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Russell Standard Shaves Weeks Off Its Annual Budgeting Timeline with Bizview and Spreadsheet Server

24 01 Cs Russellstandard Website

In brief

  • Spreadsheet-based budgeting and reporting processes were long and chaotic.
  • Spreadsheet Server streamlined Excel reporting by providing a direct connection to ERP data.
  • With Bizview, Russell Standard was able to reduce its annual budgeting and planning timeline by a full 30 days.

Founded in 1929 by Niles Russell, Russell Standard is a trusted leader in both the production and installation of pavement preservation materials. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, and serving clients from Pennsylvania to Alabama, the company’s mission is to be the most respected partner in the region by serving team and customers alike like family. Russell Standard is committed to providing custom asphalt preservation solutions to a wide variety of customers in the roofing, sealing, pipe coating, and similar industries.

Excel-Based Processes Made Planning a Lengthy Proposition

When controller, Craig Schiebel, joined Russell Standard in 2008, he described the company’s financial processes as “pretty archaic,” though they were evolving. Over the 15 years Schiebel has been with the company, Russell Standard’s finance processes have continued to evolve. The company has implemented new technology solutions to improve its processes and create a better, more efficient budgeting and planning process.

Fifteen years ago, Russell Standard’s financial reporting and planning were done entirely via Excel spreadsheets; it was a tedious, time-consuming, manual process that ate up a lot of resources. Shortly after Schiebel joined the company, it implemented a new ERP system, moving from Foundations to Viewpoint. This helped make financial reporting and planning easier, but the process remained manual and time-consuming.

Not long after moving to Viewpoint, Russell Standard began using FRX for financial reporting, while all other reporting was still done with Excel. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was an improvement. When Viewpoint made its reporting and budgeting solution available, Financial Manager, Russell Standard took full advantage. “Until we had Financial Manager, we weren’t doing budgets,” Scheibel said. “We were just working and seeing how things came out, so Financial Manager made a big difference.”

As Russell Standard invested in new technologies to create efficiencies and improve processes, the company also invested in its people, hiring a data analyst who Schiebel described as “a wizard in Excel.” His team was able to create more reports using Excel but taking it to the next level was still a goal.

In 2016 the company got one step closer to achieving that goal when it moved from Financial Manager to Budget Accelerator and Spreadsheet Server from insightsoftware. “That was a step in the right direction for us,” Schiebel said. “We could create reports that automatically link to our data and pull it in, which is something we couldn’t do before.”

Spreadsheet Server and Budget Accelerator made Schiebel’s reporting processes faster, more intuitive, and less error-prone, but budgeting and planning was still a long, spreadsheet-based process. With financial data spread across Russell Standard’s various operations teams, collaboration, data aggregation, and analysis were still a huge drain on valuable finance team hours. Schiebel knew he needed a way to streamline the budgeting process to drive more value from his team and enable agile decision-making.

Bizview Was a Game-Changer

After several years using Budget Accelerator and Spreadsheet Server, Russell Standard had an established and successful relationship with insightsoftware, and Schiebel was invited to join a user group to learn about Bizview and its budgeting and planning capabilities. “I got to see what Bizview could do for our budgeting and planning needs, and it obviously worked to get me interested in the product,” he said. “I was so impressed with Bizview’s potential that I made a presentation to my boss, the CFO, showing him what it could do and why I thought we needed to invest in it. He is very supportive of using technology to improve our processes, so he was on board.”

Bizview boasts several features that were of particular interest to Russell Standard.

  • Automated Workflows – Bizview’s built-in workflows would automatically notify Russell Standard stakeholders of their planning responsibilities, streamlining collaboration and taking the confusion out of the budgeting process.
  • Executive Dashboards – With Bizview’s reporting dashboards, Russell Standard’s executive team would be able to quickly see a snapshot of the company’s financial plans and reports, saving time and improving communications with leadership.
  • Integrated Budgeting and Planning – With managers from all teams contributing to the budgeting process, Bizview would allow Russell Standard to develop integrated, accurate plans across business units in less time and with less stress.
  • Consolidated Planning and Reporting – Bizview’s robust and agile planning capabilities would allow Russell Standard to combine Spreadsheet Server and Budget Accelerator’s functionalities in a single application, shrinking reporting cycles and resource usage.

