Accelerating growth with a scalable and flexible planning platform
- Industry: Food & Beverage
- Department: All
We selected Board, which addressed Excel’s inadequacies, cut the technical reliance, and gave us the self-sufficiency we sought. I would even say Board contributed to the company’s growth in a falling market. So naturally, I wanted a fast start in the new company – its survival was at stake.
Spirits Platform is an Australian sales, marketing, and distribution platform focused on premium spirits brands. Formed in 2015 by a group of highly experienced industry veterans following the merger of Suntory Australia and Beam, the company is driven by its vision to provide the focus, expertise, and brand support necessary for premium spirits to succeed in Australia’s crowded market. A highly experienced management team leads Spirits Platform with almost 100 years of experience in the liquor industry.
Capturing a 3% share of the spirits market in Australia, Spirits Platform has established a strong reputation in the liquor market in the two years since its inception. Its impressive brand portfolio includes well-known premium brands such as Cointreau, Licor 43, Macallan, The Famous Grouse, Tia Maria, Sierra Tequila, Chartreuse, Opal Nera, Zubrowka Vodka, Mozart, Remy Martin, and Louis XIII Cognac.
As a newly formed company with strong growth ambitions, Spirits Platform needed to establish scalable systems and processes to enable its operations, systems that needed to support a primary mobile workforce, and geographically dispersed teams.
Specifically, Spirits Platform wanted to maintain a lean workforce; it simply did not have the resources for heavily technical solutions or number crunching in inefficient spreadsheet regimes. David Moore, Director at Spirits Platform, notes:
I knew that going back to spreadsheets would have set the new business back. It would have imposed a bottleneck on the businesses ability to change rapidly without reliance on expensive external consulting. I had also witnessed heavily technical solutions like Cognos in a prior business. On this occasion, we selected Board and it addressed Excel’s inadequacies, cut the technical reliance, and gave us the self-sufficiency we were seeking. I would even say Board contributed to the company’s growth in a then overall falling market. So naturally I wanted a fast start in the new company – it’s survival was at stake.
Additionally, as a distributor with no direct visibility into end customer purchases or trends, Spirits Platform relies on data from bottle shops, clubs, hotels, and retailers to understand sales, inventory, and market trends. Vital market and customer performance data had to be incorporated into the budgeting process. Without this, forecasts were out of touch with market realities. In this context, a robust business intelligence system that integrates data from various sources was necessary to achieve accurate forecasting, budgeting, and planning. Intelligent planning tools and business analytics were therefore crucial for Spirits Platform to pave a sustainable path toward revenue growth.
Spirits Platform immediately set out to implement a business intelligence tool. It needed to achieve integration with this vital sales data and leverage forecasting capabilities if it was to launch successfully into the Australian Market. The company had precise requirements for a fast and cost-effective implementation within a suitable price range for a fledgling organization. David Moore approached a Board partner for advice and assistance in building the new systems to the company’s requirements. He adds:
We immediately turned to a partner because we had had a great experience with them previously. We had partnered before, so we knew the quality of the organisation. With their ability to be flexible with us in both timeline and budget, it was a no-brainer reigniting the relationship.
The partner recommended a corporate performance reporting solution with solid business intelligence capabilities to integrate Spirit Platform’s planning, budgeting, forecasting, analysis, and reporting in a single tool.
To meet the imperatives of speed, cost, and mobility, the partner advised Board Intelligent Planning Platform. This would ensure the fastest time to deployment and avoid the hardware costs associated with on-premise implementation. David Moore states:
From the time we got the green light we only had a nine-week period to set the company up and start trading. We spoke to the Partner and outlined the challenge. They got all the basics done in time, and then working together we completed all our core systems within six months.
Project #1: Budgeting & forecasting
Spirits Platform and the Partner took a steady and sequential approach to implementation, focusing on simplicity. Rather than overwhelming users with too many reports or features, the approach focused on progressively introducing functionality based on benefits in response to specific business needs.
Within weeks a budget and forecasting tool was rapidly implemented alongside initial business intelligence capabilities.
Board delivered an immediate outset of a 70% or more reduction in the resources (people, time, effort, etc) required to build a budget and subsequent monthly forecast. Board also delivered a rolling 12-month budget, enabled comparisons between budgets and forecasts, and provided vital What-If budget and forecast analyses on the fly. A drill-through capability from the summary level to individual transactions was essential. The system also fostered consistency in market and customer performance data and provided insightful management reports. David Moore adds:
We are removing the majority of spreadsheets and the replication of data across the business. That’s where we will leverage the value and see a fast ROI on the system.
