Furnishings retailer Room & Board depends on data to navigate and grow in a competitive retail environment. The companies planning process included hundreds of spreadsheets containing data pulled manually from its ERP systems. Their reporting was manually taking data from numerous data sources and “pasting” the information together. All that changed when Planful entered the picture a few years ago.
When Jean Dane, Financial Planning and Reporting Manager, joined Room & Board a decade ago, the company had 40 different cost centers relating to the company’s network of retail locations plus online and catalog operations and internal disciplines such as IT and Human Resources. Creating the infrastructure to report on new cost centers had become a chore. Worse, adding a new location to the forecast could take a couple weeks using Excel.
“Consolidating and updating data for planning and forecasting would take four to eight hours at a time. If we ran into an issue or the consolidation failed I would have to start over,” Dane said. “There was also minimal automation in our reporting process. If we needed to get sales information from our SAP general ledger, Business Warehouse System or Excel for a management report, we’d have to export the data from the various systems and manually merge the data ourselves. The risk for error was extremely high.”
And yet the volume of data was growing constantly in Dane’s first years on the job. Adding stores into the planning and reporting process had become a nightmare. Managers required not just more timely financial data but additional metrics such as traffic counts and average order value. Dane told management she could provide it but only with an automated set of tools. By 2011, her search for an FP&A platform had begun.
As Dane puts it, requirements for a functional but user-friendly platform led to choosing Planful for Continuous Planning. The system went live in May 2013.
“We were actually surprised that we had such high user acceptance,” Dane said, noting she sent out two surveys shortly after implementation.
“I love that Planful is Excel-based,” says one respondent. “I enjoy expense planning too, with its ability to track notes, break out line items, leave detailed notes and include attachments. And it exports easily.” Today, it’s the finance team and not IT that administers Planful, helping 75 users plan and forecast, while tracking 55 different cost centers, up 38% from when the system was implemented.
Planful helps managers better understand business drivers. For example, Dane’s team tracks the number of delivery trucks, stops completed, and average delivered order and uses that data to more accurately predict delivery revenue. Other benefits include:
• One version of the truth. No longer pulling data manually from different systems and spreadsheets, Dane’s team is now getting reports to managers within a day.
“[With Excel] we were merging, vlookup, cutting and pasting from several different systems to generate our month-end results package. It was a very inefficient and error prone process … We’re now providing this data in a fraction of the time,” Dane said.
• Greater automation. Dane’s team also has a list of five sales reports to go out to leaders on the 1st of each new month, measuring performance by retail location, channel, and shipping point.
“Everybody knows where sales landed, what they sold over the prior 30 days, the market sales, and all the key sales information as they start the next month. There’s no way I could’ve done it without Planful,” she said.
Longer term, Dane wants to add data about daily business operations and enable additional analysis. She’s also engaging her fellow department heads in the process.
“It’s a totally different relationship now that we can do more than just compile reports. We’re a business partner with a seat at the table,” Dane said.