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Integrated platform supports digital finance transformation

Integrating digital technology is a challenging step in transforming financial operations. Investment firm The Carlyle Group turned to a CPM platform to help achieve its goals.

In response to the digital disruption that is occurring in many industries, finance organizations are transforming their people, processes and systems to gain needed agility. This enables them to shift more their time and effort toward analysis and improving decision-making across the enterprise.

Three years ago, The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm based in Washington, D.C., began assessing options to support digital transformation within its finance operations with enterprise technologies that were simpler and easier to maintain than its current suite tools.

The company had three disparate systems used for consolidated actuals; planning, budgeting and forecasting; and employee-level compensation and benefit planning. The goal was to combine these into one platform.

Carlyle was planning to upgrade its financial systems to keep pace with new technology standards, such as Windows 10, according to Ryan Wild, vice president global technology and solutions at The Carlyle Group. The company was also interested in increasing efficiency within finance.

The need for transforming finance operations

Carlyle's financial planning and analysis (FP&A) group was using SAP's BusinessObjects Planning, a legacy tool that SAP was no longer supporting, to facilitate the company's annual budget, quarterly forecast and long-range plan.

"Our FP&A group was spending a ton of time requesting, aggregating and consolidating information," Wild said. "These technical limitations ate up time that would otherwise have been spent on value added analysis and decision support."

For consolidated actuals and external reporting, Carlyle was using a version of Oracle Hyperion Financial Management (HFM) that required an upgrade for compatibility with Windows 10.

"Our existing HFM application was heavily customized to meet the needs of our business. For a number of reasons, our next upgrade was going to effectively be a rebuild of our application," Wild said. "Whether it was with Oracle or another software provider, we knew were going to be investing in our consolidation platform."

Carlyle was also using a homegrown HR budgeting and forecasting system that met the unique needs of an investment firm with complex compensation packages and a global employee base. This tool was single-user and relied heavily on Excel-based data integrations.

"The ability to do year-over-year reporting and analysis out of that tool was limited," Wild said. "Addressing these and other limitations were high-priority as we looked at other options."

To move into the world of digital transformation, Carlyle knew it had to implement a modern, extensible platform that was scalable to meet its current and future business needs.

"Our FP&A team spent a lot of time thinking through -- and foremost, from a finance transformation perspective -- where we wanted to go and what kinds processes we wanted to put in place," Wild said. "Then we were able to assess tools to meet those needs."

Carlyle looked at a number different tools to figure out which one would best position the company to get where it wanted to be from an FP&A process perspective. Ultimately, the company selected OneStream Software LLC's integrated CPM (corporate performance management) platform.

OneStream is a unified platform that runs in the cloud or on-premises and enables organizations to address actuals reporting, budgeting and forecasting all in one system, according to John O'Rourke, vice president of product marketing at OneStream, based in Rochester, Mich.

OneStream's CPM platform addresses the needs of corporate as well as the more detailed reporting requirements of lines of business, subsidiaries and divisions, according to O'Rourke.

"In one application, you can do financial consolidation and reporting, your budgeting, planning and forecasting," he said. "[The platform] has data integration and data quality capabilities built into it, as well as reporting, reporting tools and dashboards. And it has an Excel-based interface because finance people love Excel."

Finance transformation benefits

"While Carlyle initially wanted to evaluate OneStream for budgeting, planning and forecasting, we looked into their consolidation and reporting process and saw opportunities to bring all those processes into one platform," O'Rourke said. "In addition to the productivity gains they got, they also saw gains into simplifying their IT infrastructure. For example, instead of three different systems they had now one system."

That's made life easier for users as well as the administrators managing the systems, according to O'Rourke.

"There's less data movement between systems, and it's easier to manage and upgrade the system as well," he said. "Instead of upgrading three applications, now they upgrade one application, and it takes a couple hours instead of months to upgrade."

Carlyle went live with OneStream for its annual budget process, including people planning, in October 2017 for its 2018 budget cycle, and the company went live for consolidated actuals in Q1 of 2018.

Wild said OneStream was able to meet all of Carlyle's requirements, including decentralizing the collection of all inputs for a zero-based budget process that the company follows, as well as self-service reporting capability.

In the past, the process to spin up a new version of management reports to compare actuals versus the company's budget, or its most recent forecast against its budget, could take up to a week.

"Today, because it's a single platform, all the data resides in a single place," Wild said. "We can do that process easily same day ... in as little as minutes or hours depending on the nature of the changes being made. We have much quicker access to information, eliminating manual data handoffs because our data resides in a single platform. And we have much more consistency and control around our data."

The new solution with OneStream included a direct connection with Carlyle's Oracle PeopleSoft general ledger, replacing the previous file-based load process, according to Wild. It also integrates with Workday, sending data directly into the system for people planning. With these direct connections, integrations are simpler, run faster and are more controlled.

Carlyle has also realized a number of other benefits, including reducing consolidation times by more than 50%, even with a significant increase in data. Processes that used to take up to a week -- such as revenue updates and expense budget updates, updating and reviewing allocation metrics, and updating and reviewing headcount assumptions -- can now be completed the same day, if not in a matter of minutes.

Since going live, the company has continued to extend the use of the OneStream platform by implementing point planning solutions for key expense areas, enabling scenario modeling to support business review discussions and implementing OneStream's Account Reconciliation offering.

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