If you’re relying on offline spreadsheets for enterprise business planning processes, then budgeting, forecasting and reporting will always feel like a burden. For Matt Blickley, VP of FP&A at Coca-Cola Consolidated—the largest bottler of Coke products in the U.S.—this was the case for his team before they implemented Vena.
According to Blickley, manual spreadsheets made for a tedious, error-prone planning cycle. Regional stakeholders were disconnected from budgeting and forecasting activities, and C-suite executives weren’t being empowered with the insights they needed to make quick, confident business decisions.
“We had a mainframe solution that we used for our resource planning, but that wasn’t going to cut it,” says Blickley. “The challenges that we had with our budget cycle were everything you can imagine with disparate spreadsheets. We had version control issues and sensitive data being passed through email because we didn’t have a consolidated solution.”
For the FP&A team, that meant sorting through dozens of offline spreadsheets every day in order to produce meaningful reports and forecasts. Despite the team’s best efforts, data integrity was very difficult to maintain.
“When you deal with manual processes, the risk of errors and the risk of data not being accurate is going to be much higher,” says Blickley. “We spent more time aggregating and verifying data than actually analyzing data.”
When Blickley joined the FP&A team in 2016, one of his first orders of business was to deploy a cloud-based solution and solve the apparent planning problems at Coke Consolidated. After evaluating four other vendors—specifically Anaplan, Oracle, Adaptive Insights (Workday) and SAP BPC—Blickley chose Vena for its flexible functionality and native Excel interface.
“We knew that our business was going to be changing and we needed something flexible that could grow with us. We also needed a solution that would be easy to implement,” he says. “Excel is one of the best business tools out there, so we thought, ‘why not leverage it and the comfortability our users already have with it?’”
Another key requirement was an OLAP database that could integrate with existing source systems, automate data consolidation and bring the entire cross-functional planning process into one centralized platform. Vena delivered the whole package for Coke Consolidated, empowering 180 users with planning templates that are always up to date.
“We really wanted this to be finance owned,” says Blickley. “We wanted to be able to move quickly, own the data and own the processes.”
Since the initial implementation, Coke Consolidated has evolved tremendously—both from an overall business performance perspective and also with their Vena use cases. After starting with budgeting and forecasting, the team now leverages Vena as a full-scale business planning ecosystem. There are customized templates in place for advanced cross-functional processes, such as operational planning, HR planning, sales forecasting and month-end close.
“For all of the things we do to plan out our business over the long run, all of that is now done in Vena,” says Blickley. “Having data at our fingertips with the ease of querying, manipulating and reporting on that data has allowed us to perform real-time analysis of many things going on in our business.”
Automated data consolidation saves a ton of time for Blickley’s team, allowing them to focus on more strategic, forward-thinking growth initiatives. The company’s revenue grew by 55% in their first few years as a Vena customer, from $3.1 billion in 2016 to more than $4.8 billion today.
“The feedback we’re getting about Vena is that everybody absolutely loves it. We’ve built templates that are easy to use with native Excel functionality. People have really embraced that,” says Blickley. “We’ve even started using Vena in meetings with our executive team so we can answer their questions live.”
But the most important result, Blickley says, has been more fulfilling work for his team and heightened credibility for everyone who uses Vena in their roles. Now, instead of being viewed as a number-crunching cost center, finance is the ultimate driver behind Coke Consolidated’s success.
“The information we generate is being used across the business to better understand results and to make better business decisions,” he says. “Vena is probably the best professional decision that I’ve made in my career.”