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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How One Company Engineers Vision in Finance

Jennifer Toomey
Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle

As a leading engineering and consulting services firm with 80 years of history and marquee projects to its name, Michael Baker International has built more than just an impressive business. Projects have included West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and work that supports U.S. federal, state, and municipal governments, foreign allied governments, and a wide range of commercial clients. The organization’s prior planning system—a combination of Adaptive Insights and Excel templates—simply could not keep up with the organization’s vast workload.

David Dawson, Michael Baker’s VP and Director of Business Intelligence, chose Oracle EPM Cloud to revolutionize the company’s planning process, connecting the executive vision for growth with the information needed to guide strategic planning. Dawson recognized an opportunity to redefine financial planning with detailed analysis of Michael Baker’s workforce, project, and expense data.

Michael Baker Frees up Time to Focus on Clients: Watch the Video

The challenges: Inefficient manual processes and data silos

As the business grew significantly, the limitations of Michael Baker’s previous solution became clear. “We had a lot of manual processes,” Dawson recalls. “Our systems did not connect and interact with each other, so we would need at least six weeks to just move data back and forth to get our system ready for a budgeting cycle.” Its prior software couldn’t easily share data with the company’s Oracle software, such as E-Business Suite and Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud, including the Taleo recruitment solution. Instead, the team had to manually extract the data, reformat it, and load it into the other systems. All this manual administrative effort took project managers away from their clients, putting more of a burden on them to provide the level of customer service the company is known for.

To move forward, Michael Baker needed a solution that eliminated manual processes and integrated fully with the company’s other enterprise software systems, providing end-to-end visibility into the many variables that go into project budgets. Dawson also sought a solution that would make it easy to complete the budgeting process in a timely and efficient manner.

The solution: Seamless data integration, ease of use

Dawson chose Oracle EPM Cloud for its planning and budgeting capabilities as well as its seamless integration with other Oracle software and its reputation for its robust performance and ease of use. The redesigned solution uses individual employee and project data to analyze revenue and expenses for current, upcoming, and future projects, as well as Michael Baker’s capacity to deliver the resources needed. By integrating the data from the project management, CRM, timekeeping, and expense systems, Oracle EPM Cloud provides insight that directs operational decisions such as regional capacity, forecasting, and flexing nonbillable resources.

From a 6-week lead time down to one

“Implementing planning in the Oracle EPM Cloud changed our business because it allowed our end users to focus on what they need to focus on,” Dawson says. “And it allowed finance to focus on driving change within the business to make better decisions.” The system’s automation allows Dawson and his team to get project portfolio information daily from source systems, rather than requiring Michael Baker’s 700 project managers to supply the information manually—freeing up their time to focus on serving clients. As a result, Michael Baker was able to reduce lead time for the budgeting process from six weeks to just one. And because the solution is connected to other enterprise software, it can extract employee data from HCM Cloud and open requisitions from Taleo to prepopulate with current staffing information. What’s more, maintenance requirements have shrunk considerably.

“We no longer need a full-time person to maintain our system, and now it's done on a part-time basis,” Dawson says. Earlier this year, Michael Baker and Dawson were recognized for their achievements with an Oracle Change Agents of Finance Award.

More than cost and time savings

Beyond cost and time savings, Michael Baker gained the ability to give its talent acquisition group information ahead of time on the potential need for new hires.

“One of the challenges that's specific to the engineering industry is finding the right people with the skill sets we need to be able to design world-class projects for our clients,” Dawson explains. “Now, as we budget, we can put in the talent requirements we think we're going to face down the line based on the potential wins in the pipeline.” This gives Michael Baker’s recruiters time to reach out to potential hires in advance rather than reactively at the last minute.

“When you’re in a service industry, the ability to budget and plan accurately is at the heart of your business,” Dawson concludes. “By seamlessly connecting our planning solution to other systems, we don’t have to involve nearly as many employees in the budgeting process. And freeing employees to focus on the business lets Michael Baker do more innovative projects.”

Read more about Michael Baker's win at the 2019 Change Agents of Finance Awards.

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