One of the UK’s largest construction companies, Taylor Wimpey (TW), has opted for a cloud-based tool to fulfil its long-term financial planning requirements, rejecting bids for on-premise solutions from both Oracle and IBM during the selection process.

TW opted for Anaplan, a cloud based financial planning tool, which it implemented during a major IT infrastructure refresh the company was carrying out at the same time.

Anaplan is used by the group to carry out its annual budget forecast, which takes place every year in October over a six to 8 week period, and allows financial directors to assess TW’s key performance metrics for the next four year period.

Prior to using the software-as-a-service tool, TW was using a complex mesh of spreadsheets that were dispersed across twenty UK business units, which accounted for the equivalent of 80,000 stock keeping units (each stock unit being a physical house the company is planning to build).

Computerworld UK spoke to David Nicholson, Taylor Wimpey’s business systems manager, who explained that the construction company needed to upgrade its processes due to its refresh plans.

“Our hand was forced somewhat when we decided to upgrade. During the economic downturn we decided that we were going to sweat our assets for as long as humanly possible, but now the market is showing signs of turning around, we have decided to do a refresh of our infrastructure and desktop estate,” said Nicholson.

The refresh means that TW was moving to the newer operating systems and apps, Windows 7 and Office 2010, for example. However, the spreadsheets it had been using were developed in 2003, so it was facing an end of life support issue. Alongside the infrastructure refresh, TW was also upgrading its legacy ERP to a construction specific system provided by COINS.

“That was another thing we had to think of – not just the end of life issues, but the changing application and process landscape that was required to tie into the new ERP system,” said Nicholson.

In April 2011, faced with the challenge of needing a new solution to draw data from all these new systems, TW engaged with the top vendors in financial planning and held a technology open day. Attending the open day were IBM, Oracle (both offering on premise alternatives) and Anaplan with its cloud offering.

However, Nicholson said that the team were not always certain the choice was going to be cloud based, and initially made comparisons based on functionality.

“When we appraised the separate vendor offerings we tried to keep it very much on a functionality footing – how close a fit was the functionality to our business requirements?” he said.

“What we found was that there wasn’t a huge difference between all the parties on this basis. So, as a team we though started to consider some of the non-functional aspects, such as deployment times, ongoing cost of ownership, support, ease of change etc.”

He added: “It was when we started bringing these considerations to the front that we favoured Anaplan. When you start to look at on-premise the costs start to rise – particularly in terms of having to buy the hardware to host it.”

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