BIAS Shares the Secrets to a Successful Cloud Transformation
(Originally published by Oracle)
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Pam Fisher, Vice President of Applications Consulting Services at BIAS Corporation. BIAS is an Oracle Platinum Partner and IT services company that works with a wide range of clients to implement the best strategic technology solution for their needs. They implemented Oracle Financials Cloud [part of Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud], Oracle Project Financial Management (PFM) Cloud, Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud, and Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud to streamline their own internal finances, data management, and human capital management systems. If you are realizing that the time has come to transform and modernize your small-to-medium business (SMB), read on to learn how BIAS did just that.
What does BIAS do? Who are your customers?
We’re a global systems integrator and IT services company. We have consultants—business consultants and technology consultants—who work to help our customers transform their businesses. Our customers are trying to bridge the gap between their strategic goals and identifying/leveraging those systems that are going to help them get there as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
We have customers across services (staffing, financial, etc.), retail, hospitality and manufacturing industries. Our customers have very similar challenges trying to keep up-to-date, automating their business processes, and providing the most incredible customer experience. Because they’re so busy, working day-to-day maintaining their current systems, they don’t have the time to look at their own strategic initiatives. They need to determine the best (and least disruptive) system to reach their goals, plus the best roll-out strategy. That’s where we come into play, helping customers figure out their right path.
What are the key challenges your customers face?
Customers today have multiple systems for specific business processes and/or specific business units. Many have grown through mergers and acquisitions and have not had the time to merge those systems. Instead of focusing on strategic initiatives or growing the business, they are forced to spend time integrating their systems or determining how best to access, extract, and consolidate the data they need.
By the time they organize their data into a meaningful format, the data is stale. Why? Because they had to extract it, consolidate it, use pivot tables, etc. ―all that fun stuff in Excel―and that takes time (and money). Everyone’s trying to be more proactive and analytical, and that is hard to do in Excel spreadsheets. They have to transform their business.
How did you decide that it was time to embrace your own digital transformation?
BIAS helps our customers transform their businesses all the time. Now it was our turn. One of the key things that we did was talk to our executive management about how we need to disrupt our business. However, we wanted to make sure that we limited the impact to the business. We wanted to make sure that we took a very risk averse approach and wanted to tackle the major pain that we had, which was closing the books and getting our financial statements out the door.
Each team was happy with their own separate system. We had a financial system. We had a projects system. We had an HR system. As a company, we took the time to integrate all of the systems because we have the technical knowledge and expertise. Everyone was happy with their own system, but they did not understand the effort it took on the backend to keep it all going. At the end of the day, we still had to extract data from each separate system, load it into spreadsheets, and then turn those over to our finance team for consolidation and formatting.
On our old system, it was a 10-day process to close the books which involved lots of manual invoicing, manual journal entries, data extracts from all the other different systems. When we started our journey to the cloud, we decided upon a phased approach. Reason being, both the operations team and my application consulting team were still going to be doing their day-to-day jobs, as well as the project. As my team members were the implementers, we really got to understand what it feels like to be a customer, because we were the customer.
Were there any other pain points that you can talk about?
Absolutely, yes. Time cards are a very big pain point in our industry. We must track every hour of our consultants’ time from a project perspective. Not only in terms of external projects, but internal projects as well. We must track at a very detailed task level, for example, we have tasks for database build, for design, testing, project management, etc. that we would track for our customers.
Trying to get all of our consultants to enter time in this detailed manner was very painful, as the entire process was very manual.
Tell us a little bit about your implementation process?
In our phased approach, we started with Oracle Financials Cloud and went live in 12 weeks. We then went into our second phase, which was Oracle HCM Cloud and went live in 16 weeks. Once we had this foundation, we entered the third, more complex phase of our implementation strategy. We implemented Oracle Project Financial Management Cloud and Oracle Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud (part of Oracle EPM Cloud) in 20 weeks.
Has going through that process helped you understand your customers better?
Absolutely, I now understand why after we worked so hard to create these great solutions for our customers and we hand it to them so excited, with a red bow on top it takes them so long to make the decision. Now, we totally get it. This is a big journey that you’re about to do. As I said, you’re going to disrupt your entire business. Is everybody ready? Are your executive champions ready? Because you have to make sure that’s in place in order to have a successful implementation.
So you stated that a key pain point was not being able to close the books quickly. How has that improved?
We have reduced our month-end close by 70%. It used to take us 10 days to close our books. It now takes us three. That is amazing. Our CFO is very excited.
What are some of the other benefits that you have seen?
