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Success Stories

Successful Implementation of SAP Business Planning and Consolidation at EXFO

EXFO is a telecommunications company established in 1985 in Quebec City, and whose main goal is to become the world benchmark for everything related to fiber optic testing. Having gained a certain prominence in several other sectors such as 5G, and the deployment of native networks to the cloud, EXFO serves over 2,000 customers. Thanks to their 1,900 employees scattered in 25 countries, the company offers smart solutions for testing, monitoring, and analytics. Their customer base includes communication service providers, network solution suppliers, and web service companies.

The Key Moment

In 2018, after around 30 years of existence, EXFO was in a rather healthy situation compared to the competition. Their dramatic commercial progress led to a reengineering of the budgeting process to support growth. Indeed, the company had made many acquisitions, and cost centers increased from 200 to 400. Throughout the years, budgeting tasks progressively became more demanding. EXFO hence had to discern the right moment to invest in the future with a new financial planning system.

Rethinking the Status Quo

Having stayed in touch with the Talan team, Nicolas Ferland, assistant financial analysis director at EXFO, expressed his difficulty in getting approval for his implementation project for a new financial planning system. After splitting the project in different steps and presenting it to management, he found out what hindered adherence to the project: the actual sequence. Having initially decided to start with consolidation, management finally turned to the implementation of an efficient budgeting and financial planning tool. After a few discussions with Talan, what first appeared as an impasse turned out to be a mere constraint. The project was indeed flexible, and phases could be reorganized. The most important step was to take the leap. Once the project was revised, there was consensus, both from the internal IT team and management. The journey toward process optimization could finally begin.

Why Choose SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) with Talan

During their search for the best solution, EXFO looked at two systems supplied by two other integrators. One aspect could not be overlooked: EXFO had previously retained Talan’s services when they implemented SAP as their ERP platform in 2001. Given the relationship between both companies, it would have been difficult to drop Talan as a trusted partner, even if the team had changed since. By choosing a partner who had already demonstrated their skills, EXFO reduced the risk associated with launching their new project. The trusting relationship between the two parties has thus been an undeniable success factor throughout the implementation.

“It’s always been constructive. I always felt like Talan was supporting me. There has never been division of any sort between EXFO and the consultants. We were a big team of people who wanted to help one another. ”

Nicolas Ferland, assistant financial analysis manager, EXFO

Another advantage that justified the choice of the solution was the familiarity with the actual tool. Since EXFO was already using SAP, they had a few SAP tools left untapped. For instance, they would now be able to extend their use of the Business Warehouse database beyond sales, namely for reporting, budgeting, or leveraging employee information in SuccessFactors, such as compensation, commission, and bonuses. What’s more, SAP BPC’s flexibility was far superior to that of other platforms. And this feature was on EXFO’s list of priority requirements. The company was looking for a modular tool that could adapt to the company’s reality rather than the other way around.

The Importance of Workshops

EXFO wanted to preserve their authenticity and thus rejected the idea of standardized one-size-fits-all reports, stressing the need for a flexible solution. And so, the Talan team organized multiple workshops with the customer during which everyone discussed the processes. Through information collected during these discussions, the team of consultants developed prototypes and facilitated their demonstration. Even though this step exerted great pressure and required much adjustment, the Talan team quickly gained the trust of the users by taking a solution-oriented, proactive approach, and remaining open to criticism and collaboration with the IT team. It was at that point that the ease of use, and user-friendliness aspects had to be reviewed. In fact, EXFO was operating around sixty licenses, but those were not being used exclusively by employees familiar with the complexity of such systems. In response to this situation, Talan promptly adjusted the tool to make it more accessible to the average user.

Major Implications

The implementation of SAP BPC allowed EXFO to restore their financial planning via three invaluable assets. Firstly, the company is now managed through a single centralized database. The aggregation and safekeeping of information in a single place help in getting budgetary results almost instantly. That is a significant improvement in contrast with the initial situation, in which the accounting team needed several weeks to put files together, and use them to generate cumulative reports. Secondly, the solution allows for iterative calculations, making it easy to formulate hypotheses by changing a variable and comparing the results. The company can now make informed decisions by changing parameters such as the exchange rate, sales, and pay increases. Prior to that, EXFO made decisions upstream, and had no choice but to commit to them since the data was scattered across hundreds of different files. Yet today, the ability to formulate hypotheses allows them to take full control of the decision-making process. And thirdly, since they implemented SAP BPC, EXFO benefits from better information sharing. Information is not to be hoarded by finance teams, but rather to be shared among a group of stakeholders. For instance, management can now create their own requests, and then analyze the results independently.

What’s Next?

Now equipped with an efficient and collaborative financial planning tool, EXFO is well positioned to manage its budgetary processes seamlessly. Today, the company is ready to move on to the next step: forecasting. Thanks to the wealth of information accumulated in its databases since the beginning of the project, EXFO finally reached sufficient maturity to perform various projections. This next imminent step will address a clear need by allowing the company to collect data far more accurately than with Microsoft Excel.