How WaterNSW transformed their financial planning with Cornerstone
Date: 03/03/2020

By Chris Banaszak, Principal Consultant, Cornerstone Performance Management

In the weeds with spreadsheets

If you live in or around Sydney, you probably heard of WaterNSW. They operate the rivers and water supply systems across the state (including 40 dams), supplying two-thirds of all water used by the regional towns, irrigators, Sydney Water Corporation and local water utilities. But did you also know WaterNSW owns and controls the largest surface and groundwater monitoring network in the southern hemisphere?

Ensuring an ongoing supply of water throughout New South Wales requires substantial planning, budgeting and forecasting. This means a lot of data, calculations, variables… Processing and keeping the numbers current is a complex process that until recently was conducted mostly out of spreadsheets.

Prone to human error, lacking version control and without forecasting capabilities. And, at the end of the day, way too many spreadsheets to consolidate. As a result, the budgeting processes took six months to complete and required extensive manual adjustments every time the variables changed. WaterNSW knew there must be a better solution – and that teaming up with an expert in the field would be the best way to identify and implement it. And that’s how their journey with Cornerstone Performance Management (and IBM Planning Analytics powered by TM1) has started.

Testing the waters with Cornerstone

Right from the beginning, our approach was 100% solution-focused. We didn’t just come in with a generic product – we tailored our demonstrations to ensure that what we were showing was exactly what WaterNSW was after. Which was why, in our meetings and demos, we concentrated on their particular issues and the best way to solve them. We were also working closely with WaterNSW’s finance community – they would be the ones most affected by any changes to the financial planning processes, and we wanted to make sure that their suggestions, objections and concerns are heard and included in the final outcome.

“They didn’t jump straight into solution design. They spent a lot of time listening.” Joseph Pizzinga, CFO, WaterNSW

At the core of our project were WaterNSW’s specific requirements: version control, single source of truth, budgeting and forecasting, and ensuring that all costs are allocated to particular projects and phases – of which WaterNSW has literally thousands at any given time. That was no simple ask, as there was a real need for a financial planning solution that not only considered all these requirements, but also remained easy to use by both people who have specialist accounting or IT skills and ones who didn’t. After taking all of the above into account, we determined that implementing IBM Planning Analytics powered by TM1 would be the best solution for WaterNSW.

Budgeting problems? Water under the bridge

Working together with Cornerstone Performance Management, WaterNSW managed to completely transform their budgeting and forecasting processes through Business Process Management and breathe new life into them with the help of IBM Planning Analytics.

Implementing IBM Planning Analytics allowed to significantly reduce manual processes, automate monthly forecasts and improved collaboration across the organisation. Today, processes that took weeks and months to complete can be finalised in a few days or even hours. The budget process has gone down from weeks to minutes in places as certain aspects of the budget (including historical data) are now completed automatically by the tool.

In addition to speeding up budgeting processes, we also provided WaterNSW with a framework to forecast where the business is headed next. It allows to easily change high-level attributes to drive What-If? scenarios that were never possible before and leverage forecasting capabilities that remained extremely limited in the past.

Now, instead of fighting to keep the spreadsheets up to date, WaterNSW can focus on leveraging the insights Cornerstone & IBM Planning Analytics are delivering every day to optimise their processes and enhance their operations.

Check out our WaterNSW customer success story here.