Acciona Energy Gains World-Class Business Insight with Planful’s Budgeting Solution
Acciona Energy operates more than a dozen wind and solar power farms across North America with more than 1,000 MW of power capacity. A subsidiary of the global Acciona based in Spain, the Chicago-based business struggled with two accounting systems and 250 spreadsheets before modernizing its finance operations with Planful.
Best known for building and operating wind farms, Acciona Energy used Peachtree and QuickBooks to account for different areas of the business, and used Excel to consolidate results and track assets. The lack of a single chart of accounts made it virtually impossible to gain a single, reliable view of the capital-intensive business. Budgets took four months to produce.
“We worked 70 to 80 hours a week on a regular basis to get even the most basic budget done,” said Brian Farrell, Acciona Energy’s Vice President of Accounting. “We had 250 spreadsheets, and then 15 additional workbooks on top of them to create reports. It was brutal.”
When a request for information came in from the CEO, Farrell and his team had to work through updates manually because there was no way to automatically account for all the linked data across hundreds of spreadsheets.
“Just to update the model took at least 30 minutes to an hour,” Farrell said. “You’d open it up, cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t explode.”
Farrell and his team made up for the instability of the model by working regularly until midnight at the end of each quarter, he said.
And even those results were unreliable. Moreover, the business wasn’t able to account for operational data, such as megawatt-hour production data from its plants, in its financials. It became painfully clear that Acciona Energy needed to upgrade to a modern FP&A solution to improve visibility and control, all the more important in the volatile and complex renewable energy industry.
Implemented in 2010, Planful has proven to be the ideal budgeting solution for Acciona, providing a single source of the truth about its U.S. business. Getting to this point wasn’t easy. In 2014, four years after first pulling data from Peachtree, QuickBooks, and Excel into Planful, the parent company moved the global operation to SAP.
To complete the transition, Farrell and his team would adopt a new chart of accounts and then bring old data from Excel to provide an accurate historical record. And they had to do it all without IT support.
“It seemed insane,” Farrell said. “We were able to essentially do a rebuild of Planful to keep our history and accommodate that new structure in just two months. I think it’s fair to say we almost didn’t miss a beat.”
And today? Farrell can do comparative, detailed reporting on any period going back to 2010.
With Planful’s budgeting solution providing one place to capture data — including operational meter readings to better understand consumption and forecast revenue — Farrell’s team is able to close each quarter with accurate figures in three days at the most.
“World class is one or two days,” Farrell said. “We essentially have all of our reporting turned out the next day.”
And no one is working until midnight to get those reports finished. Other benefits include:
• Increased productivity. Budgets that used to take four months are now completed in less than four weeks with a staff of four working normal business hours.
“In terms of time spent, it’s at least a 75% savings and maybe as high as 90%,” Farrell said.
• Better intelligence for investing in projects. With more time, Farrell and his team are helping the business make better decisions about how to deploy capital to build new facilities.
“The accuracy and visibility we have through Planful is manifesting itself in doing better assessment, doing better cost control and making better decisions about investments,” Farrell said.
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