We’ve looked at how applying the Planning Analytics tool to your FP&A activities can help you sleep better at night, knowing that your highly-skilled team are doing the work they were actually employed for rather than manual data processing.

An important element to note about Robertson’s journey is how important it is to take the right approach from the outset.

Identifying key goals and taking the appropriate steps at each stage of the transformation made a huge difference for this client and we’d like to share some of this process with you. As our Operations Director, Adam Whittick, explains, starting with the fundamentals makes the whole journey much easier:

“The first step on the path is removing non-value-adding activities.  If you can replace those with a system that can be populated with millions of rows of data in seconds, have it do it the same way every month and present it at aggregate level, detail level, however you need – then those niggly spreadsheet tasks are removed. This releases people for all kinds of higher-value activities further up the chain.”

Goal: consolidate all data held on spreadsheets into a central model

The first driving force for Phil Talbot at Robertson was the need to consolidate all of their data and create a single version of the truth, accessible across the business:

“What we wanted was a system where we could centralise our spreadsheets into a single model, on a network that could be used by a number of contracts.”

With the expanding nature of the organisation, the new solution needed to be both flexible and scalable. The model would have to be open to evolution as the business developed and able to grow in tandem with Robertson Group:

“It needed to be scalable because we are a rapidly growing organisation. It also needed to be flexible so we can make changes to that model as time goes by to continually enhance and improve it. And we needed to do that without disrupting the business.”

Goal: provide proof of concept, showing financial benefit across the whole group

In order to implement an enterprise-wide solution, it’s often best to start with the fundamental building blocks, bringing all of the data into one place and then build a simple model to illustrate the worth of the system.

When looking to provide proof of concept, we helped Robertson test a simple consolidation application using the Planning Analytics software. The intention was to build a model that could take the data from the construction arm of the business, alongside the half dozen other business units holding the company’s financials, bring it all together and report on the financial performance of the whole group.

This was then extended to a data bank model, summarising the P&L, balance sheet and cash flow at individual contract level. This initial model was undoubtedly a useful move for Robertson:

“It went very smoothly and it’s still being used to this day.”

Goal: manage version control with a click of a button

As a company spread across 22 businesses, version control and overcoming the challenges of IT infrastructure were additional key concerns for Robertson. Implementing Planning Analytics on the IBM® Cloud addressed the overall need for processing speed and the dashboard function allowed for real-time updates and consistency for all users. Getting this level of coherence in place in the initial stages instantly removed many of the risks of errors that had been cropping up and released important time and resource for value-added activities.

Goal: connect everything up

For Phil Talbot, his approach from the outset was all about connecting all of the data; implementing a software solution that could consolidate all of the data into one place and structure it so that reporting at all levels – business, project, contract – was consistent.

Getting this initial ‘housekeeping’ in order was the ideal start to Robertson’s journey towards profitable decision making. They were facing the same situation Adam Whittick describes from his own experience:

“We needed to make a step toward working smarter and improving the way we did the cyclical day-job work to free up resource that would enable us to provide meaningful answers to the questions being asked.”

You can read more Robertson’s journey with us or learn about the practical steps to transforming your FP&A activities from our expert insight series. Get in touch today to discover the difference Planning Analytics could be making to your business.

Simon Bradshaw

I have worked in finance and business systems development since 2001 and am an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. In 2016 I became a founding member of Spitfire Analytics, a consultancy specialising in IBM Planning Analytics. We are committed to building long-term relationships across all industries. I focus on my CPD through CIMA and IBM badges, ensuring I am always abreast of best practice and developments within the industry.


Spitfire have a depth of understanding not only in Cognos/TM1 technologies, but also in finance and accounting. It is this combination of expertise and their ability to get to the heart of business problems that has resulted in such confidence in their delivery and capabilities. The insight and value-add they have brought is evident.

- Peter Smith, Head of Solution Delivery, Edrington

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