Enterprise-Wide Data Insights and Reporting at Eversource Energy
Enabling decision-making for 800 users with consistent financial data
Requiring a more accessible and user-friendly system for managing its cost center and financial reports, Eversource Energy embarked on a journey to replace its manual financial reporting processes with the flexible Board decision-making platform. Financial reporting has been standardized and automated to provide faster, more accurate results, and users are empowered to be self-sufficient and increase productivity across the organization.
- Industry: Energy & Utilities
- Department: Finance
- Customers: 4 million electric and natural gas
- Revenue: $8.5 billion
- Employees: over 8,000
Eversource Energy, a Standard & Poor’s 500 energy company based in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire operates New England’s largest energy delivery system. Eversource is committed to safety, reliability, environmental leadership and stewardship, and expanding energy options for its 4 million electric and natural gas customers.
The Challenge: Inefficiencies in delivering financial data to corporate areas
After the merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR in 2012, Eversource needed a new solution to provide access to cost center and capital project financial results to the wider company, from Project Managers all the way up to the Executives. While they had an accounting system that allowed for drilling down into transactional details, access was limited primarily to the finance team, as the system wasn’t very user friendly and required a certain level of technical expertise. This resulted in a certain lack of visibility to the general business area manager.
Distributing this information was a somewhat manual process. Monthly financial reports were independently prepared by finance and emailed out to the different departments, but file versions and formats were increasingly difficult to manage, and data wasn’t made available to the right people frequently enough. Without a standardized approach, employees were finding it difficult to obtain real time information and stay current with financial data.
One of the biggest pain points was that cost center managers didn’t have access to their department or project status at any given point in the month, as reports were distributed monthly via email by the finance department after the books had closed. Many times, the reports were delivered midpoint in the next month, so it was too late to react to any problems with charges or variances to budget.
As employees found it increasingly challenging to access data in a timely and efficient way, Eversource decided to pursue a single platform that would pull the large volume of data from all its sources and make it available to not just the financial team, but also to business areas corporate wide. The desire was to give users daily access to transactional cost data that is accurate, comprehensive, and easy to analyze in reports right from a desktop system.
To empower business users to be more self-sufficient and fiscally responsible, relying less on financial analysts, and to create a reliable process for getting financial statement information up to the Executives, the new system would have to be easy to use and have drill-down capabilities for obtaining transaction-level details.
“We were really looking for a very easy point and click system that would allow people to have data available at their fingertips, make it easy to drill down into transaction level details, and deal with large volumes of data. And that was what led us to Board,” says Fran Berger, Manager, Performance and Financial Systems at Eversource.
The Solution: Visual, mobile-friendly Business Intelligence
After looking at several vendors in the BI space, as well as evaluating for a possible internal solution, Eversource chose the Board decision-making platform which unifies Business Intelligence, planning, and predictive analytics in a single interface. Eversource felt that Board offered the best financial reporting and dashboarding capabilities and would enable the standardization of data analysis, provide a self-service model for business users, and ultimately enable the organization to promote a culture of financial responsibility. The platform’s mobile capabilities were also highly important to the Eversource team.
“A strong point for us was the way that Board interfaces with our financial systems and handles large volumes of transactional level data,” shares Fran. “We worked with the Board team to bring in our volume of financial data, Board’s integration with Microsoft Office products was also a plus.”
Eversource has built several different database capsules within the Board solution that are intended for different employee roles and include reporting capabilities to deliver valuable insights to its 800 users. The primary Functional Capsule provides the team with department-level expense information at their fingertips so they can easily analyze actual versus budgeted costs. Each department at Eversource also has its own area within the Projects Capsule to see a company-wide view of project costs and statuses, without needing to interact with the finance team for visibility or the IT team for technical assistance.
In addition to providing expense information, Board also gives Eversource a condensed and accurate view of financial statements, which Executives previously received via email. This information is now available to them on their desktop, with point and click capability to drill down into specific line items.
“Board has given our team a single company-wide, self-service environment to display financial and project statuses and our Executives and end users couldn’t be happier with the visibility that they’ve gained. Project Managers can check as often as they’d like on how their project is doing, including charges and invoices, so they can be ahead of any data disparities,” Fran adds.
During initial training with Board, the Eversource Power Users were extremely empowered by the ability to write their own reports and have a voice within the process. The stronger their skills got, the more enhancements to the reports and process became possible, resulting in time savings and efficiencies.
“Board also has a local presence in our area with the Boston office. That was a plus for us; folks in the Boston office, and really everyone at Board, have been so responsive. The team has come out and visited us on-site several times and it’s been great to build and maintain that relationship,” says Fran.
The Benefits: Consistent financial reporting and enhanced team collaboration
One of the greatest advantages of adopting Board at Eversource was enhanced team collaboration from having timely access to the financial data company wide, which resulted in:
• Rapid view of financial results and fast responses to data queries
• Increased emphasis on budget results
• Standardized approach to reporting
• Enhanced efficiency and productivity via a self-service model
• Empowered users
Rapid Results and Responses
Automating the financial process has enabled the team to cut back on manual work and back-and-forth email communication. Financial data is received in near real-time, allowing financial results to get out to the business areas quicker which increases visibility and transparency of performance. This is especially useful after a natural disaster, as Fran explains:
“If we have an event like we just had with the recent hurricane, operations areas are able to review charges quicker and disseminate that information out in a more timely way.”
