It just wasn’t working out with Excel.
So recalled Tom McKee, senior FP&A analyst at TuneIn, a cloud-based service that enables more than 60 million active subscribers to enjoy the largest free selection of sports, news, music, and talk radio from around the world.
McKee and his team were spending too much time working to pull expense and vendor data held in TuneIn’s NetSuite ERP platform and revenue data stored in its data warehouse. “It just gets clunky using Excel with massive amounts of data,” he said, noting that manually updating and consolidating plans or models could swallow an entire day every week, and sometimes more. “We can’t easily map our expenses to our revenue for any given initiative when the data is coming from two different sources. It required a ton of copying and pasting from pivot tables.”
Yet using actuals to improve the accuracy of plans and forecasts was proving increasingly vital for the fast-growing company. “Every week, we want to look at our model because our data changes so regularly,” he explained. “We have to get data from our data warehouse, then from NetSuite, put all that in Excel, then merge all those Excel sheets together into a centralized Excel sheet. This can take a full day.”
Integration was the reason
So TuneIn went searching for a better solution. It found one in Adaptive Insights.
“The first reason we chose Adaptive Insights was its integration with NetSuite,” said McKee, referring to the tight, two-way connectivity between NetSuite ERP and Adaptive Planning—the flagship product in the Adaptive Suite of planning, forecasting, and analytics solutions. When it began implementing Adaptive Planning in 2016, TuneIn joined more than 700 NetSuite customers who rely on the integrated solution to enhance planning and reporting.
By accessing NetSuite data directly from within Adaptive Planning, McKee’s team has eliminated much of the drudgery of spreadsheets. “With the click of a few buttons, that information flows seamlessly into Adaptive Planning,” he said.
Deeper business insights
The result is a more comprehensive picture of the business, explained McKee, who noted that pulling insights from vendor data in particular has been enormously useful. “This is really critical for us. Given the number of sports, music, and talk initiatives we have going on, we need to be able to ask, ‘OK, how much did we spend producing this NFL show?’ Even with something like 60 vendors, we can map it from the NetSuite database to a line on the Adaptive Planning sheet.”
McKee said having a centralized source of data—a single source of truth—is essential for gaining a holistic understanding of the business, such as which stations are most profitable and which are losing money. “Now we can look at the data on a per-vendor, per-channel, per-station basis.”
The new environment pays dividends virtually every time McKee’s staff touches the numbers. “The difference is rolling up an entire forecast in a matter of hours instead of an entire day. And on individual budgets, I used to spend two full days copying and pasting in values for all the vendors. Now the process happens in a matter of minutes.”
The team also finds it is more confident than ever in its numbers, with McKee reciting a well-known truism of working with spreadsheets: “The less we’re copying and pasting, the less Excel manipulation we’re doing, the more accurate our forecast will be. Every copy and paste is an opportunity for error.”
Answering questions on the spot
Business partners throughout the company are also feeling the love. Rather than scheduling a series of meetings to address a cascade of questions from business unit directors, the FP&A team is now able to answer questions on the spot. “Being able to start at the summary level and drill down makes things easier. We can dive in and out of all the underlying assumptions. So you don’t have a business owner running for the exits when you say, ‘Hey, can you help me update the in-stream advertising model?’ And when they see all the rows and columns of an Excel spreadsheet, they say, ‘I … cannot.’”
Executive-level requests no longer pitch analysts into “hours, days, sometimes weeks” of work. “Our CEO will think about a huge initiative that would dramatically change how our P&L would look,” said McKee. “Now we can accommodate those types of things easily. We have the ability to incorporate a change, and within a half hour, hit refresh a few times on our Adaptive OfficeConnect file so we can spit out all the graphs and reporting we need.”
Easily track KPIs
There are other benefits. Tracking KPIs, once just a distant goal, now is not just possible, but simple. Metrics like advertising load per hour, or the minutes an ad plays each hour, can now be compared against plan in real time.
Even better, McKee anticipates business owners from engineering, sales, and marketing (all of whom own their respective KPIs) will soon become active participants in planning and forecasting—a welcome byproduct of Adaptive Planning’s collaborative, intuitive user experience. “Our next step is to say, “We want you to help us understand how much music will cost us and how much we will make off of it. We’ll make a sheet for you with all the music KPIs that you own. And you can help us by editing the assumptions as you see fit.’”
With TuneIn’s FP&A transformation comes the ability for McKee’s team to focus on more strategic pursuits. “We have more time to understand the story behind the numbers,” said McKee. “It’s allowing us to hit our vision that we wouldn’t have thought about months ago. We weren’t even thinking about looking at profitability on a per-station basis before. Now we can.”
Tom McKee will be part of the Software and Technology Industry Roundtable Discussion at Adaptive Live. The panel session we’ll take a deep dive into best-practice models and processes for active planning in SaaS or other subscription businesses.