Financial Reporting and Forecasting Transformation at T-Mobile
Reshaping decision-making to serve 6.8 million mobile customers
Telecoms giant T-Mobile Netherlands, which operates several brands including Tele2, Ben, and Simpel, was searching for a new financial reporting solution to replace SAP BW. After a thorough software selection process, the company chose Board to provide an all-in-one decision-making platform that delivers a seamless financial reporting, budgeting, and forecasting process. Using Board, T-Mobile's finance team is incorporating increasing amounts of non-financial data into decision-making processes to provide valuable insights to the rest of the business.
- Industry: Telecommunications
- Department: Finance
- Revenue: €2 billion
- Customers (mobile): 6.8 million
- Customers (fixed): 700,000
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Headquartered in The Hague, T-Mobile is a mobile and fixed-line telecommunications provider, and the Netherlands’ market leader in mobile communications with 6.8 million mobile customers. The company operates four brands, including Tele2, Ben, and Simpel and sees an annual revenue of €2 billion.
The Challenge: Siloed data and hidden insights
Like many organizations, T-Mobile’s financial planning and reporting processes have traditionally revolved around Excel spreadsheets, which involve immense manual effort and have made it hard to gain the required insights as the company has grown. As Gerben Bijlholt, Senior Business Controller at T-Mobile explains:
“We knew we needed to do something about our reporting. Excel is a very powerful tool, but at a point it will work against you more than it helps you. We had too much data in too many different formats to gain a clear picture of our operations.”
Faced with multiple versions of the truth, labor-intensive close processes, and an inability to make the most of its data, T-Mobile sought a unified and centralized financial planning, budgeting, and reporting system. One that would support its plans for continued growth. The company’s goals were to unite financial and non-financial data to get clear visibility into profit and loss drivers, reduce time-to-insight, and create an all-important single version of the truth that would facilitate on-demand insights across the organization.
The Solution: A single, centralized platform for driver-based analysis
After a thorough software selection process, T-Mobile chose the Board decision-making platform to replace its existing SAP BW solution. Its criteria was a platform that would unify its data streams and provide access to accurate, timely information for financial reporting, while allowing decision makers to drill into the details as needed. It also wanted to manage forecasts, create budgets, and identify how key drivers were affecting results all from a single location. For a complicated organization with an intense IT landscape, Board’s ability to provide all of these capabilities in one place proved a significant selling point.
T-Mobile first focused on integrating its profit and loss statements and non-financial data within Board. It now has plans to build on these early first steps, adding more data streams with the aim of gaining deeper and more granular insights.
One of the major benefits of Board is that it’s a solution T-Mobile can manage in-house, without the need for any intense programming. This made it easy for the company to access the capabilities it needed quickly, and spin up new, customized solutions as and when they’re required – like more advanced forecasting processes, which will be implemented later.
“One of the reasons we chose Board is that we actually wanted to maintain the solution ourselves. Working together with Board and our implementation partner Finext, it’s been easy to arrive at what we want – and we’re always moving towards doing more,” says Gerben.
Key Takeaways: Important lessons from a successful deployment
Two years after the implementation, the Board platform is proving a success at T-Mobile, and the company expects to take further advantage of its capabilities moving forwards.
Implementations like this aren’t always easy, but with the help of Board and T-Mobile’s implementation partner Finext, Gerben has learnt four valuable lessons based on the success of this migration:
- Start small think big: “I think it’s important that you have a good overview of what you want to achieve, but you shouldn’t get lost in the details. It’s easy to get lost in your ambitions and want everything at once. You have to start with getting the basics right, so our focus was to get rid of our old reporting system and progress from there.”
- Sell the tool: "If you want people to embrace new things, you have to bring them along with you. You have to communicate where you want to go and what the benefits are to your people and to the company. It’s also important to ask what people need from the new solution and try to deliver it.”
- People, people, people: “At the start of the project we talked to quite a big group of people and found a lot of opinions. We then scaled down to a smaller group and focused on the people that were really enthusiastic about the project, and that helped us to build the system that we have today.”
- Don’t lose yourself in history or hearsay: “In a big company you often find that people have done things in a certain way for a long time. People can be resistant to change, as they’ve seen it before and sometime seen it fail. It’s important not to get caught up in this. You should focus on trying to prove that things are possible, and that there is another way of working.
The Benefits: A single source of truth, timely insights, and increased data availability
Board now provides T-Mobile with a vital single source of business-critical information. Data flows directly from SAP into a master dataset within the platform, so the company can map its various segments and its profit and loss into one structure. As a result, for the first time in a long time, everyone within the company is now looking at the same information.
