Case study: CHRISTUS Health’s 12-week budget transformation

Stephanie Rendon, Director of Finance for IT at CHRISTUS Health, leveraged a 12-week window between budget cycles to improve an inefficient, manual budget process, systematically driving more relevant and actionable budgets that increased accountability among budget owners. This gave her team much needed bandwidth to focus on analysis and support of smarter spend strategies for one of the largest Catholic health systems in the U.S.

In this case study, you will get first-hand insight into solving complex IT planning challenges. Some of the questions answered include:

  • How do we implement a solution that cuts budget planning time so we can focus on more strategic initiatives?
  • How can we make the planning process more actionable for budget owners?
  • How can we capture all IT costs, including shadow IT?

Up and running in 6 weeks, value in 12 weeks

Though Rendon had missed the window for executive review for the new fiscal year, there was time to integrate a new IT planning process for departmental budgets due by early July. “We started in April and by mid-May we were up and running.”

“We were seeing value as early as July when we were able to notify the managers that their budgets were ready for review. 12 weeks after initial kick-off, it was a huge accomplishment for my team to have an application in place that cut down the email, version tracking, and changes that were once all-consuming.”

Increased business unit accountability through better engagement

“In the past, we would generate each of the managers’ departmental financials in Excel, and it was always in an income statement format (i.e., cost centers and accounts). So if the manager wasn’t familiar with reading income statement formats, if they didn’t know where their software was, or if we had it categorized in a general ledger account they didn’t understand, we would have to sit with each manager to explain it to them.”

The IT budget consists of operating expenses like infrastructure, labor, depreciation, and software contracts—but IT finance relied on data from a corporate finance system focused on patient volumes, revenue, expense, and statistics related to areas that fluctuate with patient volume.

“The integration of contracts within Apptio IT Planning was essential for us. Now each manager helps us categorize contracts to the appropriate budget. And managers can see where the budget varies from vendor agreements,” says Rendon.

The Apptio IT Planning system’s graphs, charts, and dashboards offer a visual representation of the impact of certain expenditures in the budget, something budget owners didn’t have before. “We don’t have the manpower to create what Apptio already does easily with graphs, charts, and trends. We make a minor adjustment in Apptio now and we can crank it out in a matter of seconds. That’s something we just couldn’t do before.”

With the budget presented in language and visual representations the business understands, business units can easily verify and be more accountable for their expenses.

Surfacing shadow IT via SaaS contracts

Ungoverned software expenditures are brought to light with more transparent cost analysis. “We have people here who go off to conferences, become exposed to new solutions, and get excited because they want to bring new solutions back to their department. And in some cases, they don’t feel they need to go through IT to acquire or implement the new product,” says Rendon. “The result is that we don’t necessarily understand what we’re paying for.”

To solve for this, Rendon captures new subscription service agreements in the IT plan. This puts CHRISTUS Health in a better position for risk management and information security. With more than 1,200 applications in play corporate wide, SaaS is an ongoing focus—but with these contracts now visible in the budget, the IT team is better able to manage risks, evaluate costs, and communicate impacts to executives.

Changing the conversation with business partners

“Initially, we invested in Apptio IT Planning for the huge time savings we knew we’d achieve. But it has also changed the conversations we’re having with the business and fostered better, more collaborative relationships with budget owners.”

“We are no longer being asked ‘do I have this budgeted?’ or ‘is this in there?’ Instead, budget managers are asking for clarification about the value they’re getting from services, the effect demand has on specific areas of the budget, and the impact of adjustments we can make throughout the year. Apptio IT Planning has helped us get back to financial analysis, which is where we longed to be.”

To read more about CHRISTUS Health’s IT planning transformation, download the full case study, Unity Through Autonomy: How CHRISTUS Health Transformed IT Planning.

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