Apptio Helps The Standard Optimize Cloud Costs and Align IT Spend With Key Business Strategies

“They had never seen anything like this before. The level of maturity of our financial planning process and feedback on our impact has been off the charts since we deployed Apptio.”

The Standard is a leading provider of financial products and services, including group and individual disability insurance, group life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, group dental and vision insurance, group accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance, paid family leave and absence management services, retirement plans services and individual annuities.

Founded and still headquartered in Portland, Oregon, the company has been helping people achieve financial well-being and peace of mind for 117 years.

Limited cost transparency presented a challenge

Competing in the financial services industry means evolving and growing in the face of constant change and fierce competition. To meet profitable growth objectives, The Standard deployed a dual-pronged strategy of digital transformation and strategic acquisitions. This meant unprecedented levels of investment in transformation focused on retirement product innovation, enhanced data platforms, and digitized insurance sales and service capabilities.

Although the business areas and IT enjoy a strong partnership, the lack of transparency on key drivers of technology spending was a barrier to more efficient alignment on run versus transformation spending. The Standard needed to better understand the baseline and more clearly articulate the key drivers of direct and indirect expenses.

“Analysis and reporting at an account or category level did little to educate the business on the cost of running IT or more clearly show the year-over-year results of enhancements or new capabilities,” said Dickson Kasamale, second vice president of IT Finance and Analytics at The Standard. “Not having the insight significantly diminished the efficiency of business and IT prioritization.”

At the time, The Standard relied on information from its legacy ERP system and spreadsheets to prepare the budget, analyze financial data, and make decisions about technology investments. The approach was manually intensive, fraught with data-normalization challenges, and insufficient for segmenting spend into business-friendly views or actionable insights.

“My mandate was to build cost transparency that delivers actionable insights and enables faster decision-making while fostering a deeper partnership between IT and business areas,” Kasamale said.

The solution

To do that, Kasamale turned to Apptio. Beginning early 2020, Kasamale started replacing the company’s spreadsheet-oriented process with ApptioOne. This included codifying the TBM taxonomy into their new Workday ERP system, allowing Kasamale’s team to plan for, analyze, and deliver insights using spending dimensions that business leaders could understand.

At the same time, the organization implemented Apptio Cloudability for cloud cost management and Apptio Targetprocess for resource and portfolio management. This allowed the company to gain even more visibility, insight, and control over its accelerating investments in digital capabilities, and more recently to manage integration planning and financial governance of two acquisitions.

Apptio solutions helped form the foundation of the company’s IT planning and delivery processes and have driven significant outcomes for the business.

The results

Increased alignment and financial agility

According to Kasamale, The Standard struggled to dynamically size opportunities for shifting spending to strategic areas prior to implementing Apptio. “It was hard for us to hold off spending in one area in order to prioritize another,” he said. “The leadership team didn’t have enough insights on discretionary spending capacity to drive more efficient prioritization of funds across IT functions or portfolios, and this caused portfolio budget overages for several years.”

To shift their focus accordingly, Apptio introduced The Standard to a standardized cost model alongside investment, project, product, labor, and planning tools. These have enabled their IT Finance team to focus 80% of their time on analysis, decision support, forecasting, and insights. Apptio tools have also enabled the leadership team to more confidently shift funding to accomplish objectives and more consistently achieve financial targets in recent years.

“The quality of financial plan segmentation and insights raised the bar for budget analytics and storytelling,” Kasamale said. “They had never seen anything like this before. The level of maturity of our financial planning process and feedback on our results has been off the charts since we deployed Apptio.”

More control over cloud spend

Another benefit of Apptio has been increased visibility into the company’s cloud spending, a rapidly growing area of spending driven primarily by digital transformation and core infrastructure services. This has given the company’s product and application leaders valuable insight that has helped them make better decisions about cloud purchases and drive optimization accountability.

According to Kasamale, with the implementation of Cloudability, the company’s Azure footprint increased by five times in three years, so The Standard partnered with Accenture’s Tech Value Practice to accelerate the adoption of FinOps and cloud governance practices. An analysis in search of Azure rightsizing opportunities uncovered potential savings, leading to changes in the company’s cloud environments which are projected to reduce the company’s cloud spend in 2023 by 10% — and 2024 looks even better.

