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HH Global

Streamlined Financial Planning and Insight at HH Global

Leading media company cuts budgeting time in half and improves P&L efficiency by 85%.

HH Global is a leading multinational marketing execution partner with nearly 4,500 employees and approximately £1.8bn in annual revenue. Previously, the company’s financial operations were inconsistent across its regions, and it was fast outgrowing its limited infrastructure. HH Global turned to Board to implement an integrated, modern financial planning solution and a new financial data warehouse—streamlining and unifying its financial operations across the entire organization. Key benefits of the project include more than doubled revenue through organic growth and strategic acquisitions, and an empowered team capable of confidently leveraging planning opportunities.

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  • Industry: Publishing & Media
  • Department: Finance
  • Revenue: £1.8 billion
  • Brands represented: 1,000+
  • Countries served: 90
  • Employees: 4,500

The challenge: Create a modern, streamlined financial planning solution

HH Global is a global leader in tech-enabled creative production and procurement, with 4,500 team members, 26 creative studios, and over 8,600 strategic supplier partners in 64 countries. It amplifies its clients’ marketing campaigns through production and procurement leadership and its advanced sustainability credentials enabling the delivery of industry-leading expertise at scale.

Serving such a widespread organization, HH Global’s finance team faced the difficult challenge of delivering annual budgets for every department. Previously, this meant relying on more than 400 linked Google Sheets for planning, updating, and sharing budgets.

“Every time we needed to add in a new figure, the sheets would take around seven hours to refresh—it meant we only had the capacity to do budgets once a year,” says Sherif Ramzy, Director of Financial Planning and Analysis at HH Global. “We needed an alternative solution that could support the needs of our fast-growing organization.”

The company had different regional accounting systems for its other financial planning responsibilities, like monitoring profit and loss and cash flow. It also had two tools for reporting, one based on Microsoft Access and Excel and one built in-house—both of which produced different results from the same data sets.

“Our accounting infrastructure was a real maze, so our data was completely unstructured and inconsistent. It made reporting a real challenge,” says Sherif.

HH Global needed a definitive solution that streamlined financial planning and reporting across its organization. It wanted to quickly generate the accurate, real-time insights its teams need to make strategic decisions and free its finance team up for more valuable work.

The solution: An integrated financial planning solution and a modern data warehouse  

Before engaging with Board, HH Global set about restructuring its financial operations to get the most value from a modern planning and budgeting solution.

First, the company’s finance team consolidated all its accounting systems worldwide into a single system, SAP Business One. And, after expanding its finance team to 14 people—bringing in new accountants and project managers—HH Global also adopted an e-invoicing solution and global tax engine.

“After restructuring finance operations, we started looking for a complete financial planning solution. Board proved to be the most suitable, flexible solution for us—it offered all the version control and business planning capabilities we needed. We knew it would support us with our growth and expansion,” says Sherif.

Just two months after the initial consultation, HH Global was up and running with Board, cutting the entire budget data refresh cycle from 7 days to 1 hour. The planning solution was then expanded to provide additional forecast cycles, greater planning granularity, and support for long-term planning.

“Using Board, we can understand our profit, loss, and cash flow at a granular level,” says Sherif. “For the first time in our company’s history, we delivered our annual budget on time, and every team knows and owns their individual budgets.”

Streamlining financial planning was just the first step of HH Global’s transformation. The organization also wanted to find a definitive solution to its data management challenges, so it worked with Board to create a new finance data warehouse.

“Now we’ve migrated all reports from our old data management sources to Board, we can go into much greater detail across our reporting,” says Sherif. “For example, for aged debt, we can drill down to outstanding invoice level—we’ve never had this capability before, and it helps our teams manage cash flow much more strategically.”

The result: Faster, more detailed, and more accurate financial insights

For the first time in HH Global’s history, the company’s finance team can create complete financial planning cycles, rather than just carrying out annual budgeting. Now, the finance team is able to craft long-term, five-year plans that break down into more detailed yearly plans.

“With Board, we can even align business context alongside our financial plans, giving us detailed insights into our organization that help guide our decision making,” says Sherif.

Since using Board, the company has reduced its budget timelines from five months to less than nine weeks, despite having much more detailed budgets.

The company has also been able to restructure its forecasting, going from a six-plus-six approach (six months of actuals and six months of forecast) that took more than two months to complete to three individual forecast cycles that take just three weeks each, as well as an 18-month forecast. And for general financial planning, the finance team now has detailed versioning capabilities for its profit and loss balance sheet and cash flow.

“Our new approach to forecasting is much faster and much more agile,” says Sherif. “Also, having version control capabilities is important because every time we go through different stages of the budget, I need to look back and see what’s changed. Previously, I couldn’t do that,” Sherif adds.

The financial preparedness that the team has achieved has enabled them to more than double revenue through both organic growth and a series of well-planned acquisitions. Additionally, as Board provides a secure planning environment, the HH Global Team has confidence in data security and accuracy, empowering them to make the most of planning opportunities. Step by step, Board became the global source for all planning activities, whether for financial or operational needs, including weekly sales forecasts.

Key recommendations: Future thinking and strategic planning

Having completed such a successful transformation, Sherif has some advice for those approaching a similar challenge.

Design for the future, not for now:

“Always think about what you want your business to look like, not what your business currently looks like. That’ll help you design a solution that supports your growth and remains valuable for years.”

Detailed planning and scoping are critical:

“It’s important to properly plan and scope out your project before you start any development—we learned this the hard way. Also, don’t let your scope creep at the project's key milestones.”

Involve all relevant stakeholders:

“It’s not just the finance team taking care of the organizations’ business planning processes.  Stakeholders from the entire organization must be involved, and, and their needs must be considered to ensure you find a solution that works for everyone.”