Unified Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting at Telegraph Media Group
Replacing manual, spreadsheet-based processes with a single innovative solution
Telegraph Media Group's budgeting and reporting processes were previously being hindered by a plethora of interlinked spreadsheets. Seeking a more accurate, time-efficient way of conducting these activities, the business implemented the Board Intelligent Planning Platform to help drive digital finance transformation. Now, a more structured approach to financial analysis, planning, and forecasting, in a single solution, saves time and provides greater depth of information to inform management decisions.
- Industry: Publishing & Media
- Department: Finance
- Paid Digital Subscribers: 420,000
- Employees: 1,100
- Founded: 1855
Founded in 1855, the Telegraph Media Group has built a diversified commercial model, with equal strengths in advertising, subscriptions and circulation, commerce, and events. In 1994, The Telegraph Media Group (TMG) was the first UK publisher to launch an online offering. The launch of a digital subscription model in 2016, with clearly defined open and premium content, has enhanced the media company's ability to offer both scale and engagement to support this diversified approach.
TMG’s portfolio includes The Telegraph website and app, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph print titles, and The Telegraph Edition app which offers a digital replication of the newspapers. 27.2 million Britons consume content across the portfolio monthly, with a growing global digital audience through 107 million browsers a month enjoying TMG’s perspective on the world.
The Challenge: Manually intensive budgeting and reporting processes
Telegraph Media Group was struggling with a plethora of interlinked spreadsheets that were becoming increasingly unmanageable. There was a significant amount of manual effort required to collate and consolidate information in preparation for planning and reporting activities, leaving the finance team with less time for more value-added activities. As Andy Nash, Finance Director at TMG, recalls:
"Rebecca Peach, Financial Reporting and Planning Manager, was spending a huge amount of time creating and updating those spreadsheets to get ready for every planning cycle that we went through."
The budgeting cycle was undermined by numerous errors, caused by inefficiencies in the process and limitations of using spreadsheets.
"That was definitely the catalyst for thinking we couldn’t proceed like this," highlights Rebecca Peach, Financial Reporting and Planning Manager at TMG. "We were spending a huge amount of time creating Excel models; they were inefficient, they didn’t allow multiple users to be working at the same time, they were very reliant on one person to administer, and they were very fragile."
The Solution: A single platform for Budgeting, Planning, Forecasting, and Reporting
To drive greater accuracy across budgeting and planning activities, TMG's management team decided they needed a solution that would bring all their data together and offer a completely different, innovative set of reporting capabilities, helping them move towards real digital transformation. The search for a solution began, and before long the Board Intelligent Planning Platform became the front runner.
"I was constantly being inundated with partners calling up and suggesting I take a look at the Board software!" says Rebecca. "My first experience of Board was on a demo over the phone and I was impressed with it straightaway. It seemed really innovative and it was new - it felt modern in comparison to a lot of the other systems that we had seen."
The Benefits: A more structured approach which saves time and enhances decision-making
The implementation of Board has transformed TMG's finance processes, replacing the legacy spreadsheets with a single point of truth for all budgeting and planning activities. Rebecca manages a team of 12 management accountants, ensuring that all their inputs are present and that the numbers that they’re providing to the business are relevant, meaningful, and validated.
"That’s one of the real benefits of Board," says Rebecca. "Previously we were spending so much time with the input and the management of the models that we really didn’t have enough time to add value. Now, as the Reporting Manager, I can add the value by analyzing, reviewing, and giving appropriate comments. Therefore, we’re completely on top of our numbers. Now we have built real structure, routine, and familiarity into the reporting process which didn’t exist before."
TMG now uses the same model for everything, from weekly and monthly reporting to forecasting and budgeting. This single model controls up-to-date information about how this current month is running and how current forecasting is expected to turn out. Based on that performance, everybody around the business knows exactly where they are and who is responding to that performance in order to ensure that they hit forecasts and business targets.
"I am quite a frequent user of Board. I go in on a regular basis to see how we are tracking against our forecast and our budget. Every week we have a refresh of the data and all the finance users work on the same sets of updated data," adds Andy. "I am using that data to make decisions about resource planning, upcoming projects, how much we are going to drive advertising, and what kind of advertising contracts we should deal with over the coming year. It does power quite a lot of decision-making."
Board has enabled TMG to digitally transform its finance approach and enter a new era of efficiency. Andy concludes:
"It is quite interesting because when you look back over time it’s difficult to remember what things were like before. Actually, in talking to you I realized how much has changed."
00:00:13I am Andy Nash, the Finance Director of the Telegraph Media Group. Telegraph Media Group owns both The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and Telegraph.co.uk. It's quite interesting because when you look back over time, it's quite difficult to remember what things were like before. Actually going through this process of actually talking to you I have realized how much has changed.
00:00:35Why did you implement Board? I have been here for a number of years and over the period of time I have been here we have gradually built up a plethora of spreadsheets which were interlinked together and that inevitably became very unmanageable. Our Financial Reporting Manager, Rebecca, was spending a huge amount time updating those spreadsheets and creating them, getting ready for every planning cycle we went through.
I am Rebecca Peach and I am the Reporting Manager - Planning Manager - at Telegraph Media Group. There were loads of inherent problems of using Excel. It was the bane of my life at the time! There was a budget cycle where there were numerous errors and that was definitely the catalyst for thinking 'we cannot proceed like this'. We are spending a huge amount of time creating Excel models. They are inefficient, they do not allow multiple users to be working in them at the same time, they are very reliant on one person to administer, and they are very fragile.
00:01:38Why did you choose Board? At the same time our business was changing enormously as well, so we were moving from a primarily print-only business into something which would become much more digital and so, whilst we were trying to manage what we already had, we were also trying to adapt to something new, and that was a completely different set of reporting requirements. So, we decided we needed something which brought all our data together.
I was constantly being inundated with Partners calling up saying, "Look at all the wonderful products." - Simpson [Associates] being one of them. So I thought it was a good opportunity to have a look to see what was available. My first experience of Board was actually on a demo over the phone and I was impressed with it straight away. It just seemed really innovative and it was just new, it just felt modern in comparison to a lot of the other systems that we had seen.
00:02:36Probably the most profound change we have had is that way we use the same model for everything from weekly reporting, monthly reporting, forecasting, and budgeting. It's exactly the same model. We are producing very up to date information about how this current month is running and actually how this kind of forecast is looking to turn out. So from that performance, everybody around the business knows exactly where we are and is responding to that performance and trying, obviously, to make sure that we hit the forecasts and targets we have set ourselves.
00:03:15How has the system benefited your company? I am quite a frequent user of Board, I go in on a regular basis to see how we are tracking against our forecast and our budget. Every week we have a refresh of the data and everybody, all of the finance users around the business, input into that update, and I am using that to make decisions about resource planning, about upcoming projects, about how much we are going to drive advertising, what kind of advertising contract deals we are going to get in to over the coming year. So, it does power quite a lot of decision making.
I am managing a team of 12 Management Accountants, ensuring that all of their inputs are in, that the numbers that they are giving are sensible, and that they are well documented. So that is one of the real benefits of Board, because previously we were spending so much time with the input and the management of the models, that we really did not have that time to add value - whereas now, as the Reporting Manager, I can add value by analyzing and reviewing, and giving appropriate comments.
We are completely on top of our numbers now. It's built real structure and routine, and familiarity into the reporting process which did not exist before.