The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will long be remembered as an event that disrupted our personal lives and businesses. And for many organizations, the uncertainty created by the pandemic caused a pause in IT projects and other major investments. But in some cases, the disruption created by the pandemic accelerated or jump-started IT projects focused on transforming key Finance processes. Why? Because many organizations realized they needed to modernize their systems and processes to support remote workers and to increase their ability to respond quickly to changing economic and business conditions.
One organization that was mid-stream on a Finance transformation project when the pandemic hit was Sasfin, a South African bank-controlling company that provides a comprehensive range of specialist financial products and services for Business and Wealth clients. Read on to hear the highlights of a recent OneStream webinar featuring Sasfin and their transformation story.
Sasfin – Beyond a Bank
Moderated by OneStream Africa regional manager Pieter Van Zyl, the webinar featured Josh Souchin, Group Chief Digital and Change Officer at Sasfin and De Wet Lessing, Co-Founder at OneStream partner Jigsaw Advisory.
Sasfin is no ordinary financial services provider. Their motto is “beyond a bank” as they strive to go the extra mile in customizing their range of specialized products. As a lean organization, Sasfin always strives to deliver maximum value to its clients. Under the leadership of the new Financial Director, Angela Pillay, they launched an initiative to simplify and streamline the finance office, revealing some room for improvement.
According to Mr. Souchin, “the numbers between business heads looking at line of business, and the Financial Director looking at the general ledger didn't always match. This issue resulted in a high volume of overtime hours by the team looking at the data to deliver the correct results and restatements of financials. Sasfin clearly needed a uniform chart of accounts and standardization throughout the business.”
The new Financial Director launched a holistic “Finance Transformation Programme” to streamline the entire organization. The initial steps comprised the simplification of the chart of accounts, followed by upgrades to the GL. The next step was to choose a corporate performance management (CPM) platform to replace an array of legacy applications and Microsoft Excel®.
Standardizing on OneStream
Struggling to produce their half-year and full-year reporting and having limited analysis capabilities, Sasfin realized they needed a unified platform for financial close and consolidation, statutory reporting, management reporting and planning. They also wanted a strategic partner, who shared a strong cultural fit with the organization, not just a vendor. OneStream and Jigsaw provided a joint response to an RFP issued by the Sasfin team, and through a rigorous evaluation process, received unanimous high scores for the solution and cultural fit.
After the selection of OneStream and Jigsaw, Phase 1 of the implementation started in November of 2019, with the goal of having OneStream ready to support the year-end close and reporting process in June of 2020. The team was mid-project in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and South Africa was forced into a several-month lockdown.
Pressing on Through Disruption
The mandatory lockdown caused by the pandemic had a huge impact on Sasfin. The entire organization had to shift to remote work, stressing many business processes and systems. And while it added new challenges to the OneStream implementation project – the team decided to press on and continue with the plan to go live before the year-end close. This meant remote design, implementation, user training, and many long days and nights for the project team.
Working remotely on this project created a great deal of stress for everyone involved. Here’s a quote that was shared during the webinar from Michele Breytenbach, Application Manager at Sasfin:
“I’ve participated in so many projects of various sizes and complexities, but COVID19 brought about a whole new level of challenges. Sasfin was in flight with the OneStream project at the start of the COVID19 pandemic. The project team had to adjust to working and being trained on a new system - remotely…There was this unimaginable extra pressure on everyone.”
Despite the challenges they faced, the Sasfin team was successful in completing the Phase 1 implementation of OneStream in time for their year-end close and reporting cycle in June 2020. According to Mr. Souchin, running on OneStream provided a breath of fresh air compared to the prior year-end close process. The Finance team gained big time-savings on consolidation and reporting both at the legal entity and bank level. The team also saw a huge improvement in data quality, and visibility into their business results. Even the auditors were able to complete their signoffs on the results much earlier than usual.
Here’s what was shared from Angela Pillay, Financial Director at Sasfin:
“Doing an implementation over year-end was not without massive challenges. That said, we saw such a huge improvement in data quality and governance when compared to the prior year. A significant amount of time was saved on consolidations and producing our annual financial statements at legal entity and Bank level. I am looking forward to realizing more and more benefits for our people and our business.”
In commenting on what made this project successful, Mr. Souchon cited a strong vision, senior executive sponsorship, and a commitment to success. The Sasfin team has now moved into Phase 2 of the implementation, which is focused on management reporting, and the decommission of IBM Cognos TM1, which was their legacy reporting system. Once this phase is completed, the team will continue to expand their deployment of OneStream in Phase 3, focusing on forecasting, modeling, account reconciliations, and predictive analytics.
The Sasfin implementation was challenging enough, with a 7-month implementation designed to go live in support of the year-end close in 2020. But driving this project through to completion during a global pandemic and lockdown is even more impressive. To learn more, watch the replay of the webinar here, or you can read a short case study on the Sasfin project here.