced automation capabilities later. ”

Q: “Excellent. For those folks who might be beginning their evaluation process for different solutions, what advice might you have on where to start or what to keep in mind as they engage in evaluation?”

A: “Know what your big wins are. Don’t feel like you have to have a huge implementation timeline to get everything done. Start simple and know that you can scale – you can build your core for the budgeting and forecasting process scenarios initially very quickly. From there, focus on your training and how you want different users to be involved. You can have certain power users from the financial planning side or some from the ops side and roll it out to a more general userbase from there after they are trained. Basically, don’t try to do everything all at once but ensure you can get more advanced as you go. Your more advanced reporting can always be developed over time.”

To learn more about evaluating financial planning & close solutions and key points to consider when moving off of spreadsheets, download the buyer’s guide.

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