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 America—that's what his team was dealing with before they implemented Vena.
In those days, tedious manual spreadsheet work made for a painful, error-prone planning cycle at Coke Consolidated. Stakeholders across the enterprise weren't involved with budgeting and forecasting, making it tough for Matt and his teammates to produce consistently reliable numbers. As a result, C-suite executives weren’t being empowered with the insights they needed to make confident, data-driven business decisions.
“We had a mainframe solution that we used for our resource planning, but that wasn’t going to cut it,” says Matt. “The challenges that we had with our budgeting 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.”
Matt would have to dig through dozens of offline spreadsheets every day to produce even the most basic profitabilty reports and forecasts. Despite his team's best efforts, there was never much time for analysis—which means the business was missing opportunities to allocate resources more strategically.
“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 Matt. “We spent more time aggregating and verifying data than actually analyzing data.”
When Matt first joined Coke Consolidated in 2016, he knew he would need a solution to make business planning easier and more collaborative. After evaluating four other vendors—specifically Anaplan, Oracle, Workday and SAP—Matt ultimately landed on Vena for its flexibility 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?’”
Vena's Complete Planning platform was able to integrate with existing source systems, automate data consolidation and bring the entire cross-functional planning process into one central solution. Vena delivered the whole package for Coke Consolidated, empowering 180 users with up to date numbers when they need them.
“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.”
Coke Consolidated has evolved tremendously in the last few years—and so have their use cases with Vena. As their business continues to grow, Matt can always keep stakeholders aligned with one source of truth for HR planning, sales forecasting, month-end close and more.
“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 aggregations give Matt and his colleagues whole days back, giving them more time focus on strategic, forward-thinking growth initiatives. Coke Consolidated’s revenue grew by 55% in their first few years with Vena, 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,” he says. “We’ve even started using Vena in meetings with our executive team so we can answer their questions live.”
But the most important result, Matt says, has been more fulfilling work for his team and heightened credibility for everyone who uses Vena. 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.”