10 Tips for Fixing FP&A During an ERP Upgrade

If you want to make changes to your planning system amid an ERP upgrade project, these do’s and don’ts will help ensure a successful outcome.

Say you’re in the middle of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform change or upgrade. And during that often-lengthy process—18.4 months on average—you decide to modernize your current financial planning and analysis (FP&A) system. No big deal, right?

Well, not so fast. There are a number of things to consider before you begin. The most important is whether you have the resources to handle both projects at the same time. If you do decide to proceed with both projects, there’s good news. We’ve prepared a list of do’s and don’ts for making planning functionality changes—specifically, implementing Workday Adaptive Planning—while your ERP project is still a moving target.

1. Set the High-Level Structure.

Gaining a sense of what the high-level org structure—entities, departments, segments, even a rough chart of accounts—will look like going forward is helpful as it influences how planning models and reports are built. Teams usually have a good idea of this structure even at the outset of an ERP project because many times it was a driver for the ERP change itself. Note that you’ll still report operating expenses by sales and marketing, general and administrative, and research and development, even if you need to remap some of the charts of accounts underneath.

Also, you’ll want to set up the organizational-level structure so that reporting is meaningful. The ERP system can then mirror the Workday Adaptive Planning organizational structure. 

2. Don’t Sweat the Noncritical Details.

Workday Adaptive Planning recognizes that the general ledger (GL) is a living system. As such, the level of granularity with which an organization plans, reports, and tracks actuals in the GL is not always a 1-1 ratio or static. This is why it’s built to enable you to change mappings and add new accounts. In addition, don’t sweat the small, noncritical details. It’s easy to get bogged down fixing company names, individual mappings, and other minutiae. Just know that after the transition, you’ll have plenty of time for all of the particulars. 

3. Don’t Waste Time Automating Integrations.

Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to invest energy building and ironing out data integrations to systems that are changing or even on their way out. Instead, use the Workday Adaptive Planning flat file upload function while implementing the new ERP system. And don’t neglect the data validation process. 

In addition, be sure to take advantage of the structure update feature to automate account renaming and reparenting. A sandbox is helpful, too, if you’re making major model reviews and transitioning ERP systems.

4. Build the Underlying Top-Line and Operational Models.

Teams tend to do a lot of operational modeling (top line, headcount, etc.) that’s quite strategic to the business but can be disconnected from the GL. It’s worth thinking these through and building them out ahead of time in Workday Adaptive Planning, with the knowledge that they can be wired into the financial model later. 

5. Don’t Bother With Too Many Historicals.

Depending on the time and money available to them, most companies will bring over one or two years of GL balances. Transaction details are often left behind due to structural changes and conversion issues. Instead of obsessing over these imports, you can use Workday Adaptive Planning as the system of record for historical data. This will dramatically reduce the amount of data needed to go into the new ERP system while lowering the cost and time to implement it.

There are a number of things to consider—the most important being whether you have the resources to handle both projects at the same time.

6. Use Your FP&A Platform as a Mapping and Audit Tool.

Most ERP upgrades and reimplementations will involve a new chart of accounts. When that happens, companies will have to convert or map the old to the new. While Excel works for mapping, housing it somewhere and then applying it to your data is best done on a centralized platform where everyone can access it. This applies to both the results and the mapping itself, which Workday Adaptive Planning can facilitate via attributes. This mapping also negates rework as the mapping table will be a critical part of the ERP implementation and will need to happen anyway. Leveraging it will assist in keeping planning in sync with the ERP system.

Also: Be sure to use the Workday Adaptive Planning mapping feature as an audit tool because it has a clear and immediate benefit. 

7. Create a Single Reporting Environment.

Because data from both the old and new ERP systems can be easily imported, mapped, and manipulated, Workday Adaptive Planning can provide accounting and finance with a single reporting environment for pre- and post-data, as well as for new versus old allocations. But don’t simply convert legacy reports to the new ERP system or updated Workday Adaptive Planning platform. Instead, consider it an opportunity to improve and reshape how reporting and analysis is done. 

8. Be Flexible.

Be sure to communicate with your key stakeholders during your projects—especially accounting. This is critical as there likely will be changes in scope and design. If you’re on top of the ERP implementation, you’ll be able to adjust your Workday Adaptive Planning model to accommodate the changes. 

It’s also a good idea to have a liaison between accounting and finance and FP&A at all times. Quite often, there will be changes to hierarchies (geographical and chart of accounts), and it’s imperative that those new accounts get added to your Workday Adaptive Planning reporting. 

9. Keep It Simple.

Complexity makes the learning process harder and longer for other users down the line. Start with a detailed plan for your projects, with specific outcomes in mind. But don’t try to get absolutely everything done all at once. Start with a list of three must-haves. Bottom line: Don’t overcomplicate things—small iterative changes are most effective. 

10. Don’t Wait.

Switching ERP systems does not mean that the organization stops planning or that the board and management won’t need reports during the projects. The show still must go on. Many organizations that held off on overhauling FP&A processes report they regretted that decision, as they had to suffer through another one to two years of using spreadsheets because their company’s ERP project ran over schedule. 

As one FP&A manager at a top 100 international law firm put it, “Definitely don’t wait. We were in the middle of a merger with two ERPs needing to be combined into one. Workday Adaptive Planning proved brilliant at combining the data to report actuals during the interim period.”

Another user, a finance director at a project management software company, said: “There is no reason to wait. You can always populate the chart of accounts through other methods. Workday Adaptive Planning is flexible and can adjust easily to any design changes you make later on.”

For experienced finance professionals the rewards of moving forward on a planning system upgrade can outweigh the risks and costs of waiting for an ERP implementation to end. And it’s wise to draw on the experiences and hard-earned wisdom—the do’s and don’ts—of others who’ve been there before.

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