Bickford’s Group is an independently owned collection of companies based in Adelaide, South Australia. Their worldwide businesses span beverages, farms, manufacturing, and retail, which requires FP&A agility to keep up with a wide array of financial needs.
Planful empowered their team to take a connected, collaborative approach to keep their business bubbling.
Ashlee-Louise George knows the value of FP&A flexibility. As Project Accountant at Bickford’s Group, Ashlee-Louise and her colleagues support a diverse portfolio of beverage production and distribution, retail businesses, regional operations including vineyards and wineries, distilleries, along with visitor centers and a pomegranate farm.
The diversity leaves finance with a constant influx of different data from different businesses in different formats. It prevents easy comparisons across reports and slows any eventual analysis. “We’ve got retail, operations, manufacturing, sales, distribution, and they all use very industry-specific systems, so we’ve got data in a lot of different places. You could imagine the amount of spreadsheets we used to pull it all together.”
The manual processes added stress during a time of immense company growth, as Bickford’s Group had just finished a period of rapid expansion with a number of acquisitions. But Finance still had to create the operational reports the businesses needed to run. “For the beverage side, we’re forecasting for over 200 SKUs, whereas for retail, we’re preparing daily forecasts and budgets at the store level.”
It all combined to create undue business complexity. Ashlee-Louise and team wanted to automatically collect data and give Finance the flexibility each business required. They also wanted time to focus on analysis and scenario planning instead of tactical data aggregation. What they needed was FP&A agility.
Once Bickford’s Group found Planful, they quickly put it to work providing financial insights across the business. “Our key focus was forecasting volumes because that’s what drives our (beverage) production scheduling. That then feeds into our financial budgets and forecasting, and then management reporting.”
Those businesswide insights come from Planful’s connections to their existing systems. “The integration with our ERP is quite seamless. We extract data out of multiple ERP systems, load it into Planful, and it’s available for reporting—automatically. We’re able to get that data in and consolidate it a lot more quickly.”
Beyond the speed, Ashlee-Louise says the single source of truth in Planful adds financial consistency and responsiveness. “With data coming from so many different systems, reports all had a different look and feel, with different data. It wasn’t easily manageable. With Planful, we have a consolidated hierarchy and we can roll our reports up to a topline level.”
Reporting automation is another big benefit for Bickford’s Group. The retail side of their business needs daily sales reports, so Planful automatically collects prior-day data, generates the required reports, and distributes them to the business every morning. That not only keeps the business happy, it also lets everyone collaborate with Finance via Planful. “It’s allowed us to engage with all of the departments because sales inputs the volume forecast, operations inputs their part, and marketing does their bit.”
Before Planful, Finance was at risk of becoming a bottleneck to growth at Bickford’s Group. Running so many diverse businesses was unsustainable. But Planful’s integration, automation, and ease of use gave Ashlee and team the speed, flexibility, and agility needed to support growth in every corner of the business. It also gives them a platform to build tighter connections and plan for the future.
“Before, a lot of the data was pulled together by Finance and collated into spreadsheets. Now everyone else does their input and we can focus more on analyzing those numbers rather than just trying to maintain all of the spreadsheets.”
Planful has also been a great asset as Bickford’s Group continues to grow. When their older operational systems needed an upgrade, Planful helped FP&A stay connected to the business.
“It’s been quite easy and flexible. We’re continually trying to find better ways, more efficient ways of doing things. That’s a lot simpler than having to recreate spreadsheets.”
Their newfound FP&A agility proved especially valuable as the global pandemic took hold. Bickford’s Group quickly pivoted to producing hand sanitizer and a remote workforce, but they also had the much-needed insights to quickly react.
“Who would’ve known that COVID was going to happen? But we’re now in a position where we can start to think about what if other things happened that impacted parts of the business? It makes it easier for us to adapt to those changes.”
The future is sparkling for Bickford’s Group and they plan to expand Planful into the balance sheet and ROI reporting for their executive team. They’re also bringing regional and global businesses onto Planful, further extending FP&A agility to every corner of the business. And, after 5 years of using Planful, Ashlee only sees it becoming more integral to their FP&A processes. ”It’s been a really powerful tool for us!”