Cohort plc is the parent company of six innovative technology businesses providing a wide range of defence, security, and related services and products to customers worldwide. Headquartered in Reading, U.K., the company employs 1,000 people across sites in the U.K., Germany, and Portugal. As the pandemic forced Finance and Accounting to work remotely, it had to accelerate its ongoing transition away from email and spreadsheet-based processes.
Moving to Planful has enabled Cohort to ease consolidations, improve budgeting and planning consistency and accuracy, and increase the security and reliability of their critical financial data, forecasts, and reports. Now, with Planful, Cohort has a single source of financial truth shared across the business, enabling consistent, collaborative processes and saving Finance up to a week of manual effort each month. Planful also gives Cohort a platform for automated cash flow reporting, faster year-end rollovers, and improved peace of mind.
Cohort ran its financial processes as many midsized companies do: using manual processes, spreadsheets and email. Its finance team also faced the related challenges of tracking version control and complex email trails. So, when the pandemic hit and forced the Finance team to work remotely, the team was packing up reams of files to take home and juggling emails to facilitate processes. Compounding the situation, the company was quickly approaching its April year-end statutory reporting process.
“Once we got through that year-end and the worst of our busiest period, we knew we had to upgrade our processes,” explained Joanna Leslie, Group Financial Controller at Cohort. “We wanted to start small, with just our corporate rollups, and then encourage all of our subsidiaries to embrace the benefits of Planful as a tool. Our goal was to get a new solution deployed quickly so we could trial our October half-year reports from the new system.”
With a half-dozen subsidiaries, Cohort wanted a solution that was easy to use for its finance and accounting teams across the organization. Flexibility was also critical, so teams at subsidiaries could independently choose which processes to adopt at their own pace. And, being in the defense industry, security was obviously important. But, for Cohort, having a single source of financial truth to bring consistency, increase accuracy, and provide peace of mind was fundamental to this entire project.
With Cohort’s half-year quickly approaching, the Finance team canvassed contacts for recommendations and started evaluating finance and accounting solutions. They were impressed with Planful’s flexibility and commitment to the eventual implementation, so got started in earnest in August 2020 to have Planful ready to trial the company’s October half-year reporting.
“That was a very ambitious timeline, especially as we planned to run Planful alongside our usual spreadsheet processes for the first six months,” Joanna explained. “But as Planful is very similar to Excel, if you’re comfortable with Excel, Planful is very easy to learn and use.”
With its half-year successfully trialed in Planful, Cohort started to get the finance and accounting teams across its subsidiaries trained and working in Planful. Planful’s ease-of-use made for a quick transition, and when the subsidiary finance and accounting teams realized Planful would eliminate tedious data manipulation and provide a one-stop-shop for financial insights, they were eager to get going.
“Planful Spotlight for Office was a game changer for us, especially for our massive disclosure reports. They used to be keyed in manually. Now we get the majority of the data directly from Planful, eliminating errors and complex version control. It gives us more confidence in the consistency and accuracy of the numbers.”
Planful’s ease-of-use extends to process, template, and reporting changes, which gives Cohort the power to make changes directly and without engaging a programmer or consultant. “Planful enables us to own the system ourselves and gives us the tools to adapt it to our needs,” Joanna added.
Cohort went from slow, manual finance and accounting reporting to a modern, streamlined, flexible solution enabling financial truth, all with Planful. The Cohort team trialed the system
with its half-year reports, then delivered the company’s full-year annual statutory reports on Planful. Along the way, its subsidiary units joined in to use Planful to enter planning, forecasting, and budgeting data. The system also enabled teams to quickly identify and correct errors, while avoiding the potential from spreadsheets of those errors carrying over via rogue file versions.
“Our year-end reporting was a lot smoother with Planful,” Joanna said. “And with our subsidiaries using it too, gave us the confidence we were all looking at the same data. When there is a change, it’s updated in seconds across Planful, instead of emailing spreadsheets around, and never really being sure everyone’s on the same version. That’s been a massive time saving for us all.”
Each month the Cohort team saves up to a week of manual processes now that they use Planful. “I now have more productive time because using Planful involves less manual processing,” added Joanna. That’s time which can be put back into reviewing the numbers and continuing to explore the benefits of Planful and Spotlight.”
Cohort has even extended the use of Planful to their cash flow reporting, which is now almost entirely automated. “It’s been brilliant,” Joanna continued. “But, most of all, the organization has benefited from the increased confidence from using the single Planful solution instead of complex manual processes.
“Spreadsheets can corrupt or we could potentially lose data if it’s not backed up,” said Joanna. “Planful has given us peace of mind, proper controls and backup, proper support. It is reassuring to know everything is being looked after in Planful. It relieves us from being reliant on a few individuals to know how the spreadsheets work and where they’re located.”
The combined improvements spearheaded by Joanna have been recognized by the wider business when she was awarded the company’s Business Excellence Award for her work.
“We’re only just beginning to see the benefits of Planful,” Leslie concluded. “I tell everyone, if you can use Excel, you can use Planful to do what we’ve done.”