Teenage student using the microscope in the laboratory

New flexibility for Wellcome Sanger Institute fuels COVID-19 fight-back

Better forecasting, clearer scenarios and centralized assumptions deliver improved planning at world-leading research body.

Although it’s one of the world’s premier scientific institutions, the Wellcome Sanger Institute was struggling with an outdated Finance solution. The over-reliance on spreadsheets and manual updates this caused added massively to the challenges of an already complex organization.

The most urgent demands facing Allen Swann, Head of Commercial Finance, included the need for better forecasting, planning and delivery of day-to-day activities. “We wanted a single platform where all data, workings and assumptions are in one place, enabling anyone to understand exactly where they are.”

That’s precisely what they got with Workday Adaptive Planning.  But then the world changed. “Much of our science was immediately diverted to COVID studies. And overnight our senior leaders were asking, ‘How’s this going to affect our finances?’”

“The main advantage is clear visibility around what’s been done, who by, and who’s approved it.”

Head of Commercial Finance

Faster, simpler, more efficient, and effective.

Implementing Workday Adaptive Planning, in collaboration with deployment partner ICit,​​ has empowered Swann and the Financial Planning and Reporting team to radically improve the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of their day-to-day activities.

As Swann says, “It’s fundamentally changed how we work with the Research Managers running the scientific programmes. Rather than talk in finance language, they can now tell us what systems, processes, and scientific activities they’ll be using. We put that information into the system, which automatically converts it into a budget and allocates costs to the correct places. It’s revolutionary.”

The new system is also greatly improving the team’s ability to understand the impact of diverting focus to COVID-19 research on the Institute’s finances. According to Swann, “Thanks to our much-enhanced data-analysis and forecasting capabilities, the leadership team can now make decisions, faster and more accurately than ever before, about what to spend money on and where to reallocate spending.”

Simple scenario-planning for rapid understanding.

In Allen Swann’s view, Workday has proved exceptionally powerful in its ability to play scenarios and change assumptions. “When we recently made changes for revised national insurance charges, we could easily model the impact of changing contribution rates.”

This would have been a huge exercise in the Excel era, involving major changes to all spreadsheets and altering the costs of every member of staff.

But now everything is simpler. “Suddenly we could do it at the touch of a button. You just change the contribution rate on the assumptions sheet, and everything flows through to the staff salary and costs input sheets. You can see the impact immediately—and we’re doing that more and more.”

Regular forecasts support decision-making.

The Finance team’s new ability to regularly update forecasts is directly benefiting management’s ability to make important decisions on where to spend money and where to reallocate budgets.

“With all the changes COVID has made to our scientific activity, budgets have been changing virtually every day,” Swann explains. “Finance has supported this by reforecasting month by month, something we could never have done so quickly.

“Now, we can simply copy last month’s forecast and make any big known changes and tweaks to underlying assumptions. It’s a great step forward—the current climate has made it especially useful for senior management to see and react to these regular reforecasts.”

Easy access to accurate data.

COVID-19 has impacted the Institute much more than most organizations. It’s not only enforced changes to working conditions—it’s also diverted the scientific focus onto COVID-specific projects.

This has greatly increased the value of a streamlined route to up-to-date, accurate data. As Swann says, “With Workday, we can quickly access the crucial data that really empowers us to make better, more informed decisions.”


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