Many Finance teams rely on Excel spreadsheets as a basic solution for budgeting, planning and forecasting. For smaller, less sophisticated organizations, doing so often seems like a reasonable approach. Excel is usually available as part of the default company infrastructure, after all, so it’s familiar to many users. But the truth is, there’s a major issue with using Excel. Why? Well, problems emerge when organizations use Excel as more than a convenient solution for managing basic personal tasks and begin to rely on it to support critical financial processes.
In this situation, Finance teams quickly get bogged down with managing error-prone, tedious spreadsheets and hampered with a tool that lacks workflow capabilities and audit trails. These hidden costs of spreadsheets limit Finance leader’s ability to focus on their true value in supporting decision-making across the enterprise. That creates a major issue at a time when many organizations must rise to the challenge of increasing business complexity and rapid marketplace change. It’s no surprise, then, that Finance leaders seek a better, more modern solution than Excel.
Envisioning a Modern Solution Beyond Excel
As a maturing organization, FibroGen, a leading science-based biopharmaceutical company, faced similar challenges.
FibroGen initiated a massive transformation from being a pharmaceutical development company with other, more recognizable companies selling its therapeutic drugs to becoming a global commercial company. Along the way, this transition’s success depended on not only rapidly building out sales, channel development and marketing, but also aligning the business and operational goals of scientists, business leaders and the Finance team. With business complexity increasing and direct sales beginning in early 2019, Alex Lee, Director of Corporate FP&A, realized FibroGen’s Finance team needed a modern corporate performance management (CPM) solution for sophisticated quarterly forecasting, cash forecasting and external guidance.
To answer these needs, Ms. Lee envisioned a unified enterprise finance platform solution for budgeting, planning & forecasting, financial consolidation, reporting and tax provisioning. But her vision didn’t end there. She also wanted an intuitive user interface that empowered FibroGen scientists and business leaders, not just the Finance team. And to complete her vision, Ms. Lee sought a solution that would unleash Finance from managing data and manual processes to lead and support enterprise decision-making.
How did she bring such a grand vision to life? Ms. Lee found that OneStream’s unified CPM platform was the one solution that would realize everything she envisioned. As a modern and unified solution, OneStream could immediately expand FibroGen’s capabilities for commercial revenue planning and allow for monitoring and managing the business while laying the digital foundation for future expansion. In the words of Ms. Lee, “We wanted to make sure we were able to do the things we needed to do now and get set up for the future.”
Key Vision & Project Goals
FibroGen selected OneStream as the only solution capable of achieving this vision and began the journey – from vision to design to implementation – of adopting a modern CPM platform. Here are a few of FibroGen’s key project goals as part of that journey:
- Need for more agile planning and forecasting as business complexity increases to address commercial revenue planning spanning over 70 users, multiple research projects and two unique business units. FibroGen’s China unit operates with a top-down model for these processes, while the US unit depends on bottom-up input from end users.
- Need to grow beyond an Excel-based planning process that required detailed data submissions from users, submissions that then had to be manually exported and manipulated by the corporate Finance team. This manual process created bottlenecks and increased opportunities for error. FibroGen also needed the ability to allocate personnel across projects at the strategic level while allocating operating expenses at the activity level.
- Need for an intuitive solution for BOTH Finance and non-Finance users that could handle the required complexity while empowering users with an accessible interface. With many of these users being scientists who needed to submit activity-based plans in order to monitor and manage the business, FibroGen wanted to ensure the user experience was as streamlined as possible to optimize the time available for research.
Benefits of Replacing Excel-based Planning with OneStream
OneStream’s unique Extensible Dimensionality® feature (see Figure 1) empowered FibroGen’s Finance team with the planning and forecasting agility needed to align activity-level pharmaceutical development to financial performance and cash requirements while enabling leadership with a unified view of the company on a real-time basis. This functionality enabled a flexible hierarchy with operational expense planning allocated at the granular, activity level and longer-term personnel planning allocated at a more strategic level across projects. FibroGen can now maintain separate consolidation models, within a single unified platform, for its US and China entities.
FibroGen’s Finance and non-Finance users can now access all budgeting, planning & forecasting and reporting activities within the OneStream unified platform – instead of in bulky, disconnected spreadsheets. With OneStream, when end users submit their activity-based plans, Finance can immediately see and act on the information without having to manually export spreadsheets and align data.
OneStream dashboards and guided workflows empower FibroGen users, both Finance and non-Finance ones, with an elegant and intuitive interface that guides them through tasks and presents accessible results reporting. End-user feedback has been overwhelmingly positive as scientists and business unit leaders spend less time on data entry.
Realizing the Vision
Immediately after completing the OneStream implementation, FibroGen initiated a bottom-up corporate budget and rigorous review process with its new CEO. With every aspect of the budget being challenged, OneStream’s flexible platform easily handled several budget revisions from the field teams, quickly aggregated changes and produced critical reports for management during each iteration.
According to Ms. Lee, OneStream has exceeded all expectations:
“With impending growth and transition, we sought a solution that can support a program-driven planning process and complex calculations and modeling with the ability to expand to include consolidation, reporting, accounting close automation, SEC reporting and tax provisioning. We had a very specific vision in mind. It has been 10 months since go-live, and I’m still profoundly touched by the magic that is OneStream. Everything and anything is possible with OneStream. Dare to dream.”
To learn more about FibroGen’s journey to modernize budgeting, planning and forecasting, watch the webinar replay. And if you’re ready to realize your vision, contact OneStream today.