“The biggest payoff is to the trajectory for 2024,” Kasamale said. “We were facing a 30% increase in organic Azure growth in a year and we also renegotiated rates with Microsoft. With all the optimizations that we have done to date, coupled with decisions that have influenced changes to data architecture, we are on track to absorb the effects of organic growth and are better positioned to negotiate our purchasing renewal.”

Better resource and program management

Digital transformation has and will continue to be part of The Standard’s business strategy. But managing delivery teams working on transformation initiatives was challenging, given the organization’s holding company structure and centralized delivery approach.

“Our development teams are dispersed,” said Kaarina Bourquin, director of Strategy and Portfolio Operations and Technology at The Standard. “While we do Agile delivery, we also do waterfall. We need tools and processes that can provide operational insights, regardless of delivery methodology.”

Bourquin added that it was important for teams to find a common language between delivery methodologies. The teams not only needed to see what they were being asked to do now but also in the future to understand where to invest from a capabilities standpoint and deliver the work in an optimized way.

“We have a mixture of dedicated and shared teams,” she said. “We have multiple portfolios across multiple lines of business. We must figure out capacity and sequencing across this mix and plan the work that needs to get done, which includes portfolio investment, operations, and maintenance. Visibility is important to us.”

From an operational perspective, the organization needed a better way to manage its strategy-to-value-delivery lifecycle, taking into consideration both product-oriented work and project-oriented work, to ensure business leaders worked collaboratively despite the organizational complexity.

This was one of the main reasons the company looked at Apptio Targetprocess. The other had a lot to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were scrambling to figure out how to do big room planning virtually,” Bourquin said. “How do we take these exercises, which are heavily in-person centric, and move them to a virtual environment?”

According to Bourquin, they implemented Apptio Targetprocess to help them align team workstreams to business priorities. In turn, this created transparency, helped identify risks or impediments, and ultimately gave the team visibility into consolidated workflows that showed them the information about active or completed projects including status, stakeholders, relevant dependencies, committed work, and progress.

“Our say:do ratio — what we as an IT organization say we will do versus what we actually deliver — is important,” Bourquin said. “Apptio Targetprocess has definitely made it easier for us to consistently measure that.” The say:do ratio increased by 20%, an improvement that goes beyond delivering more; it revolves around shared visibility into commitments, enabling the team to efficiently manage distractions and achieve tasks faster.

Allocating resources and tracking the status of work are only two of the benefits the company has received so far. Bourquin said they have started to use Apptio Targetprocess not only to maintain a list of strategic initiatives but also as a tool to help them add new ideas to the portfolio funnel and create requests for resource assignments.

“Strategic portfolio management is a big focus for us right now,” she said. “This is where I see the value of Apptio Targetprocess increasing for us. When I think about planning for enterprise, portfolios , programs, or projects, I think about Apptio Targetprocess.”

Next steps and advice to others

When asked about advice for others who may be in the early stages of their Technology Business Management journey, Kasamale said, “Don’t wait. You can get started quickly just with Agile budget reporting and spending segmentation while using the core foundational components of Apptio. And that will help your leaders understand how to shift budget from run to funding grow and transform initiatives.”

The Standard has already benefitted tremendously from implementing ApptioOne, Cloudability, and Targetprocess, and the company plans to use Apptio to gain even more success. From fully integrating strategic portfolio management to establishing complete chargeback capabilities, The Standard considers Apptio to be an instrumental platform for the organization and is looking for applications to help drive significant business results in the future.

“Apptio has been an indispensable tool for helping our IT leaders solve pressing issues around transparency, financial agility, and transformation,” Kasamale said. “There are so many challenges IT leaders must navigate today — not being able to understand or tell their financial story to the business area should not be one of them.”

Sign up for a personalized demo of Apptio and see how you can increase cost transparency, align spending with strategic priorities, and enable real-time analysis for faster decision-making.

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