Planning App Unification – One App to Rule Them All

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Brad White, TGG’s FP&A Practice Lead, to explore why and when organisations would consider consolidating multiple Hyperion Planning (“HP”) applications, how to go about it, and what to look out for.

As your organization evolves and acquires geographically dispersed and/or diverse businesses, you need to ensure that your decision support systems and processes keep pace with these changes. This could mean that such requirements outgrow the capabilities of your current single HP application leading to the creation of others to support the needs of other departments. HP applications could also be inherited from business acquisitions. The initial HP application may have been implemented through the lens of Corporate thereby failing to meet the needs of the reporting units and causing them to embark on their own HP implementation.

Creating additional HP applications come with its own challenges –syncing pertinent metadata and data across the platform, maintaining potentially duplicative but inconsistent algorithms, etc. -this potentially convolutes where the single version of the truth resides. Also, when rolling out enhancements,it may be applied to one HP application, but not to others even though it may be beneficial or worse, may already exist in others. That said, a new HP application will allow the others in the organisation to build to their liking as opposed to trying to fit their requirements into an existing one.

Maintaining multiple HP applications can work until ongoing maintenance becomes impractical or the risk of providing conflicting information becomes too high. These would be good indicators to start examining the merits and practicality of merging and consolidating HP applications. Below are three common benefits to combining multiple applications into one:

  • Catalyst for senior management to drive economies of scale from the HP platform.
  • Creates process efficiencies by standardizing processes and metrics across the organisation while leaving enough flexibility to handle reporting unit or department level requirements as well
  • Lowers the Total Cost of Ownership (“TCO”) since there will a reduction in the required maintenance; and
  • Broader set of users can benefit from future enhancements.
If you have decided to unify your HP applications–what next? Brad shared with us a few pointers on execution, what to look out for, and timing.
 
Setting up for project success:
 
  • Establish buy-in from senior levels of management as a project pre-cursor.
    • Critical to prioritizing requirements / resolving decision impasse.
    • Drives sufficient level of participation from the impacted stakeholder groups.
  • Take a deep dive into the processes that exist for each target HP application to identify any overlaps, where the more established / mature ones reside and should become the go-forward standard, and where misalignments exist / need to be addressed.
  • Use a phased roll out approach, where the core commonalities are rolled out in phase 1 to deliver greater benefit for the largest audience with subsequent phases focused on department or reporting unit specific requirements.
  • Adopt an Agile mentality–deliver tangible benefits to stakeholders in shorter cycles to build buy-in and momentum for subsequent phases (which typically morph as more becomes known or re-prioritization of requirements occur).
  • Hire an external HP Solution Architect well-versed in delivering HP application unification projects:
    • They will be pivotal to facilitating discussions across the multiple stakeholder groups in driving consensus.
    • There may be missing leading practices in the set up of your existing HP applications.
    • They will be instrumental in determining an appropriate approach to data conversion and recommending strategies to address data inconsistencies.
  • Involve power-users from each stakeholder group empowered to ensure sufficient engagement from their area, and facilitate the eventual knowledge transfer and training of the new system.

Things to look out for:

1. Silo-mentality – each impacted stakeholder group may push for their “way” of addressing a requirement at the detriment of other stakeholder groups. Securing the support of an Executive Sponsor with a broader perspective and empowering an experienced and objective HP Solution Architect can help mitigate this risk.

2. Resource Commitment  Different parts of the organisation may have different levels of dedication to the unification project, which is a challenge. Having power-user teams from each department will ensure that all departments are on-board and aware of the progress.

3. Infrastructure Location – Where the infrastructure/cloud server is going to be located –while proximity can impact application performance, don’t forget to consider the knowledge and expertise of individual(s) required to provide proper infrastructure support.

4. Scope Creep – If the analysis of the processes is not thorough and supported by sufficient documentation of key project decisions, valuable time may be lost ‘re-visiting’ scope or chasing requirements not on the critical path.

When are the best time(s) to undertake an HP application unification project?

Being proactive is key –you don’t want to wait until you have no choice. Below are some suggested ‘good times’ to plan and deliver this type of HP project:

  • Consider tackling during a growth period, especially when you are blending and amalgamating the underlying ledger system concepts–the organization is already prepared for change.
  • There are rapidly shifting business requirements but the forecasting logic is stable. It is easy to find and create synergies.
  • Senior management (e.g., CFO) is looking to create economies of scale across all their FP&A departments.That said, ensure that middle management is relatively stable for the project to preserve knowledge transfer.
And there you have it, where and when ‘One Planning App to rule them all’ makes sense!