Four Steps To Next-Generation Business Planning At Village Roadshow

Estelle Lagorce

Business planning at organizations is often characterized by a multitude of spreadsheets and lots of manual activity to bring data together from disparate sources. The result is a time-consuming exercise that is less than optimal. According to SAP research, best-in-class organizations achieve 90% forecast accuracy while the worst performers achieve only 80%.

Founded in 1954 in Melbourne, Australia with a drive-in cinema, Village Roadshow has been listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) since 1988. Today, Village Roadshow operates core businesses in theme parks, film and DVD distribution, cinema exhibition, film production, and marketing solutions. While creating strong and diverse earnings streams, these businesses are complementary, targeting a similar customer demographic and providing significant cross-promotional opportunities.

A four-phase approach to an ambitious project

Two years ago, the company set out on an ambitious company-wide business intelligence and sales and operational planning project. The four-phase approach was designed to transform financial planning, forecasting, and consolidation. In a webinar with SAP and EY, Michael Dayaseela, Village Roadshow’s manager of business intelligence, described how the team went about it.

In the initial two phases, the company built the technical foundation for the new solution and implemented common financial reports across the group. These were necessary first steps. While each division has its own reporting requirements, there is a need to consolidate financial information for corporate reporting.

However, the real benefits of the new solution came from the third and fourth steps – empowering each division with self-service capabilities for analytics and reporting and implementing a common financial planning, forecasting, and consolidation solution across the group.

Large-scale operational planning

Today business managers at Village Roadshow are able to perform large-scale operational planning across the entire business, as well as undertake highly detailed sales and promotional planning within each division. According to Michael, “The flexibility of the system has taken business planning and consolidation to a new level.”

For example, in its Roadshow Entertainment business, managers don’t want to launch a new DVD if it isn’t going to be profitable. With the new solution, they can now analyze various scenarios, including using social media and other external data, and instantly produce profit-and-loss reports that predict how profitable each DVD will be.

Optimized revenue and a streamlined process

The solution is not only helping the company optimize its revenue. It has also streamlined the whole process; allowed operational staff to focus on more value-added activities, rather than building and managing manually intensive spreadsheets; and improved the accuracy of forecasting.

As Scott Taylor, partner, EY Asia Pacific, said in the webinar, “Village Roadshow is one of Australia’s greatest success stories – an Australian company taking on the world. It is extremely innovative in the entertainment markets and is always looking for new ways to do things better and more efficiently.”

The new financial planning, forecasting, and consolidation solution has certainly been a resounding success.

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Estelle Lagorce

About Estelle Lagorce

Estelle Lagorce is the Director, Global Partner Marketing, at SAP. She leads the global planning, successful implementation and business impact of integrated marketing programs with top global Strategic Partner across priority regions and countries (demand generation, thought leadership).

The Promise Of Digital Finance: A New Level Of Performance

Nilly Essaides

World-class finance organizations outperform more typical peers on two important dimensions: They are more efficient and do their work faster at less cost, and they are more effective at delivering services to internal and external customers. They show fewer errors. They provide better forecasts. They spend 30% less time on collecting vs. analyzing information.

But despite years of perfecting their technology and processes, they’ve reached a certain plateau. Total cost of finance for world-class finance organizations has been hovering at 45% below peers for the past three to five years. So, how can they reach the next level of performance excellence? By adopting digital technologies on a mainstream basis.

According to The Hackett Group’s 2017 finance benchmark study, technology had a substantial impact on finance performance. We keep over 1,000 efficiency and effectiveness benchmarks and refresh them annually. Finance organizations that rank in the top quartile for both efficiency and effectiveness get the world-class label. The rest are called peers.

We found that by using more technology, world-class finance functions reduce operational costs. They shorten the close and budget cycle times. They have much higher efficiency rates when it comes to measures like invoice per full-time equivalent (FTE) or cost per transaction. And they don’t do it by throwing money at the problem; in fact, they spend 61% less on technology.

The digital transformation imperative

However, the finance function has now reached an inflection point. The experience of the last several years indicates that current automation and transformation initiatives are no longer yielding substantial performance gains. There’s still value in cleaning up the technology landscape and rationalizing legacy systems. That’s particularly true for peer organizations that are trying to catch up. So, where will the next wave of performance improvement come from?

Digital transformation.

In our 2017 Key Issues Study, 97% of respondents predicted that digital transformation will have a step-change impact on the finance organization’s performance. The rate of improvement will only accelerate, because new technologies and combinations of technologies are arriving at an ever-increasing pace.

So, we delved into our 2017 benchmark database. We asked this question: What additional cost savings and effectiveness gains can world-class and peer-group finance organizations accrue if they make digital technologies mainstream?

Here’s what we found:

First, new technologies will dramatically accelerate the speed at which peer-group organizations can catch up to world-class performance. They can leapfrog generations of technologies to close 80% of the cost gap between the two groups.

Second, digital tools will enable world-class finance organizations to further improve their cost by 20%. They will break through that cost ceiling. It will also make them more effective. It will increase the amount of time they spend on analytics to 75% and reduce billing errors to 1%.

The promise of digital technologies for finance is large and it is real. Finance organizations that wish to capture or maintain world-class status must adopt new solutions to reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of their processes to reach a new level of process excellence.

For more on this topic, see Why CFOs Must Become Digitally Savvy.


Nilly Essaides

About Nilly Essaides

Nilly Essaides is senior research director, Finance & EPM Advisory Practice at The Hackett Group. Nilly is a thought leader and frequent speaker and meeting facilitator at industry events, the author of multiple in-depth guides on financial planning & analysis topics, as well as monthly articles and numerous blogs. She was formerly director and practice lead of Financial Planning & Analysis at the Association for Financial Professionals, and managing director at the NeuGroup, where she co-led the company’s successful peer group business. Nilly also co-authored a book about knowledge management and how to transfer best practices with the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC).

