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Modernizing FP&A and Consolidations for a Real Estate Investment Trust

Challenge

With support for its current consolidated reporting solution ending, a real estate investment trust (REIT) needed to evaluate other options. In conjunction with this effort, the company wanted to seize the opportunity to re-evaluate and modernize its financial planning and accounting (FP&A) function, which struggled with siloed systems and reporting, inefficient consolidations, spreadsheet-based budgeting and forecasting, and lack of a true planning tool that offered the flexibility to update or modify forecasts. These limitations resulted in a manual, time-consuming effort to gather, synthesize, and analyze planning data, which was further exasperated by a consolidation process that created a significant bottleneck and single point of failure. For this reason, the REIT sought to decentralize its financial planning and gain more efficiency.

The company assessed various software options to replace the legacy consolidation system, ultimately choosing the OneStream platform given its ability to enhance current forecasting process while providing flexibility and scalability across the organization.

“Riveron’s team successfully led us through a multi-phased transformation across departments, providing expert guidance throughout the project so our teams learned how to manage the application.“
Financial Applications Manager, Real Estate Investment Trust

How we helped

Based on our expertise in financial applications and process improvement, the REIT engaged Riveron to implement the OneStream platform, which allows for consolidated reporting and financial planning within a single, cloud-based platform. Our scope also included determining how the OneStream could be extended to additional departments within the organization, such as accounting, treasury, asset management, and human resources.

Initially, our team conducted a discovery phase, which included detailed design discussions with major stakeholders and functional leaders from across the organization. Then we led the design, configuration, testing, and user adoption of OneStream core consolidation, planning, and reporting functionality; workflows for each functional group; and custom marketplace planning solutions.

To achieve decentralization of financial planning, we set up a dashboard for asset managers and corporate users to load their information directly into OneStream and view and validate their forecasting and review reports. End users also have the ability to consolidate their data, analyze and review forecast data in real time, thus eliminating dependencies and improving collaboration between various departments.

Additionally, our team created custom applications for the company using OneStream Marketplace tools such as, Thing Planning and People Planning, to support non-finance-department planning processes. The Thing Planning tool was set up to enable corporate finance team to plan directly in OneStream and model the company’s debt forecast, including amortization, interest payments, refinance fees, and other calculations based on a register of more than 120 loans across all portfolios and properties with different terms across over 30 years. Replacing the REIT’s former spreadsheet-based people planning process, the People Planning tool was customized to interface with Workday and support budgeting and forecasting payroll and benefits costs for the company’s more than 1,700 employees.

Riveron trained approximately 250 users of the OneStream system across 10 different departments—about 150 site operations that had direct access to forecast data for the first time. Early in the process, we introduced the tool to these users, so they were familiar with it by the time we reached the user acceptance phase. Our team also identified power users, or subject matter experts, for each of the regions that facilitated the training. By implementing a “train the trainer” methodology and having REIT employees train their colleagues, we significantly increased the user adoption rate.

Results

With the flexible and scalable OneStream solution in place, the REIT has acquired a single platform that supports the entire office of the CFO as well as additional, non-finance departments. Users have gained a single source of truth for all reporting (actual, budget, and forecast) across organizational functions and have streamlined and modernized their planning and reporting processes. The system has replaced the former spreadsheet-based model, thereby eliminating manual intervention, enhancing data integrity, and delivering greater insight into long-range plans.

The company has significantly reduced time to prepare, review and finalize annual budget and quarterly forecast. Management now has direct insight into monthly close and reporting process and end users can leverage a standardized tool to synthesize data and make more informed decisions quickly.

OneStream also helped the REIT to accomplish its goal of decentralized planning, with each team having designated, individual workflows; the ability to directly input information into the system; and access to advanced analytical tools. The bottom-up approach to budgeting and forecasting has provided leadership with insightful information at the property and regional level, reduced communication gaps, and avoided the tedium of maintaining additional spreadsheets.

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