Watch teachers go about their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and you’ll see a lesson in adaptability. In virtually no time at all, educators went from teaching students in a classroom to running classes from their kitchens, basements, and living rooms. For millions of educators worldwide, this is their new normal.
But that’s how people are: Conditions change, winds shift, and new realities require new habits and perceptions. The same is largely true for businesses—or at least those that want to survive and thrive amid historic disruption. In 2020, the unexpected became the status quo. And companies of all sizes and in every industry have pivoted to navigate this enduring stretch of volatility. It has made business agility a business imperative.
As many finance executives have discovered, businesses urgently need an arsenal of robust, comprehensive, modern planning tools powered by real-time data so they can plan, analyze, and execute like a market leader.
From Vera Whole Health, a different kind of medicine
For nearly 12 years, the Seattle-based Vera Whole Health has carved out a unique position for itself by providing—at its 26 primary care centers in 10 states—a healthcare model for building stronger relationships, increasing engagement, lowering costs, and improving outcomes.
Summer Redmon, Vera Whole Health’s senior director of FP&A and finance, says this whole health model reflects Vera Whole Health’s commitment to provide a more comprehensive, integrated, and empathetic approach to improve health outcomes.
And when it comes to budgeting, forecasting, planning, and (lately) replanning, Redmon says the capitated model underlines the importance of both short- and long-term planning. “We need to know, ‘How many lives do we think we’re going to be serving?’” Redmon explains. “That ends up dictating the number of care centers that we’re likely to have, the staffing for those care centers, and then also the staffing at our field support, our SG&A cost, to support that growing care center.”
The pandemic brought a large dose of uncertainty. But as many in the healthcare industry were still reacting to the initial blow, Vera Whole Health quickly pivoted to deliver its advanced primary care model with increased telehealth services.
The immediate impacts of the pandemic
Today, with a modern cloud finance system, planning and forecasting for the near-term versus the long-term looks a bit different. “Prior to the world being upended, we were doing it on a quarterly basis, a 12-month rolling forecast,” she recalls, noting that iterating on plans and forecasts is easy with Workday Adaptive Planning. “Now it’s projected out further, about 18 months, and we’re looking at it monthly, if not more frequently. There’s a lot of reforecasting going on right now.”
Scenario planning often focuses on the company’s cash position. “Because our sales cycle has a tendency to be so long, the near term really impacts the long term quite significantly. When we entered this much more uncertain space, we focused on cash preservation to avoid painful pitfalls.”
Workforce-related scenario planning also led to a specific realization with lasting impact: That temporarily enforced work-from-home conditions could, in fact, become permanent. Redmon and her team saw how a largely remote workforce could considerably reduce operating costs, while making it possible to recruit new employees from well outside their Seattle headquarters. From real estate and facilities costs to commuting stipends and even employee snacks, expenses that once were inescapable may no longer be a factor going forward. Redmon says this freed up funds to subsidize work-from-home challenges such as outfitting home office spaces with equipment and connectivity.
Using Workday Adaptive Planning to embrace business agility
Redmon sees the benefit of democratizing the budget and forecast processes because it empowers stakeholders across the business by giving them access to and ownership of their own budgets, and by allowing finance to get an accurate pulse on the overall organization’s financial health. And by analyzing comprehensive, real-time data from their enterprise systems, the company can make informed decisions quickly and pivot decisively.
Key features in their Workday Adaptive Planning solution have helped them do this.
To promote transparency and accountability, Redmon established customized real-time dashboards that key team members can check regularly. “We want to make sure that they understand how to get in there and find the information. If they’re missing their targets, then we need them to be able to explain exactly why they missed it,” she explains. “They can go in there and see the details behind the various charges when they’ve got the actuals in there. We ask them to update their forecast directly.”
Dimensional access control. A recent initiative is implementing dimensional access control, allowing permissioned views of specific data sets to key groups. For instance, the team is building out dashboards so senior executives can see top-level data without getting mired in detail. With dimensional access control, Workday Adaptive Planning gives users broad flexibility to determine who can see what information.
Multidimensional planning models. Comprehensive planning requires comprehensive data. Workday Adaptive Planning is designed to allow for multidimensional planning models, which allow users to look at data sets from any vantage point: location, department, customers, products, etc. Users can layer in other attributes to further refine the data they need. “That was one of the biggest selling points for Adaptive for us,” says Redmon. “Because we were doing our budgets and forecasts in Excel prior to this, it was taking me a good week to consolidate all of the various departments into one specific report to see what the overall impact was going to be, and it was interminable.”
Knowing that conditions will change, Vera Whole Health relies on a key set of assumptions within their Workday Adaptive Planning models. For instance, expenses for PPE purchases will fluctuate as the impact of the virus ebbs and flows. Using information from their supply chain, they built general assumptions into their model and created various what-if scenarios to account for all future possibilities.
Workday Adaptive Planning makes it easy to manage multiple versions of budgets, forecasts, and what-if scenarios. Redmon’s team can memorialize a locked-down version, continuously pointing users to it for reference or guidance, and at the same time create unlimited, flexible versions based on updated forecasts. Knowing which is the source of truth and pointing users to the latest information is now seamless, whether they’re in their Workday Adaptive Planning instance or working from a spreadsheet via OfficeConnect.
Process tracker. Vera Whole Health uses the Workday Adaptive Planning project tracker to keep group members or department heads apprised of a project’s current status in real time—and without the hassle of constantly checking in. For budgeting, forecasts, specific assignments, and more, Redmon says implementing project trackers was a “game changer.”
Redefining healthcare in unprecedented times
From the start, Vera Whole Health’s mission has been to redefine what the healthcare experience can mean for patients, providers, and the community at large. Even in the face of unprecedented change and disruption, this mission is unwavering. “It’s a really exciting time, says Redmon. “We believe healthcare is a fundamental human right, and we want to make sure that we’re right there in the revolution and heading the charge.”