Customer Story: FirstService Residential

Vena Helps FirstService Residential Consolidate FP&A Data 90% Faster

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Customer Snapshot: FirstService Residential

One of the largest residential property management firms in North America

FP&A team consolidates data from 30 regional markets, corporate HQ in Florida

Integrations: Microsoft Dynamics GP for ERP

FirstService Residential Before Vena

Robbie Phillips is no stranger to massive Excel spreadsheets. After 15 years in finance with some of America’s most successful companies, you could almost say Excel is like a second language for her. 

But like all seasoned finance pros, Phillips knows how tough it is to rely solely on offline spreadsheets for advanced planning processes. As Director of FP&A at FirstService Residential—one of the largest property management firms in North America—Phillips is in charge of consolidating data from the company’s 30 regional markets for accurate budgeting and forecasting.

Prior to launching Vena, this process was entirely manual for FirstService. Phillips and her colleagues would spend all of their time gathering data from each market and re-inputting it back into Excel, with no time left to actually analyze what those numbers might mean for the business. 

“For budgeting and forecasting in particular, that was thousands of Excel documents, thousands of workbooks, each workbook having multiple tabs, in excess of 30 tabs in some cases,” says Phillips. “The task of coordinating and consolidating was a very big one.”

“The biggest factor was ease-of-use because Vena is Excel-based. If you’re working in finance or FP&A, you’re already an advanced Excel user, so that was really important to us.”

Robbie Phillips

Robbie Phillips

FP&A Director

FirstService Residential

The Vena Solution

Before implementing Vena in the summer of 2016, FirstService had looked at three other tools without pulling the trigger on any of them. But when Vena came to the table, Phillips was immediately drawn to the platform’s usability and minimal learning requirements.

“The biggest factor was ease-of-use because Vena is Excel-based,” she says. “If you’re working in finance or FP&A, you’re already an advanced Excel user, so that was really important to us.”

The Vena implementation allowed FirstService to automate data consolidation for the company’s regional finance teams and to provide each market with a secure, centralized cloud database for all FP&A functions. Other key deliverables from Vena—on top of cleaning up all those messy offline spreadsheets—were workflow automation and audit trails.

Once the solution was live in every market, it didn’t take long for Phillips to realize that her manual spreadsheet woes would soon be a thing of the past.

FirstService Residential with Vena

90% reduction in consolidation times, from a day and a half to one hour

Familiar Excel interface requires minimal training and provides greater comfort for users

Advanced drill-down capabilities for easier analysis of each individual business unit

Key Results

The results? Hours of time saved, greater transparency across the business and an elevated role for the office of finance. Now, instead of spending hours consolidating data manually, Phillips and her team can perform real value-add analysis and empower senior leadership with the insights they need to make strategic decisions for the company.

“One of the things that we do in the corporate office is consolidate for all of the markets, all of the regions, all of the divisions. It’s down from maybe a day and a half to an hour,” she says. “Now the teams have more time to do more of the analytical work, which is what we’re there for.”

A personal win for Phillips is her ability to hold each market accountable for their numbers and to better understand how each of FirstService’s divisions are contributing to the overall health of the business. With Vena, she’s now able to drill down into each market, analyze their KPIs and formulate her own conclusions.

“It allows me to answer questions and to also challenge some of the assumptions that the markets may have,” she explains. “Now I can go back to senior management and have them feel that the final budget is not only accurate, but representative as well.”