Leading brewer Lion, headquartered in Sydney, is one of Oceania’s largest beverage companies. They are stewards to Australia’s and New Zealand’s most beloved adult beverages brands, some of which are over 100 years old.
In 2017, the company embarked on an ambitious technology transformation, which included reducing the number of operating entities from 300 to 50 and establishing a single chart of accounts. Lion had been a happy Oracle Hyperion customer for over seven years. But, with a new cloud-first strategy, it made sense to update capabilities across enterprise performance management (EPM) to take advantage of what SaaS solutions have to offer.
There was just one problem: timing. With the fiscal year ending in December, Lion had to decide whether to launch the project with an end-of-third-quarter deadline or postpone the project (and the anticipated benefits) well into the next year.
Swaroop Khekale is the enterprise planning leader at Lion Pty, Ltd. When asked if a big bang implementation of planning, financial close, and enterprise data management could be done remotely in three months with a hard stop at the end of the third quarter, his response was: “No problem.”
Prior to joining the Lion team, Swaroop worked as an implementation consultant, deploying Hyperion at Lion. Consequently, he was very familiar with the lay of the land at Lion, as well as the ins and outs of Oracle EPM solutions. But what gave him the confidence to tackle the largescale cloud EPM project was the faith he had in his team.
“When I was with a consulting firm working on projects at Lion, I was overwhelmingly impressed with the sense of ownership and accountability within the company’s culture,” says Swaroop. “I’d never seen that at any other company. It’s a relentless focus on excellence. I wanted to be part of that.”
Swaroop also knew that he had the full support and confidence of executive management and business leaders.
“Sometimes the blockers can be a deadly force for such a transformation project, where people just aren’t willing to take chances,” says Swaroop. “With the strength of our team and the support of management, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
As with other aspects of the company’s transformation, the move to cloud EPM was not scoped as a basic lift and shift, but rather, an opportunity to simplify and rethink the way everything was being done. When simplification is the primary goal, it can often prove to be a disruptive undertaking.
Lion’s commitment to sociability and living well had a direct impact on the success of the cloud EPM rollout. Australia has been called "the world’s most successful multicultural society." Almost half of Australians were either born overseas or have at least one parent that was born overseas. The country has a long history of embracing immigrants; at Lion, embracing inclusion and diversity contributes to the success of achieving their mission.
“We really care for our customers and our employees, wanting them to live well,” says Swaroop. “It’s not really a conscious effort—it’s just part of our DNA. Our cloud EPM launch team is very diverse. Whenever simplification is one of the project goals, it’s going to get very complex. There was a new challenge every day. Each and every voice on the team was heard and everybody was recognized as contributing to the successful go-live.”
Lion had already established a centre of excellence as a shared services group supporting all finance functions. The team charged with deploying cloud EPM had worked together on other projects, establishing chemistry and what Swaroop refers to as “harmony”.
With the nation’s COVID-19 restrictions in place, the team worked remotely throughout the entire project, which proved to be a highly efficient and repeatable strategy. Lion went live on time and on budget at the end of the third quarter in September 2020. Success was validated immediately by the fact that the month-end and quarterly books were closed just as fast as before, and with no disruption. This was a big deal because after establishing a single chart of accounts, Lion had already invested considerable time and effort into streamlining the close process, reducing it from five days to just one or two days.
All the key success factors were achieved. Lion immediately realised the benefits of eliminating the cost and time of maintaining the hundreds of on-premises customisations, as well as the expense of purchasing and maintaining servers. Also of paramount importance, Oracle’s universal adapters were used to establish flawless integrations between Lion’s on-premises ERP system and Oracle Cloud EPM. With Oracle Enterprise Data Management now in place, providing data enrichment and integrity capabilities, there is complete unison between the ERP and EPM solutions.
“End users and leadeship immediately trusted the data they were seeing,” says Swaroop. “And, by adopting the best practices in Oracle Cloud EPM and with innovation delivered in monthly updates, our finance and IT teams have not broken their stride in their commitment to continuous process improvement. Our finance staff are now empowered and equipped to deliver better insights on consumer behaviour to our business managers.”
In Australia, consumer preferences for beverages are constantly evolving. The global pandemic has accelerated some trends. The company is focused on diversifying by expanding their focus on beer alternatives and other adult beverages.
“Our leadership encourages us to constantly challenge the status quo,” says Swaroop. “It’s a competitive marketplace and we’re required to innovate all the time. That’s what makes this fun. We know that with the continuous updates delivered through Oracle Cloud EPM, we’re going to have the tools we need to remain agile. And we know that the data is in synch with our ERP system—we can absolutely trust it. We’ve found that many of our meetings with our business leaders are now shorter because they're not fighting over whether the data is right or not.”