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  • 1.  Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-10-2022 11:45
    I would like to hear from people their experience in implementing Vena.  I think that would help new Vena implementers.

    Of course, the first hurdle is the training for setting up templates and reports.  It is necessary to have the full 4 days of training.  Key is getting the people with the skills and aptitude necessary to set up the Vena spreadsheets.  It takes time to set up but with the training it will move along very well.

    The modeling was fairly easy. We had already thought about what we needed and wanted.  It is fairly easy to do in Vena.

    For us (WWF-Canada), I think one pain point was the automated uploading of data from our accounting system (MS Dynamics GP - 2018) into Vena.  We had hired one person who did the coding which worked for a couple of months and then stopped working after our fiscal year end.  We had to go to another consulting vendor to do the coding correctly.  Live and learn I guess.  Anyway, it took time to get that done correctly, but once it started working properly we don't have to even think about it.  It automatically loads up the data 4am even day - no issues.

    So, how was your experience implementing Vena?

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    David Cornfield
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  • 2.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-16-2022 11:27
    David,

    Our implementation was expedited in a short aggressive time fame  in order to have the VENA system  available for our 2022 Budget (Kicked off in late September). We currently load our feeds manually we receive from IT via the source book or record database (Oracle). Liberty Bank had much success with almost all of our Templates and users experiences entering data was generally positive. VENA built and provided our core reports agreed upon from the Project Scope document and they have had their normal challenges.  Our main goals at this point is to build out more robust, flexible reports for ad hoc analysis and research and improve performance issues we have encountered in the budgeting period. We are satisfied overall with the product and  hope to leverage more of the capabilities available in VENA for reporting use, automation and general process efficiency.

    Christopher Rivera

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    Christopher Rivera
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  • 3.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-17-2022 12:06
    Much like Chris, we completed our implemented in a compressed timeline as we not only wanted to start forecasting straight away, I was desperate to replace our daily financial reporting from its form at that time. We had converted our core system (Horizon XE, a banking core) and with that came a much less friendly report repository, and we had already been getting asked to do more drill-down/drill-through activities, so it certainly made more sense to make the change ASAP.

    The implementation team we had specific ideas on the templates they had worked with for other institutions, which made discussing what we wanted a much less painful process. Part of the trade-off with the speed we wanted is that we didn't deep dive on the more advanced items like LIDs and Calcs, so we are looking to spend some time on those this year.

    One suggestion I would make to everyone implementing is that whoever you expect to own the system should really spend the time learning from the implementation team exactly how the integrations work. This gives you more flexibility to recreate or modify the work when the need arises, without having to reengage support. We have had almost no problems since implementation of getting our hierarchy, accounts, and transactions updated daily. This is for both our main budget process and cube, as well as our daily reporting cube.

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    Gus Arndt
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  • 4.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-17-2022 14:06
    At PIH, we insisted on building budget templates that mirrored our existing Excel based templates as closely as possible and as a non-profit we wanted to learn the necessary skills to manage our Vena environment in house so that we weren't paying consultant fees when we needed an update down the road. This lead us to setting up a coaching relationship during our implementation where we'd do the actual template building, while leaning on a Vena consultant for guidance. The first year of our implementation, I was the sole implementer/administrator and my lesson from that is to make sure you have at least 2 people in your organization learning how to manage the environment. You can always lean on your implementation consultant, but having a couple of in house experts allows you to to bounce around ideas to tweak and build new templates as needed post-implementation. In year 2, we hired another team member who used the Vena Academy to get up to speed on the basics, and then I added more context about our data models and templates. Since then, we've been able to tag-team new templates/reports and share the workload more evenly.

    As far as pain points, we needed to be able to work in offline settings which ruled out some native features in Vena like Line Item Details, and so we had to build a number of macros to recreate functionality like add/remove/copy a line. This added complexity to our build-out, but also to the experience of our end users because they needed to learn how to enable macros. After using Vena for 5 years, and creating a newer template that uses Line Item Details, I think our lesson is that it's better to try to use the native Vena features to see how they work as much as possible before going the macro route.

    Since the start, we've only been pulling data out of Vena into our data warehouse. That process was pretty simple to setup and we've created and edited those scripts over the years on our own as needed. We don't push data into Vena on a regular basis other than our once per year manual loading of our current workforce to have a base starting point for our fiscal year planning. Our operating data usually just gets versioned over within Vena to get the base set of data. We've talked about pushing general ledger data into Vena from time to time, but it hasn't been a priority given our ability to build reports off of our data warehouse.