Increased Cost Visibility
With Board, cost center managers can now review charges daily, as opposed to monthly, meaning they are more quickly able to see if a project has any problems, will run under or over budget, or if a charge seems inappropriate. This allows them to take corrective actions in a more informed and responsive way, helping to increase budget planning accuracy and prevent future issues.
Eversource has also been able to standardize the monthly actual versus budget view and reporting approach using a Board capsule by capturing all the month’s data and creating seamless reports for end-users to see right from their screens at any time. This has eliminated the need for analysts to generate detailed budget reports and send them around via email on a monthly basis, saving time and increasing access to up-to-date information. Integrating with the budget capsule, the team implemented the ability for users to enter comments and variance explanations, so in addition to being able to see actual versus forecast data throughout the month, users can also add notes which provides key additional information for those reviewing the data.
“Last year we implemented commentary entry, so we now have the ability for folks to enter variance explanations in the budget capsule and that just adds a whole other layer. The monthly end variance explanation reporting supplements the results coming in daily in terms of numbers,” adds Fran.
Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity
“Board has certainly been a big timesaver for our budgeting and our financial groups,” shares Fran. These time savings have allowed the analysts to dedicate more time in their role to high value work, providing more strategic insights to the business. It has also made room for more thoughtful and substantive questions and conversation across the business areas. Not only can they get more done, but they’re focusing on more high value work, while the simpler questions are answered faster (and in a more self-sufficient way) due to information being easily available in Board.
“There have been productivity gains, efficiency gains, and really our key goal of having that culture of fiscal responsibility within the business areas and in promoting that culture is intangible. That was really our goal and I think we've achieved that,” says Fran.
Members of the business areas across Eversource are now easily able to access financial information within Board themselves, where previously this information was only made available upon request or in the monthly report. Everyone from HR to IT and Operations is now empowered and enabled to use Board, get the information that they need easily, and even answer questions on their own. This has generated more self-sufficiency and productivity across the company.
“It really can't be any easier for those folks to use so I think that really is the key and really is the benefit that we've seen. It also frees up our finance organization to do more high-level analysis and the high-level work. We’ve seen information made available to people much faster, it’s been a whole change in culture,” shares Fran.
The Future: Expanding available reports
Board has been so successful in standardizing budget reports and making information available to hundreds of users that Eversource is planning to expand the information and capabilities within the system. The company is expanding upon the financial statements, making invoices available for drill-through to the transaction level, adding in labor reporting, customizing the transmission business reporting, and is contemplating introducing corporate metrics into Board.
“We are always looking forward and we're always looking to improve, and we do get a lot of feedback from the financial advisory committee and as well as our users about enhancements and expanding reporting capabilities. We don’t view our use of the Board product as static, but continuously evolving” concludes Fran.
00:00:14Eversource Energy, we are a Fortune 500 and Standard & Poor's 500 energy company. We are the largest energy company in the Northeast, one of the 10 largest in the United States. So, a pretty big presence, certainly, countrywide. We are very committed to serving our four million electric, natural gas, and water customers. And I think Lauren mentioned, we are also very committed and have a lot of focus on environmental leadership.
00:00:55Our problem statement, and really what we were trying to solve with this Board implementation, was the result of a merger that took place in 2012. So, there were two large New England utilities, we merged, and while there was a lot of emphasis in, really rightly so, on implementing new accounting systems and general ledger systems and budgeting systems, what really fell by the wayside a little bit, and left us with a bit of a gap, was the ability to get financial results and we were focused primarily on expense budget results. Getting that in the hands of our business users company-wide.
00:01:41So again, it checked all the boxes. We thought it offered a nice financial reporting capability. Certainly that was just kind of the basis of what we were looking for. But it also had that graphic functionality. It also had kind of that newer, more modern interface, and dashboarding capabilities as well. So we thought that was going to be a big plus and generate some real interest in our business units.
00:02:12It also interfaced very well with financial systems, our existing financial systems, as well as Microsoft Office. And some of the packages we looked at didn't really have that close Microsoft Office integration, and if any of you are in finance, you know that you certainly can't pry Excel out of the hands of some of our finance department.
00:02:35It also met our response time requirements. I think I mentioned in a previous slide that we were looking to go into a lot of transactional detail. We wanted to make transactional detail available to those end users. So that was really a lot of data. It was actually, we now have about, I think it's over 200 million rows of transaction level data. So really a lot of data. And what was very important to us was that the folks, when they wanted to click on that and get that transaction level, that they weren't waiting a long time to do that. That it was within a several second response time, you weren't waiting minutes to get a query to return. Such as happened in our accounting system, but then that's another story.
00:03:30So we actually rolled this out, we've got about 750 users right now and it's a very diverse end user population. It is anything from a financial analyst level to a cost center manager to a program director, project director, right up to the executive level. We have currently five primary capsules, or databases, with all the relevant security associated with that. We really do think that we have achieved all the benefits that we set out to do. We were able to really check all the boxes and really make our corporate-wide reporting more efficient, more pleasant for the end user.
00:04:26We've been very closely partnering with Board on a couple of enhancements that we really are quite excited about. And one of those are metrics and performance scorecards. So it actually, from the day we implemented in 2017, it actually was a long time vision and desire of our senior management for business, for our executives and our business users to be able to see their performance metrics hand in hand with their financial results. So those two, in the eyes of management, are very closely linked and there was a great desire to be able to provide that really in one system. And so this project is going to be starting up very soon.