With his executive team on-board, Schiebel moved forward with Bizview implementation and had it up and running in time for the 2022 budgeting season.

Bizview Streamlined Budgeting Season by a Full Month

Schiebel’s team went into the 2022 budgeting season expecting it to look a lot like previous years’ budgeting seasons. For Russell Standard, that meant a four- to five-month process running from October through mid-February; involving not just the accounting team, but also the heads of every department in every location the business operates.

Schiebel was optimistic that Bizview would make the process easier and more streamlined for everyone involved in the budgeting process – especially the plant managers and operations managers who contributed from across the business. But because this was the first budgeting season using Bizview, he was prepared for it to be as long and arduous as usual.

However, Bizview more than lived up to its potential. The software’s workflows, pre-built reporting templates, and Excel-like interface made coordinating the planning process across business locations and departments a much easier and faster prospect. After using Bizview for the first time in 2022, Schiebel’s team decided to push back the 2023 budgeting season launch from October to November, shaving weeks from the process.

“Bizview enabled us to cut a whole month off the budgeting process.”

Workflow Control

For Schiebel’s team, Bizview’s built-in workflows have been the biggest help to their planning process. As he explained, “Budget Accelerator had no workflow, so we didn’t know where the budget was in the process. We didn’t know who was working on it, whether it was done or not. Everything was done via email, text, or phone calls, so you had to trust that your collaborators weren’t going to make changes halfway through the process.”

Bizview has streamlined budgeting and planning processes by taking the guesswork out of collaboration. Its workflows are easy to use, making it easy to control budget entries and approvals, comment on plans in progress directly within the input forms, and see where each contributor is in the process. “Now, with workflow in Bizview, once a contributor submits something they can’t change it until it gets pushed back to them. It really helps reduce the chance for error. It’s made life a lot easier for my team.”

Consolidated Planning and Reporting

Bizview allowed Russell Standard to combine the functionalities of Budget Accelerator and Spreadsheet Server in a single application. While the company kept Spreadsheet Server for ad-hoc reporting and analysis, it was able to eliminate Budget Accelerator. Bizview provided the single source of truth Schiebel’s team needed to:

  • Create a repeatable, standard planning process that automatically reflected changes in the ERP system
  • Take control of the budgeting process by using embedded analytics to monitor performance and detect trends
  • Track and compare previous budget figures with built-in version control
  • Build dashboards with snapshot data views that leadership can access on-demand for more informed decision-making

“Budget Accelerator was great in certain ways, but the workflow wasn’t there, and we couldn’t make executive dashboards with it. There was definitely some clunkiness to it,” Schiebel said. “Bizview let us incorporate what we use Spreadsheet Server and Budget Accelerator for into one program and gave us the ability to have dashboards and analytics ready to go at a moment’s notice for leadership to be able to make decisions.”

Looking Ahead: Creating Executive Dashboards

Schiebel is excited about the possibilities Bizview presents for Rusell Standard’s budgeting and planning growth. “We’re still in the development phase; 2022 was all about getting the basic budgeting and reporting down, and now we’re ready to refine and create more efficiency,” he said. “It’s just learning curve for us at this point. We’ve already made some tweaks to some of our input forms based on feedback from the operations managers.”

After having reduced the budgeting and planning process by a full month, the next goal is to streamline executive communications with dashboards. “We’re now creating dashboards in Bizview, which are under review by our leadership. Once the dashboards are approved, it will be an automatic distribution that goes directly to key stakeholders. I expect it to save my staff a lot of time in producing our reports.”

To learn more about all that Bizview can do for your organization, read our whitepaper on transitioning from manual to modern planning processes.

Bizview is a very dynamic system,” Schiebel said. “It can do a lot. We are getting to that point of knowing how to make it do everything that we want it to do

Craig Schiebel Controller

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