Planning speed and accuracy take off at BIGLIFE

By Bhavik Vashi

October 21, 2020

Airline loyalty programs are being forced to evolve to meet today’s turbulent business environment. Fortunately for BIGLIFE, the platform that runs BIG Loyalty (which started out as AirAsia’s frequent flyer program), that evolution started long before COVID-19.

Over the last few years, BIGLIFE has become a comprehensive lifestyle platform that offers its members rewards that go far beyond the traditional points for flights. Partnering with over 300 companies in lifestyle, travel, and financial services, BIG members can earn and spend points on restaurants, electronics, entertainment, and much more, both in person and online. BIG Loyalty has been so successful that it won the Excellence in Management prize at Loyalty Awards 2020—the only non-European company to take home an award.

Transformation behind the scenes

Transforming BIGLIFE for its more than 20 million members also required financial transformation behind the scenes. As digital travel sales and transactions took off, and the number of partner-merchants grew, BIGLIFE hit the limits of its old Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) system. Sereen Teoh, CFO at BIGLIFE, recalls “Always burning the midnight oil to complete the reporting and the forecast,” and looked for an FP&A solution that could grow and evolve with BIGLIFE. They chose Anaplan.

With the selection made, development was rapid: Gathering requirements, training the BIGLIFE finance team, and data integration took just two months, and implementing the core FP&A model took one month. IT’s only involvement was to provision the data sources; the rest of the work was done by finance, aided by a local partner. They chose to build the model from scratch (rather than start from a template or app) because that allowed them to customize everything—such as how revenue is generated, how costs are incorporated into the P&L, and the balance sheet and cashflow—based on the company’s unique business model.

The solution was live in production in December 2018. It uses historical data to produce forecasts, but also gives commercial teams the power to override the historical run rate to reflect new products and partnerships. Similarly, the finance teams can override the drivers so the forecasts represent middle ground between overly conservative and hyper-aggressive.

A year after the FP&A model went live, the finance team embarked on a new project: to build a suite of reporting tools. BIGLIFE was one of the first companies in Asia to test Anaplan’s updated UX, working with Anaplan’s Customer Success team to build some 25 dashboards for KPI drivers, revenue drivers, KPIs, and forecasts in just one month. “The dashboards simplify all of the Anaplan modules to focus attention on key results,” Teoh says. “That’s the information that AirAsia’s leaders and the board want to see.” The dashboards include rich visuals, such as corporate charts and images embedded directly in the reports.

Accuracy, speed, and standardization

For BIGLIFE, the most significant benefits of the Anaplan platform are accuracy and speed. “My goal is to have the forecast be within +/- 5% of reality, as opposed to a 40 or 50% variance when we close the year,” Teoh says. Planning processes that previously took up to three months are now complete in one week, and the plans can be developed into a rolling forecast.

Planning processes are standardized across the company because data and processes are connected on a single platform. Less time is spent on decision-making because simulations and “what-if” scenarios are available at the touch of a button. “With Anaplan, we can change our drivers, and results are calculated in real time,” Teoh says. “We’ve taken steps toward becoming a data-driven company.”

Learn about Anaplan’s FP&A solutions and arrange a demo.

Bhavik Vashi

Bhavik Vashi is Vice President of Customer Success at Anaplan. In his role, Bhavik leads a large organization across APAC that is focused on optimizing customer experience, driving customer adoption, and maximizing value realization. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

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