A Las Vegas resort

Betting on an accurate financial planning solution for disparate business models with IBM and Aviana

High stakes for new players

Launching a new hotel in Las Vegas is a high-stakes business. To achieve coordinated success across disparate business models, careful financial planning is necessary – but since the drivers that affect revenues and costs are very different for accommodation, food and beverage, and gaming, it can be difficult to budget and forecast effectively for the whole organization.

One of IBM’s clients – which runs one of the largest casino hotels in the city – knew that its existing planning processes would not scale to support the business as it grew. Manually collating and validating data in complex spreadsheets placed too great a burden on the busy finance team, limiting their ability to analyze the results and support executive decision-making.

Upping the ante for financial planning

From experience at other resorts, the resort’s financial planning team was convinced that a professional financial planning solution was the answer to these problems; they quickly secured executive support for moving to such a solution.
Working with Aviana, an IBM Business Partner, the resort selected a solution based on IBM Cognos Express software, with industry-specific models and business logic provided by the Aviana Hospitality and Gaming Intelligence solution.

The resort’s Senior Director of Strategic Planning comments: “Our partnership with Aviana was vital to supplement our in-house team’s expertise. The combination of the Aviana consultants’ dedication and their experience of creating solutions for the hospitality industry really gave us a head-start.

“The tipping point was when we sent three of our finance gurus to train with IBM – this helped us build momentum for the project internally and gain confidence that we would have the skills to develop the model the way we wanted.”

Going all-in with user adoption

With the software in place, the project team brought together the key planning owners from across the business, showed them how the solution would affect their working practices, and sought their input on how to fine-tune the IBM Cognos Express Xcelerator template that would replace their existing spreadsheets.

“Gaining buy-in from the users was relatively easy because we were able to make the Xcelerator template look and feel a lot like their existing spreadsheets,” says the Senior Director. “The flexibility of Cognos Express and its familiar spreadsheet-like interface is a huge selling-point for anyone who works in finance, because users are instantly comfortable with how to use it.”

A full house for planning, budgeting and forecasting

The resort has succeeded in uniting 150 departments and three main lines of business into a single driver-based planning model, which can be analyzed to provide new insights.

The solution has also dramatically increased efficiencies within the finance and strategic planning teams, reducing the weekly forecasting process from two days down to just one. Equally, creating monthly management reports now takes five minutes. As a result, the hotel should achieve a full return on investment within two years.

Backing the winner

“The best evidence of the value of Cognos Express is that the whole organization is adopting it,” says the Senior Director. “It is not just seen as a finance tool any more – people from across the business are coming to us, telling us what they want to see next. When you get that kind of buy-in, that’s when you know you have been successful.”

He concludes: “We have a long wish-list already – there are at least 12 items we want to build into the next few iterations of the model, to give us even deeper insight into areas such as payroll forecasting, and help us understand how the performance of one part of the business can affect another. With the growing expertise of our in-house team, and Aviana and IBM to support us, we’re confident that we can make the solution even more valuable to the business as we move forward.”

The ad hoc reporting capabilities are a huge improvement over what we used before. I’m able to gather data and build one-off reports with just a few clicks of the mouse, and our analysts have seen big productivity gains around our ad hoc financial analysis projects.”

— Senior Director, Strategic Planning, A Las Vegas Resort