Say you’re in the middle of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform change or upgrade. And during that often-lengthy process (the average ERP platform takes 18.4 months to implement), you may find yourself wanting to modernize your planning and reporting processes.
But should you? Should you wait to fix FP&A while your ERP platform is in flux? Do you have the resources to handle both? What’s the risk that you’ll invest time doing something that will soon need to be reworked?
These are important considerations. So it’s no surprise that this very topic recently lit up the boards on Torchbearers, the online community of Adaptive Suite users. Turns out a lot of members either have gone through this very transition or are girding themselves for one in the future.
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In the course of this online discussion, a series of crucial do’s and don’ts emerged. They should prove indispensable to anyone facing an FP&A fix while their ERP is still a moving target.
Tip 1: DO get the high-level structure set.
Gaining a sense of what the high-level org structure—entities, departments, segments, even a rough chart of accounts—will look like going forward is helpful as it influences how planning models and reports are built. Teams usually have a good idea of this structure even at the outset of an ERP project, for two reasons. First, many times this was a driver of the ERP change itself, and second, because it’s not being impacted significantly (for instance, you’ll still report OPEX by S&M, G&A, and R&D even if you need to remap some of the chart of accounts underneath).
“To us, understanding the chart of accounts/org structure was key. Once we had that down, we were able to move forward with Adaptive Insights even while still implementing the ERP system.” —Senior finance manager, New York City employment nonprofit
“DO set up the organizational level structure so that reporting is meaningful. The ERP system can then mirror the Adaptive Insights organizational structure.” —FP&A manager, +150K-member dental association
“DO start from the top—focusing on big picture then working down to details.” —Financial analyst, auto claims software developer
Tip 2: DON’T sweat the detailed chart of accounts.
Planning and reporting systems like the Adaptive Suite are designed with the knowledge that the GL is a living system and that the level of granularity with which an organization plans, reports, and tracks actuals in the GL is not always 1:1 or static. This is why they’re built to enable you to change mappings and add new accounts.
“DO have a general idea for your ERP structure to avoid excessive rework at a later stage. DON’T get bogged down in the details—currencies, thousands of accounts, etc. can all be added/modified later once the basic structure has been established.” —Senior financial analyst, renewable energy technology company
“DON’T focus on the details during your switch. It’s easy to get bogged down fixing company names, individual mappings, and various details, but know that after the transition you will have plenty of time for that!” —Financial analyst, auto claims software developer
Tip 3: DON’T waste time automating integrations.
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to invest energy building and ironing out data integrations to systems that are changing or even on their way out. Instead, use flat file uploads to get started.
“DO use flat file upload while implementing the new ERP. And DON’T neglect the data validation process.” —Financial analyst, auto claims software developer
“DO take advantage of Adaptive Insights’ structure update function to automate account renaming and reparenting. DO get a sandbox if making major model reviews and transitioning ERP systems.” —Senior manager, top 25 CPA & consulting firm
Tip 4: DO build the underlying top-line and operational models.
Teams tend to do a lot of operational modeling (top-line, headcount) that is quite strategic to the business to plan and model, but that can be very disconnected from the GL. It’s worth thinking these through and building them out in the Adaptive Suite ahead of time with the knowledge that they can be wired into the financial model later.
“DON’T view the implementation as a simple software project, but view it as a business project.” —CFO, U.S. steel manufacturer
Tip 5: DON’T bother with too many historicals.
Depending on the time and money available to them, most companies will bring over one or two years of GL balances. Transaction details are often left behind due to structural changes and conversion issues. Instead of obsessing over these imports, use the Adaptive Suite as the system of record for historical data. This will dramatically reduce the amount of data needed to go into the new ERP, reducing the cost and time of implementation on the ERP project.
“Totally agree. The data from 3+ years ago should be static and can be uploaded into an Adaptive Insights sheet rather easily.” —Senior financial analyst, auto claims software developer
Tip 6: DO use your FP&A platform as a mapping and audit tool.
Most ERP upgrades and reimplementations will involve a new chart of accounts. When that happens, companies will have to convert or map the old to new. While Excel works for the mapping, housing it somewhere and then applying it to your data is best done on a centralized platform where everyone can access it. This applies to both the results and the mapping itself, which the Adaptive Suite can facilitate via attributes. This mapping also negates rework as the mapping table will be a critical part of the ERP implementation and will need to happen anyway. Leveraging it will assist in keeping the Adaptive Suite in sync with the ERP.
“DO use Adaptive Insights mapping as an audit tool. It’s a clear and immediate benefit.” —Financial analyst, subsidiary of major U.S. food manufacturer
Tip 7: DO create a single reporting environment.
Because data from both the old and new ERP can be easily imported, mapped, and manipulated, the Adaptive Suite can provide both accounting and finance with a single reporting environment for pre-and post-data, as well as for new versus old allocations.
“DON’T simply convert legacy reports to the new ERP or Adaptive Insights, but view it as an improvement opportunity to reshape how reporting and analysis is done.” —CFO, U.S. steel manufacturer
Tip 8: DO be flexible.
Communicate with stakeholders—especially accounting.
“Communication is critical as changes in scope and design will happen, and if you are on top of the ERP implementation you will be able to adjust your Adaptive Insights model to accommodate the changes.” —Senior systems analyst, +50K-staff medical & research group
“DO have a liaison between accounting and finance/FP&A at all times. Quite often there will be changes to hierarchies (geographical and chart of accounts), and it is imperative that those new accounts get added to your Adaptive Insights reporting.” —Senior financial analyst, data backup & recovery software company
Tip 9: DO keep it simple.
Have a plan, and think about phases.
“Complexity makes the learning process harder and longer for other users down the line.” —Financial analyst, multibillion-dollar U.S. clothing brand
“DO start with a detailed plan, with specific outcomes in mind. DON’T try to get absolutely everything done all at once. Start with an essentials list of three of the must-haves. And nail those!” —FP&A director, recruitment software company
“DON’T overcomplicate things—small iterative changes are most effective.” —FP&A manager, marketing technology company
Tip 10: Most importantly, DON’T wait.
Switching ERPs does not mean that the organization stops planning or that the board and management don’t need reports. The show still must go on. Many organizations that held off on overhauling FP&A report they regretted that decision, which meant suffering through another one to two years of using Excel as their company’s ERP project ran over schedule. The advice from Torchbearers: Don’t miss out on the “quick win” of fixing FP&A sooner rather than later. Plenty of Torchbearers sounded off on this point by sharing glimpses into their own experiences:
“DON’T wait on implementing FP&A. Adaptive Insights can be used ‘standalone’ with manual imports and integrated later on. When we implemented both, we went live with Adaptive Insights first to start our budget cycle.” —Systems finance lead, Canadian environmental nonprofit
“Definitely don’t wait. We were in the middle of a merger with two ERPs needing to be combined into one. Adaptive Insights proved brilliant at combining the data to report actuals during the interim period.” —FP&A manager, top 100 international law firm
“There is no reason to wait. You can always populate the chart of accounts through other methods. Adaptive Insights is super flexible and can adjust pretty easily to any design changes you make later on.” —Finance director, project management software company
For experienced finance professionals, the rewards of moving forward on an FP&A fix can outweigh the risks and costs of waiting for ERP implementations to end. But it’s wise to draw on the experiences—and hard-earned wisdom—of others.