The other benefits that are worth mentioning are full-blown approval workflows, notifications, and mobile capabilities. We are now able to do everything on our phones. We’re able to get so much more done running through airports because that’s what we do. We can now approve things on the go. For example, we can enter all of our expenses when we’re traveling all the time. You can take pictures, scan your receipt, and expense an item. Also, our auditors are excited because now we have all the internal controls we need.
We have also seen a 20% increase in our processing times for setting up projects, approving payables batches, and getting accurate invoices out the door to our customers. Before we would have manual mistakes. There is a risk of human error if you have to manually create an invoice from scratch. Now it’s all embedded in the system. We run a process and, poof, there’s our beautiful invoice that is electronically sent to our customer.
Can you speak to how Oracle Project Financial Management Cloud has benefited BIAS?
Let’s circle back to timecards. After implementing Oracle Project Financial Management Cloud, we are able to automate the entire process. Employees now only see the tasks and projects that they need to worry about. The approval workflows allow our project managers to see everything, approve it, or ask for clarification/additional information. Now we’re able to add online comments for every hour so we can provide our customers detailed reports, build their trust.
Our employees are our business. We have to keep them happy, and we have to try and decrease the burden of the administrative tasks that they need to do. By implementing Oracle Cloud applications, we’ve been able to help them expedite entering time and entering expenses.
In addition, our project managers can see the performance of their projects in real time. They’re able to query up any project or any customer and are able to view customer profitability. In addition, our project managers are now able to see where leakage is occurring. What’s our estimated time to completion? What is our margin going to be? How can we improve on the delivery of certain tasks?
Our goal is to provide them with the systems to make their lives easier and simpler; so they can spend their time focusing on the customer, which is what they really should be doing.
From a financial standpoint, we are now able to capture all the actual costs for a project, so we know exactly what’s happening. We can capture all of the billable time, as well as milestone-based, fixed-price-based contracts and projects. Our team now feels very confident in the deliverables that are going out to our customers, as well as the data that’s going in.
What benefits have you seen from Oracle HCM Cloud?
Our legacy HCM system was very manual. Our employees could not see the whole picture and there was no type of self-service. As a consulting company, we have very complex compensation packages: salary base, bonuses, and bonuses based on different KPIs. There are many calculations and getting those out the door used to take three months longer than it should.
When we went live on Oracle HCM Cloud, we rolled out our first bonus structure. Our managers were able to access the system, enter all approvals, and get everything out the door in a week. It was amazing. In addition, there was no need for extensive training as the system is so user friendly. The practice managers, including myself, were very excited about the whole process because all the complex calculations (and the data needed for those calculations) are now built into the system.
How has your decision-making ability been impacted?
We require a lot of data from our financials, projects, and HCM solutions. It used to take us three to four weeks to see true consolidated financials because of the manual processes used to extract, consolidate, and format the data from all the systems. Then, we were always a little leery of some of the numbers. If that was the case, we’d have to go back to a bunch of different systems to research it.
With Oracle EPM Cloud, we are able to provide our practice leaders their P&Ls very quickly with an unbelievable level of detail. We now run this every week. It used to be monthly, which caused our managers to “run blind” since they did not see some of these reports for several weeks at a time.
Once we went live, we were able to get these reports in real time. I can run the report myself. I do not have to wait for our finance team to slice and dice the data for me. We are now very proactive. We can make those key decisions before problems become gigantic problems.
How did this strategic initiative affect your business processes?
We treated this project as a business transformation and analyzed all our different business processes. By taking a solution-driven approach, we configured the system to standardize our processes across the BIAS global offices. We were able to embed internal controls that we never had before. This allowed us to standardize how we do our reporting and the numbers that we needed to look at across all of our practices.
Today, we are all speaking the same language, looking at the same data, and communicating better.
You’re entrusted with a lot of critical client data. How did you think about security during this process?
We have a security practice within our organization, so we are constantly talking about security with our customers. That was one of the first things that our executive management talked to Oracle about right away. Should we really be going into the cloud? Is our data secure?
The Oracle team spent time with our executives and really explained to them how everything was structured in Oracle Cloud, how they kept the data secure, etc. They really made sure that everyone was comfortable.
What advice would you offer to a business that’s considering this process?
I can’t stress enough the importance of change management. Get executive sponsorship right from the beginning. Then communicate that down to every level of the organization. Not just at the beginning but throughout the entire project. You must keep the team excited. Make sure they continuously see the vision of ‘why.’ Ensure that your business users get in the system early and often. Not only does it help in training, but it helps them understand and visualize how this is going to make their world better.
The following thoughts, intentions, strategies and/or solutions are those of the blog authors and do not represent the position of anyone other than the authors.