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    Brendan Eger
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  • 5.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-25-2022 08:16
    really interesting hearing about others' experiences.
    For Citizens Advice, we had a pretty smooth implementation.
    For myself & our Senior Management Accountant, it was a pretty intense couple of months (particularly as I had timed the go-live to coincide with my taking of 5 months parental leave- slightly inadvisable but focuses the mind!).  But sharing the work was really valuable & given us good internal resilience. ( @brendan we avoided your pitfall more by luck than judgement I think!). And we got it in place for the desired forecasting round.

    We had a really positive experience with the Vena implementing team - with a huge amount of knowledge sharing and flexibility, as we certainly adapted scope during the work.

    Much like Brendan, we were able to use our & Venafy (Venaify/Venacize?) existing Excel ​templates in a couple of key areas, in particular for how we managed our staff budgeting, which was really valuable for buy-in from the finance team.  In other areas we found the Vena standard templates to be suitable starting points. 

    Like others, the integration of data from our source ERP (Infor SunSystems) was a bit of a challenge, although that was more about pulling data out of Sun than getting data into Vena. We have an automated overnight load. But all too easy to underestimate the time and effort on that aspect. 

    We have used Line-Item Details from the start, although they came with some health warnings. We have some Mac users, and we found (and to be fair, we were warned) that LIDs did cause issues. We continue to find LIDs to be the most likely cause of anything going awry, but ultimately have developed suitable, quick workarounds/fixes, such that they still offer something really useful for many.

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    Josh Weinberg
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  • 6.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Founding Member
    Posted 03-29-2022 17:11
    I recently watched the demo portion of The Not For Profit Pros Meetup and Demo, which I wasn't able to catch earlier (even though I was on the panel...) and found that the templates used in the demo were really interesting and approach things very differently than how we do. Like @Josh Weinberg and I mentioned earlier in this thread, Vena's flexibility to build nearly exactly what we ​​​​had previously was a huge benefit for us, I'm finding more and more that many of us are working in a vacuum and could really benefit from developing/sharing some best practices. As much as we might think that our challenges are unique, we're actually not alone and we can help each other think through better approaches to template/report/data model design choices that allow us to collect and visualize the most important information, but do so in more efficient ways.

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    Brendan Eger
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  • 7.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Posted 05-15-2022 21:05
    I know this thread is a couple months old, but wanted to chime in.

    We are been in the implementation phase for the last 9 months. We started mid-August 2021. Unfortunately, Vena implementation has not gone as we had hoped. We have a phenomenal Vena consultant and project manager, but the process is what has been lacking.

    The 4 days of online training before we started with our lead consultant left more questions than answers. The training started us in the middle of a process and how that process worked. But we were still not clear on how we got to that process, thus we couldn't build upon what we learned. Instead we pieced together what we learned to figure it out. It would have been helpful for us to start at the beginning and work our way through the entire process. During Paul Barnhurst's Excelerate 2022 session, his discussion of the Design & Build Process immediately made me think of how this training/implementation has gone. I feel like we discussed step 1 (1. Plan model (question being answered), but then jumped into step 7 of model building (7. Complete cover sheet, exec summary). What I mean by this is that the Vena team asked us questions, then built the reports/templates for us (including all the behind the scenes stuff) and then we verified that all the numbers tied out. We very much wanted to be able to understand ALL the behind the scenes stuff, how the reports/templates were built and how they function, then verify all the numbers. We asked for time to watch how all the behind the scenes stuff was made and reports/templates were built/function, but that didn't happen. It wasn't in scope. We felt confident during demo's that from what we learned we would be able to be self-sufficient and know how to do everything ourselves.

    After 9 months, we are now able to do a lot of the basic mappings and functionality. But that didn't come to fruition until month 5-6, during a coaching session. During that session we were taught the extreme basics of how to map a template. And since that point we HAVE been able to build our own templates, but it wasn't until then did I understand how it all worked together. We are a relatively savvy excel team. We wouldn't have taken on the project if we didn't think we could have been self-sufficient, but it just took a long time. I really thought we would have completed implementation in 8 weeks like we had originally planned. The timeline of implementation is not entirely a reflection of the Vena process. We had to include time to still complete all our normal job duties, including month end close each month. We are lean, but we are all about process improvement.

    One of the other expectations of Vena was the drill down process (there are a couple different ways to do this, I'm referencing the Zoom In/Out). It does drill down/zoom in/out, but it is extremely slow. We are not a large company, so we can't figure out why it is so slow for us. Not sure if our hierarchy is too big or if there are too many mappings? We know there are very large Vena customers and we are tiny compared to them. We have asked. And it all depends. If anyone is able to use the Zoom In/Out function in a very quick manner please let me know how you do it. I cannot show my VP of Finance this functionality without embarrassment, so I definitely can't show this functionality to any other executive level or board member.

