Perform 2021 - Imperial Dade sets its sights on continuous planning with Planful

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez September 17, 2021 Audio mode
Summary:
Imperial Dade has consolidated data from multiple ERPs into Planful and is now giving finance teams better and regular insights.

An image of an Imperial Dade truck
(Image sourced via Imperial Dade website)

Imperial Dade is modernizing its financial planning and analysis (FP&A) capabilities and is moving towards continuous planning with Planful. 

The leading distributor of disposable food service and janitorial supplies in the US is a multi-billion dollar business and has carried out over 20 acquisitions in the past 3 years, leaving it with a complex financial landscape that has been made worse by a fragmented ERP landscape. Imperial Dade has now consolidated its financial close, reporting, forecasting and budgeting onto Planful - giving its finance teams better insight into the necessary financial data. 

Johann Cabe, Director FP&A at Imperial Dade, was speaking at Planful's annual user event, Perform 2021, where he explained that the multi-phased implementation has brought the organization closer to continuous planning. Something which Cabe described as a "dream". 

Cabe said that Imperial has been taking a multi-phased approach to rolling out Planful, as the company wants to build on successes and gain momentum, which he added has helped to bring users along on the journey. Cabe said: 

Phase one was where we wanted to get our financial consolidations and reporting all in Planful. We then needed to integrate budgets. But because we were going with a multi-phased approach, the budgets were still offline, but we incorporated it into Planful. The second phase of our financial roadmap was to actually use Planful to do all of our budgeting and forecasting, and more importantly, headcount planning.

But our next phase that we had envisioned was the broader utilization by our organisation, integrating BlackLine and then eventually continuing on to continuous planning. For a lot of us in the FP&A world, continuous planning is one of those dreams that we would love to be able to do. Thankfully, with Planful, we've been able to envision that in a shorter timeline.

Consolidating financial data

As noted above, Imperial Dade has been acquiring companies at pace and as a result was landed with multiple ERP systems that were for all intents and purposes, running independently. Planful has allowed Imperial to consolidate those ERPs into one financial reporting tool. Cabe added: 

More importantly Planful allowed us to load transactional information. And it allowed us to integrate all of our acquisitions, as we had been acquiring them, into all of our financial reporting. If you did not have a system like Planful, you would be either adding a tab or creating new files and manually consolidating information. That is a recipe for disaster.

Planful helped us bridge that gap. It allowed us to consolidate information from multiple ERPs, have consistent reporting, and allow us to essentially speak the same language across our entire organisation. So that when a branch manager at one location was trying to explain a variance, they knew where that information originated from, and they knew how to explain it.

Standardized reporting has also been critical to Imperial Dade, Cabe said. By using the report collection options in Planful, Imperial is able to essentially create its financial packages and has allowed it to do both GAAP and non-GAAP reporting. Cabe added: 

That has helped us do a lot of analysis that before we would never be able to do in one environment, especially when you have multiple ERPs. 

Phase two of the Planful roadmap at Imperial is focused on incorporating forecasts and budgeting models, which had previously been done in Excel. Cabe said: 

[Excel] is grossly inefficient and it takes too much time. With planful, we've been able to cut down that forecasting process from what took over a month to about two weeks. I'm happy to say that we finished our 6+6 forecasts in under two weeks, all by using planful. 

How did we do it? We use the planning templates. We essentially created five or six templates that we seeded with information and then drove the financial details using KPIs. Those financial details allowed us to build a P&L driven by assumptions that basically can vary from percent of net sales, a cost per case, or even just the historical average. 

But what those templates have allowed us to do is create a P&L almost instantaneously. Previously, if we were to do this all in Excel, you'd have to create all these different combinations and seed the data yourself manually. A recipe for disaster. 

Benefits are plentiful 

Cabe said that Imperial Dade's board has a vision for the company to do more forecasts throughout the year, as long as they aren't done in Excel. And thanks to Planful, that's exactly what FP&A has enabled. Cabe added: 

In the upcoming future…we will eventually be able to do rolling forecasts. That was something that in my FP&A career was always a dream. 

We have 1,400 different department location combinations now created in planful with all the same KPI-driven analysis, that generates a full P&L. That's one of the best advantages that we've been able to get from Planful. 

Cabe is now focused on getting the entire organization to use Planful more consistently. But the results so far have been positive, allowing Imperial to be more proactive. He added: 

If I look back at what we as an organisation were before Planful, a lot of It was a reactive organisation. But what planful has allowed us to be able to do is give this tool, this information, to our finance leadership across the organization, at every location. 

So instead of waiting for the preliminary or the final P&L to come out and react, they can actually look at their results as we're closing the books, throughout the month. They're able to identify those errors and issues and correct them before we finalize our results.