Posted by Tony Kontzer(opens in new tab), Guest Blogger
For all those companies gun-shy about moving their financial software(opens in new tab) and data into the cloud, the experience of online media monitoring firm Meltwater (opens in new tab)offers some reassurance.
Founded in 2001 in a borrowed office space in Oslo, Norway, the SaaS provider of online intelligence for public relations and social media professionals has grown into a major global player, with 55offices and 27 countries around the world and headquartered in San Francisco. Like many fast-growing companies of its era, the company accumulated a dispersed legacy environment that inevitably evolved into a process logjam.
Rick Bradley, the company's head of IT, told attendees during a session at SuiteWorld 2014 on Wednesday that Meltwater had also grown overly dependent on spreadsheets and was drowning in manual data entry, which he said was "often repeated across systems and processes, making it difficult to reduce human error."
It became clear the company needed to make a change, and decided it needed to migrate to a scalable, integrated global finance system that would streamline processes, increase the reliability of forecasts, and provide generally improved visibility to sales, accounting and finance teams.
After an exhaustive review process, Meltwater went live on NetSuite's OneWorld ERP platform in April of last year. NetSuite OneWorld offered global support for consolidation and close process, a seasoned professional services department, premium global support 24 x 7 and best practices to enable fast deployment, which offered the company support for global product coverage, referencing ability, collaborative capabilities, and a mature support process.
A steering committee formed to prepare for the implementation, served as a critical forum for stakeholders to make their needs known, discuss issues and generally ensure that the deployment addressed as many needs as possible.
The company focused much of its energy on two particular deployment challenges: data migration and reporting. Bradley advised attendees to devote sufficient attention to each of those areas.
On the data migration front, he suggested that companies "make sure the data you're bringing in is as clean as possible" before actually moving it. Doing so, he said, would ease the migration process, make testing more productive, and ensure a more useable and valuable data set upon completion.
As for reporting, Bradley stressed the criticality of steps such as getting very clear about sales and financial reporting(opens in new tab) requirements, defining KPIs early on and making sure to understand how reports will be distributed.
"I can't overestimate how important defining reports and KPI’s in advance are to ensuring the proper design of your transactions, interfaces and report output," he said.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And Meltwater has achieved a long list of benefits from their move to OneWorld. Among these:
- Internal and external accounting systems and partners now rely on common systems and processes.
- The closing cycle has been reduced.
- Global financial consolidation(opens in new tab) is close to automated and the process is more efficient.
- KPIs and dashboards have been introduced across the company.
- Role-based access and regulatory compliance controls are in place.
- The process of bringing on new subsidiaries now takes weeks instead of months.
That said, Bradley made it clear that project methodology was key to the success of the deployment. Along those lines, he suggested that companies undertaking large-scale IT projects staff them with the most capable employees, set up formal governance and project management parameters, make an organizational commitment to change management and make use of NetSuite's professional services.
But perhaps most important, he said, was to start with a well-defined scope.
"If anything will kill a project," said Bradley, "it's scope creep."
Not even OneWorld can prevent that.