Trains run fast at Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the primary operator of passenger trains in the Netherlands, and the railway’s finance team moves equally quickly. With finance on a fast track using Anaplan, NS is even more efficient, collaborative, and secure.
Our cost-price model used to be 100 spreadsheets. Now it is all in one model and everything is transparent.
Erik Alberts, Controller
Planning at NS was ready for a new departure: Part of its old process depended on spreadsheets, with a single cost-price model consisting of 12 workbooks and totaling more than 100 individual tabs. Divisional plans were aligned only at the end of the planning process, so issues often arose late in the journey. Planning scales and timelines varied depending on project type; some plans were managed by small teams for compliance reasons, and others relied on many people throughout the organization. A single general ledger change could affect dozens of cells, highlighting an acute need for connection.
Working with Deloitte, NS chose Anaplan for Finance, beginning its journey with planning, budgeting, and forecasting. This initial phase included annual budgets, driver-based mid-term planning, and year-end forecasting. Subsequent phases covered a cost-price model (needed for regulatory compliance), project planning, and control for all project types. “NS has completely eliminated needless spreadsheets from its planning process,” says Sven van Hoof, manager at Deloitte. “As a result, the company is able to better collaborate, reduce lead time and can scale faster.”
Better communication was the immediate result of adopting Anaplan, says Controller Erik Alberts, leader of Nederlandse Spoorwegen’s Anaplan Center of Excellence. “I have open communication with 30 fellow controllers on what works and what doesn’t,” he explains. “This lets us achieve positive results quickly.”
Other benefits are more concrete: Calculation time for the cost-price model has dropped to minutes because a single connected Anaplan model replaced a dozen unwieldy spreadsheets. With Anaplan’s role-based security, sensitive data is restricted to those who need it. Improvements in passenger forecasting, real estate planning, and train maintenance have contributed to overall customer satisfaction, up from 77 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2017.
Planners at NS rely on Anaplan’s real-time, in-memory computing to instantly recalculate figures across interconnected plans when data changes. Data collection and consolidation are automated, and each area of the business and group of users has its own view of the organization’s data. Although IT retains governance over the system, the Anaplan models are owned and maintained by the finance team who uses them. Deloitte consultants continue to help with strategy and complex problems as needed.