The pandemic has tested the agility and staying power of virtually every organization. But while most restaurants and food service companies have faced challenges, some have discovered opportunities. And they’ve leveraged modern planning to make the most of them.
One of these is Germany-based HelloFresh, which delivers prepackaged meal kits directly to consumers. Founded in 2011, HelloFresh expanded its meal kit delivery service to the United States the following year. Since then, it has become the U.S. market leader and now has a presence in 13 countries on three continents.
In 2019, HelloFresh delivered more than 280 million meals worldwide. Then came COVID-19, and almost overnight, what had previously seemed a convenient way for busy families to cook meals at home suddenly became something else: a safe and useful alternative to restaurant dining and even grocery shopping. Demand for meal kits soared.
It was clear HelloFresh needed to ensure it could remain nimble and competitive and make informed decisions quickly. “This dynamic environment really requires us to act fast and be agile,” notes Sander van Vliet, manager FP&A at HelloFresh.
Fortunately for HelloFresh, the company’s FP&A team had already been laying the groundwork for an agile planning environment even before 2020 delivered its signature brand of disruption. In late 2019, the company began moving its forecasting and budgeting processes off spreadsheets and onto Workday Adaptive Planning.
The first goal was to standardize data entry. As a publicly traded company, HelloFresh needed “a consistent budgeting approach to give correct guidance to the market,” says van Vliet. This was proving to be increasingly difficult on spreadsheets because key data sets were siloed, which stifled collaboration across departments and local teams and complicated critical tasks like variance analysis. Establishing an accurate and accessible single source of truth for all of the financial and nonfinancial data helped introduce new levels of efficiency, collaboration, and confidence in the numbers.
Next on the docket: “We really focused on having one standardized P&L,” recalls van Vliet. “This allowed local countries to submit the data in a consistent manner.” Here, he says, Workday Adaptive Planning proved immensely helpful. “The option that you have to make certain accounts read-only or link certain accounts to each other really points local countries in the right direction and makes sure that they submit correctly.”
Van Vliet also wanted to cure versioning headaches. “When we were still using Excel, it was always hard to see: What is the latest data? Who made the latest change? Workday Adaptive Planning’s strict version-control protocols within the company’s modern, cloud-based planning solution have helped put those headaches in the past.”
“Today more than ever, having the option to be much faster in rolling out our forecast is super important.”Sander van Vliet Manager FP&A at HelloFresh
The business benefit brought by these changes is clear. “We are able to embrace change,” van Vliet says. “Now more than ever, having the option to be much faster in rolling out our forecast is super important.”
Van Vliet says the team has moved closer to continuous forecasting. “We created what we call a running forecast,” he says. “Everyone on the team can go in and make changes on the go so that we always have the latest forecast available.”
They’ve also incorporated functional budgeting, van Vliet says. “It really allows us to become a partner to the business . . . to sit down with the business on a monthly basis and give them insights on the budget, the actuals, the variances, and allow them to steer the business.”
And it’s not a one-way street. “Next to that, we can also use those meetings to receive the input that we need to make better projections in our forecast. So, I really see this as a win/win.”
Now the company’s sights are set on integrating its balance sheet, cash flow, and capex models within Workday Adaptive Planning. Meanwhile, other departments, including marketing, have asked to become part of the planning environment.
For companies looking to implement a modern, cloud-based planning solution like Workday Adaptive Planning, van Vliet offers a few best practices from the team at HelloFresh: Build a culture of self-help and find the path of least resistance. At the end of the day, he encourages companies to keep it simple by asking: “What is the final product that I want to create? And how am I going to get there?”