Thule Vehicle Accessories North America is a division of a global manufacturer best known for its vehicle load-carrying systems such as roof racks, rooftop boxes and bicycle carriers. Committed to high quality and continuous innovation in their products, all units of Thule also strive for efficiency and teamwork in their business processes.
Not long ago, budgeting and planning in the North American division were not up to those standards. Individual sales and department managers kept their budget data in Excel spreadsheets and shared them through e-mail. Each month when the finance department collected recent data, someone had to spend an entire workday keying the actuals into Excel spreadsheets. The manual process was time-consuming and could produce errors, but the most troubling issue was inconsistency of data.
Sales and expense forecasting were cumbersome at best. If, for example, Sales was going to miss a target number, the typical response was to cut back on spending in broad buckets.
All parties agreed something had to be done, and Finance took the lead in searching for more capable software. The team chose Planful because it is easy to use, its interface resembles Excel’s, and its Cloud-based deployment, managed by Planful, would not burden the Thule IT team.
The software’s ease of implementation enabled Thule to produce its next annual budget in less than half the six weeks it took previously, and the person who did the data entry was free to do more valuable work. More importantly, Planful provided a single point of access to consistent data shared by all participants.
“Now we have one set of data and one view of life,” says Mark Cohen, VP of Finance. Finance and Sales developed, using the Planful template capabilities, a rolling sales forecast that is updated every month to extend the yearly horizon. “We have a forecast that people can actually sit down and discuss,” he adds, “and better visibility into important issues related to customers, promotions and expense management, among others.”
Improvement was immediately evident. After implementing Planful, Cohen remembers, “we cruised through the first budget meeting like never before.” Armed with reliable data, participants can start planning where to allocate resources to benefit the company’s performance.
“Budget meetings are now about the business, not about the integrity of information,” says Cohen.