Project #2: Intelligent Planning
The next immediate phase was to leverage the inherent Board Intelligent and analytics features over the data. By capturing, integrating, and analyzing data from multiple internal and external sources, Board has enabled Spirits Platform to overcome the challenge of distance from the end consumer, ensuring a full and accurate view of company operations. In turn, the management team has achieved an in-depth understanding of business operations and performance, which has driven better decision-making. This insight and data immediately improve budgeting and forecasting, either as key driver data generating financial results and scenarios or adding context and insight to planners’ decision-making.
Benefits realized from the Board solution include:
- The ability to segment customers by profitability supports the lean sales organization. This results in much more effective targeting of minimal resources, including assigned brand ambassadors to build deeper affiliations with key clients.
- All sales and marketing activity is thoroughly analyzed and measured, enabling team members to identify, analyze and understand the effectiveness of commercial trading investment and other such activities at any time.
- The depth, quality, and speed of business information are paying off in agility, which can be seen in Spirits Platform's speed to market and its ability to adapt to changing circumstances swiftly.
- The accessibility of new systems ensures that mobile and remote staff can connect and securely conduct business from anywhere in the world.
Project #3: Supply chain integration and predictive analytics
Once 12 months of trading had been completed, Spirits Platform and the Partner shifted focus to enabling the business intelligence automation and predictive analytics capabilities of Board, intending to improve cash flow management by streamlining purchasing and inventory management and increasing sales forecasting accuracy.
These vital processes had previously remained in separate spreadsheet systems. Staff relied heavily on manual tasks to manage data outputs which were both time-consuming and carried a high risk of manual error. In addition, the company’s Sales Plan was disconnected from procurement, which led to issues with stock planning and decision-making.
Lastly, with geographically dispersed staff, teams within Spirits Platform were struggling to share information and collaborate quickly. David Moore explains:
We are a smaller player in the Australian liquor industry and simply do not have the depth of pocket of the larger players to spend on big marketing and sales programs and hold excess inventory. However, we can be agile in what we bring to market and in how we innovate. To underpin this, it is critical to be able to measure the ROI on any investment and we must have systems that can provide us the insight to make quick but informed decisions and best manage our resources.
To address this, Board was extended rapidly, and spreadsheets were removed. Board now seamlessly leverages key ERP data, rolls weekly forecasts, and synthesizes predictive forecasts with sales team inputs, generating purchase recommendations and optimizing inventory. The automation of the Daily Inventory Report alone allowed Spirits Platform the potential to identify stock issues up to three weeks earlier than previously possible. By combining insights from sales history with the customer demand plans, Spirits Platform can now target missing demand, further driving up revenue.
The ability to analyze actuals and forecasts as a live comparison has been revolutionary for the company, as David Moore notes:
Cash flow management is critical and inventory is one of our largest cash impacts. Our discussions are now more robust since being able to compare and contrast against the forecast created by the sales team. We’ve also moved to daily system Board alerts of inventory levels. With stock purchase lead times of up to 10 weeks we were holding too much inventory just-in-case it was needed. This excess is now being eliminated.
A platform for self-sufficiency
Throughout projects, Spirits Platform and the partner mutually focused on ensuring an effective handover of knowledge to enable in-house staff to manage the tool without excessive reliance on external consultants. The Spirits Platform team learned to use and manage the tool with ease. Furthermore, by using cloud solutions, Spirits Platform has avoided the need to employ in-house IT expertise.
Board has proven scalable, flexible, and capable of meeting Spirits Platform’s needs. By unlocking additional functionality within the Board software (sales, budgeting & forecasting, and procurement planning), Spirits Platform has a richer picture of its business operations and performance. Different information from various source systems is integrated into a single place, improving the quality of data insights and enabling the company to undertake more focused analyses. As a result, the company’s budgeting, forecasting, and planning processes are now three to four weeks faster than before the implementation.
From a user perspective, Spirits Platform staff are no longer reliant on Excel to undertake the planning. There is a clear and effective integration between inventory planning and sales planning, which has enabled the company to be proactive in responding to or engaging with the market. For example, Spirits Platform can react in advance to demand changes or unexpected sales and events. There has been a noticeable shift in conversations from focusing on what occurred in the past to strategizing what steps should be taken next to respond to current events.
Significantly, integrating critical operational data in a single source system has improved communication between teams, enabling them to speak in a common language and achieve a shared understanding of business performance. Team collaboration, as well as data confidence across teams, has significantly improved.
The solutions enabled Spirits Platform to analyze company, partner, and market data, anticipate trends, and develop appropriate sales, marketing, and supply chain strategies.