As well as this single source of truth, the Board platform has allowed T-Mobile to reduce the manual effort involved in gathering data and populating spreadsheets. Automatic ingestion means that data is always available and, importantly, always up to date. With the hours saved, T-Mobile’s teams can dedicate more time analyzing data and making strategic decisions, as opposed to trying to collate and make sense of disparate spreadsheets and reports.
With Board, T-Mobile has also been able to gain vital insights into key profit and loss drivers, by combining financial and non-financial data in one place. This non-financial data currently includes information around customer base numbers and customer churn, and the company plans to add more data as its use of the platform continues.
With these two data streams working side by side, it’s easy to see patterns and correlations that would otherwise be hidden, and identify causes for peaks and troughs in revenue.
“Before, we weren’t able to use all the data we had at our disposal, and that limited us in terms of serving our business needs. If we wanted insights into why revenue or cost is acting one way or the other it would take a lot of time to dive into that,” says Gerben.
This extra insight proved particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when customer behaviors changed almost overnight.
“We were faced with the fact that people weren’t shopping anymore. Revenues and costs related to roaming were impacted, too. But having that non-financial data made it easy to compare revenue to usage and explain those changes,” Gerben continues.
In a turbulent Telco market, having insight into how non-financial data affects profit and loss is a transformative capability. Using Board, T-Mobile can now easily drill down into information and see what’s happening in the general ledger, comparing scenarios, periods, and segments at will.
Board has also given T-Mobile the ability to forecast both more accurately and more iteratively, comparing forecasts based on different uploads and presenting all the information in one place so people have clear visibility into what’s happening.
“We’re now looking at working on more advanced forecasting initiatives. With Board, we can look at things like how roaming KPIs or base numbers are developing, and examine a two or three-year period to get a clear view of where we’re heading,” says Gerben.
Ultimately, Gerben believes the Board platform has fundamentally changed the role of finance within the company, allowing it to use historical data, accurate budgets, and forecasts to explain thinking, challenge assumptions, and embrace a more strategic role in operations:
“Thanks to Board, our financial team has evolved from a number cruncher into a real business partner, able to drive performance in a turbulent environment. We have a good overview of everything that’s happening in the company, so it widens the scope of what we can do and the kinds of conversations and inputs we can have…I’m now moving to another role in the company, and I’ll be sure to take Board with me.”
00:00:15I'm Gerben Bijlholt, I'm a Business Controller at T-Mobile. I first worked for a few years at Tele2, then when the merger took place between Tele2 and T-Mobile, I also went to T-Mobile. So I've been working there for two years. I am a Product Manager for Board, implementing it within the Controlling department.
00:00:40We're really focusing first on the P&L side of things because that's what's most important. I think most of you will know it - it's a big telecom operator in the Netherlands. We actually have four brands, you can see them here. We have T-Mobile, we have Tele2, we have Ben, and we have Simpel.
00:01:06We decided okay, we need to do something about our reporting and planning. I call it Reporting 1.0, that's more because we are going to go to the 2.0. So, if we look into that, you can see that we were really lost in Excel. I think it's very familiar in a lot of companies that Excel is a very powerful tool, and it's really nice to have, but most of the time you start small and it's really good but then at one point it really will work against you more than it helps you, because you want to process too much data and everyone is using a different format.
00:01:52We have our General Ledger in SAP, and that data that was also coming through SAP BW, so SAP Business Warehouse, where we also have these connections with queries and everything in Excel. And then if you would go to this Controller of segment B2C, you would see format A, and if you would go to the Business Controller of segment B, you would see another format.
00:02:19So, then we chose Board. We are live with our profit and loss statement, and we are also live with our non-financial information, and we are now looking into building that out and getting more and more information into one system to combine things. That is also the first point I'm trying to mention here, is the single source. So, we have our financial data coming directly from the source, we have a master data set where we map our segments and our P&L into one structure. Everybody is looking at the same knowledge. A big win already, if you compare it with what I just discussed with multiple truths.
00:02:55Then you also have non-financial information. You can think about customer base numbers, you can think about customers that are added to the base, also customers that are churning in amount or period. But also uses data, for instance, that we have in the system. So we are really combining the two to really explain what our results are. And we are also able to do the forecasting. We've now had our first forecasting session, we've also uploaded it, and everything went quite okay. So that was really nice, and what is cool is that you can also, because we have several iterations, we do a first upload and a second upload, or third maybe, that you can then also compare the different forecasts with each other and you do not get lost in "Okay, we had a first session, what did we say there? What did you say in the second?" Well now, it's all in one system and people can also access it, so that's really nice.