REVIEWER: Jeffery Nemy, CFO, Northern California Public Broadcasting, Inc. (NCPB).

BACKGROUND: NCPB is the most-watched public television and most-listened-to public radio broadcaster in the country. NCPB owns and operates public television stations KQED 9 (San Francisco), KTEH 54 (San Jose) and KQET 25 (Watsonville and Monterey); and public radio stations KQED 88.5FM (San Francisco) and KQEI 89.3FM (Sacramento).

PLATFORMS: Dell PowerEdge 2950 server and Dell PowerEdge 6650, running Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

PROBLEM SOLVED: NCPB has more than doubled in size in recent years, while the finance department staffing level has not changed in more than 10 years. We did not have a process to collect bottom-up input from managers or a system for automated variance reporting. Human resource data comprised approximately half of all operating costs but was not directly linked into the planning process. Leveraging SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC), NCPB created a financial planning system that enables users to update forecasts anytime during a month - not only to reforecast the balance of its current fiscal year, but also 36 months thereafter - while decreasing time spent consolidating data that formerly had been manually reconciled in Excel spreadsheets. Financial managers now invest their time analyzing plans and results instead of reconciling data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SAP BPC enabled NCPB to transform its annual financial planning process and replace it with a rolling monthly forecast that projects over 36 to 48 months and automatically balances interdepartmental charges so that consolidated results can be reported instantaneously. Previously, NCPB’s annual planning and consolidation process monopolized thousands of man hours and garnered marginal insights for making critical business decisions during the year. NCPB users regularly leverage SAP BPC’s actuals drop-in feature and alpha functionality to add lines directly into input schedules and document specific assumptions and justification for each budget item. With this line-item rationalization, NCPB can assess and reduce costs across departments and projects. These improvements have translated into enhanced financial reporting accuracy and operational cost savings. The first system forecast correctly predicted a significant budget variance with sufficient time remaining in the year for managers to take corrective action to boost financial performance.

STRENGTHS: The core strengths of the product are its ability to scale and consolidate critical data spanning numerous departments and projects, and retrieve data for a variety of time periods. It supports several core financial and operational functions in a highly customized and cost-effective manner. It allows management to quickly access detailed budget input templates online to review assumptions used in the budget development process.

WEAKNESSES: The attractive dashboard functionality touted heavily during sales meetings was something that needed to be developed separately, requiring separate support and programming. Additionally, input retrieval times have been slower than expected.

SELECTION CRITERIA: SAP BPC was selected due to significant product improvements related to storing and reporting alpha characters, ease of reporting and flexible contractual terms. As a past customer, one of the key factors was knowing a network of people within the company that understood core issues of the development phase.

DELIVERABLES: SAP BPC produces all core financial and operations reports for NCPB, including payroll and headcount analysis, monthly financial statements, detailed analysis by accounts of revenue and expenses, itemized budget assumptions to support purchase order requisitions, and historical and summary forecasts.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The product support team from SAP was responsive prior to the implementation. NCPB was pleased with SAP’s overall customer service.

DOCUMENTATION: A technical manual provided was quite good. However, this documentation did not adequately bridge the gap for a group that had no previous experience with the product. As a result, NCPB relied heavily on Column 5 Consulting for guidance.

SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (formerly OutlookSoft 5)
SAP America Inc.
3999 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 661-1000

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