For the financial analysts at Partners in Health—a global nonprofit that provides healthcare services for impoverished communities in developing countries—having access to reliable, up-to-date budget data is critical. The team must always be able to determine where resources should be focused so they can enable quick responses to changing conditions in the field. But with 150 budget contributors spread across 10 developing countries, strategic planning with agility was hard to do before Vena.
“We’d been working with Excel-based budgets for a long time. It was all very manual,” says Brendan Eger, Associate Director of Information Systems and Analytics at Partners in Health. “There was a ton of emailing files back and forth, lots of versioning, lots of consolidating. Our financial analysts would spend hours collecting templates and validating data for the countries they were supporting.”
Simple consolidations would take several days in some cases, and budget updates would take an entire month to roll out. According to Eger, this made it difficult for finance teams to forecast with agility and support their strategic healthcare initiatives with confident, data-driven planning.
“It was such a painful, tedious process,” he says. “And there were so many other things that people needed to work on.”
Eger was working in Sierra Leone when he was brought in to evaluate Vena in October 2017. He knew he needed a planning tool that could integrate with multiple data systems, but still remain easy to use. After all, budget owners across the organization were already so comfortable with Excel. Eger knew that introducing a totally unfamiliar software would lead to low user adoption—and that’s why he saw so much value in Vena’s Excel interface and flexible platform approach.
“We wanted to integrate our grant budgets with our general budgets, which we thought would be really complicated,” he says. “But Vena turned around a fantastic proof of concept that really blew us away. It was nice to see a software that’s so simple for users.”
Another key requirement for Partners in Health was the ability to work offline if needed because the organization operates in areas where stable internet connection isn’t always available. To ensure that budget owners always have the freedom to look ahead confidently and support agile forecasting, Vena was configured for nightly, automated data transfers from all of Partners in Health’s source systems. Now, if the internet goes down, Partners in Health’s financial analysts can rest easy knowing they’re working with the most up-to-date data available.
“We set up some tests with the Vena team, made sure connectivity was good, and everything went really well,” says Eger. “We knew this would be a great product and a great team to move forward with.”
Since teaming up with Vena, the budget owners at Partners in Health haven’t had to worry about gathering and consolidating data manually as they plan for today and tomorrow. Now they have the time to focus on what matters—delivering healthcare support to the communities that need it most.
Updating budgets for a more accurate financial outlook used to take an entire month to complete. Now it only takes one or two days. Instead of having to sift through 150 individual spreadsheets, Eger can now consolidate data automatically thanks to Vena’s seamless integrations with all of Partners in Health’s source systems.
“We’re getting better data into our templates, and we have much more control within those templates as well,” says Eger. “Now we’re able to focus on strategic issues that are more important. Vena has allowed us to improve the speed and accuracy of everything we do for budgeting.”
But the most significant benefit from Vena, Eger says, has been a more engaged role for program staff in the communities where Partners in Health operates. Vena’s easy-to-use platform has enabled greater visibility into financial processes across the entire organization, ultimately allowing all stakeholders to participate in strategic planning.
“We really need our program managers to be financially literate, because they all want visibility and ownership of their budgets,” Eger says. “With Vena, we’ve been able to give them that visibility, so now they can provide management with that extra layer of validation we just didn’t have before. It’s been really amazing!”