SAP's Finance Transformation Story

Christian Klein

SAP is one of the largest and most well-established software companies in the world. That said, we still experience the same pressure as other organizations: We need to keep up in this era of digital transformation. Our customers and peers can learn from our progress and success, so we have a responsibility to share our story. For SAP, our digital transformation has meant a continual shift in processes and priorities to meet customer needs.

Our vision

We do this with three key areas of emphasis that must come together in order to be successful. “Right Processes” refers to standardization and simplification of internal processes. “Right Data” means we analyze high-quality data to make informed decisions. We use the “Right Solutions,” our standard technology, to make our transformation real.

We face challenges in our finance department that you may experience, as well. Finance needs to support new business models and sales channels, deal with compliance and inflexible systems, and put pressure to deliver real-time visibility across the organization and efficiency within the finance organization. Our finance transformation story shows how our latest technology supports our transformation.


Life was simpler 15 years ago at SAP. We had a very straightforward, uniform business model, selling software with licenses, associate maintenance, and services. We had a consistent global go-to-market, pricing, and marketing approach that allowed us to decentralize our organizational structure.

Back then, local general managers basically ran integrated subsidiaries. They used a central ERP instance for core processes, and slim consolidation of corporate functions fostered process harmonization, but there were local variations and exceptions.

In 2007, we began a series of acquisitions that necessitated a more centralized model. Now, subscription, consumption, and pay-as-you-go transaction models require new processes and a simplified structure.


For go-to-market units and functions like finance, HR, and marketing, we sought standardization across global lines of business and transactional processes.

Now, local market units have two finance roles: macro steering support for general management and commercial deal support to serve customers. Accounting, IFRS reporting, high-volume business contracting, receivables management, and procure-to-pay are handled in shared service centers, enabling a “follow the sun” approach in our closing process.

The right solution for our internal operations is our own state-of-the-art, in-memory database. We are a frontrunner in implementation of our own tools, proving we can run an end-to-end enterprise at scale on this technology. We create an in-depth feedback loop that ensures that we know early on what is needed to build relevant, mature solutions.

In 2012, we began using the database for pipeline data. That year, general managers no longer needed paper reports. Mobile dashboards allowed real-time reporting, analyzing, and splicing and dicing capabilities.

In 2013, we moved our main systems over to the in-memory database (ERP, business warehouse, CRM, and so on). This was an intense effort because many of our systems were utilizing old setups. We dealt with issues that might sound familiar: Outdated pieces in our systems were interfering with migration.

Early in 2014, we migrated ERP finance and controlling. Cleanup for the previous go-live made this “brownfield” implementation possible.

Powered by in-memory

We are proud of our highly integrated system landscape with reporting from within the transactional system. We get a truly 360-degree view of the company for real-time decision-making, benefitting SAP in three key ways.

Flexibility: Our real-time finance platform is a global single source of truth, allowing aggregation, definition, and analysis of hundreds of granular attributes. Financial and managerial accounting are automatically in sync, and we get immediate, “on the fly” reporting on any device. No time-consuming reconciliations or expensive detours through a business warehouse; steering is now business-centric, not spreadsheet-centric. This is big.

Throughput: The closing process is one example of an improved system throughput. We can now close for the entire group in eight days. Our next forecast therefore starts even earlier. The result is better, quicker access to insights, making us a valuable business partner.

We develop products worldwide in 15 major R&D centers, with chargebacks for all categories and lots of allocations across costs and revenue sides – a huge process for intercompany reconciliation. Before migration, this took 26 hours; now, it takes about four.

Our people in financial planning and analysis spend less time producing reports, instead focusing on value-adding core tasks like data analysis, decision support, and performance improvements.

Productivity: Improved user interfaces provide productivity gains through efficient, simple analytical and transactional applications. When managing working capital, we generate real-time insight into cash collection patterns that may pose a risk, and account executives can use the insight to make alternate payment arrangements with customers. Think about what that means for doing business in volatile environments. We proactively detect risks and mitigate impact through the tightening of payment terms or revenue cycles. We collaborate in ways not possible before, when groups had been working in silos.

Our people

I strongly recommend taking a holistic view of data, system architecture, processes, and people when planning and implementing your full business process redesign and digital transformation. Determining what can be simplified and improved during this process maximizes your effort. Remember – your people will fuel the change, and their skills and experiences can be improved as well.

The cost savings from our software implementation, standardization, and centralization led to a tenfold increased investment in learning and training since 2013. We want to prepare our people and enable them for the success ahead. Automation, simulation, and predictive analytics across devices will continue to empower us.

Thanks to our collective efforts, we save time, money, and headaches – together as “One SAP.”

Learn more

To learn more about leadership in finance, read the Oxford Economics study “How Finance Leadership Pays Off: Six Ways CFOs Stay Ahead of the Pack.” Oxford Economics recently surveyed 1,500 finance executives to understand the attitudes of finance professionals toward the function’s changing requirements and challenges. Listen to the Webinar “How Finance Leadership Pays Off” on demand.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter) | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


Christian Klein

About Christian Klein

Christian Klein is the chief operating officer and chief controlling officer at SAP. His main focus is ensuring that the SAP organization is stable and ready to deliver for customers and end users, while always simplifying and improving the way it does business. He believes that SAP is successful because the company employs top talent and emphasizes working as “One SAP,” always in the interests of both SAP and of our customers. Christian built his career at SAP, starting as a student and working his way up through a variety of meaningful experiences. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing and and 1. FC Köln - football. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrstnKlein

Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers


Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.

The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.

Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.

Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy


Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.


Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte

Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.