    I am still PRO Vena even though our implementation has been off to a slow/rocky start. I wanted to mostly share so that new customers know that if they are expecting a start at the beginning and work your way through the entire process along side your consultant that will NOT be happening. This is not my first implementation, so I have had the opportunity to start from beginning to end. There is a difference. But if you are wanting for someone else to build the process, templates, reports, integrations, calculations, etc for you then this is what you can expect.

    Again, this is not a reflection of the Vena people, they are amazing and have followed the scope. I'm glad it sounds like we are an exception. I suppose there has to be one. 

    Thanks,
    Carrie

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    Carrie Billings
    Assistant Controller
    Indiana Institute of Technology
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  • 8.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Venanite
    Posted 05-17-2022 17:39

    Thank you for taking the time in sharing your implementation experience @Carrie Billings.

    This is the specific type of feedback (especially your comment about step 1 to 7) that will help us fine-tune and improve our processes.​ Your points have been communicated to our internal group of Vena Experts who will reach out shortly to gain more of your insight. Also, as part of every customer's implementation experience, there is a CSAT where you can rate/address specific areas directly related to your implementation that has full visibility across Vena. An additional avenue to continue the conversation. :)

    In the mean time, thank you again for taking your time in sharing your implementation notes.



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    Truman Tang
    Principal
    Vena Solutions
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  • 9.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Posted 05-18-2022 15:36
    Hello @Carrie Billings

    Thank you for your post and for sharing your experience. Your feedback is very useful in helping us continue to adapt and continuously improve our implementation and training processes.

    One of the main pieces of feedback I am hearing is that you feel that training and coaching could have been earlier in the implementation, more thorough, and better timed to assist with your learning and enablement. This is great feedback, and similar feedback has helped us release our new blended training model where the sessions are delivered throughout the implementation instead of them all being at the beginning. Offering just-in-time training through the implementation helps to ensure that the sessions are delivered when they provide the most value to our clients. 

    Another piece of feedback I am hearing is that you would have liked to be much more involved in the actual configuration of the foundation reports and templates. I completely understand and empathize with wanting to learn as much as possible behind the scenes during configuration, however it is difficult for our consultants to build out the deliverables and ensure they are ready for review and testing while on live calls. Our standard approach is to build out deliverables to ensure they are ready for review and testing before reviewing on calls together. Coaching sessions are often used to build on knowledge of the behind-the-scenes data model, report mapping, and template building topics.

    Regarding the zoom in /out functionality taking a long amount of time, I do recall seeing this while you were sharing your screen. The same performance timing was not experienced on our side during configuration or testing. Timing and performance issues often are related to computer specifications, such as the CPU or RAM available. I will follow up with you to review this piece together.

    I am happy to hear that you are still looking forward to using Vena, and I look forward to you continuing to grow and build out more processes in Vena in the future. It has been a great project working with you and the rest of the Indiana Institute of Technology team.

    Thank you!



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    Matt Clarke
    Project Manager
    Vena Solutions
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  • 10.  RE: Implementing Vena

    Posted 05-19-2022 13:16


    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for responding to my post. I know you have heard me say this before, but appreciate the time to reply via the Forum. You know that you and Jeff have been awesome to work with. It is the process where we have struggled.

    I just wanted to comment on a few things. Please see in red.

    One of the main pieces of feedback I am hearing is that you feel that training and coaching could have been earlier in the implementation, more thorough, and better timed to assist with your learning and enablement. This is not what I meant. I wanted to learn all functionality within our scope starting from step 1 to the end of the process. I feel the process starts in the middle of all the functionality and only shows the customer the end product to review. This is not at all what we were sold. We were told we would be taught how to build the entire process. And that we would be able to build our own templates, integration, reports by the end of implementation.  I have only learned maybe half of this functionality. This is great feedback, and similar feedback has helped us release our new blended training model where the sessions are delivered throughout the implementation instead of them all being at the beginning. Offering just-in-time training through the implementation helps to ensure that the sessions are delivered when they provide the most value to our clients. I truly appreciate that Vena is improving the training/implementation process. I would have benefited most by understanding how step 1 worked before step 6. The training jumps straight into step 6 and then tells you that you will learn step 1-5 later in training. I couldn't fully comprehend step 6 until I understood step 1. I finally understood parts of step 1 five months into training/implementation. Again, you and Jeff explained step 1 great once we got there. I completely understand you are following the Vena process, so nothing against either of you. 

    Another piece of feedback I am hearing is that you would have liked to be much more involved in the actual configuration of the foundation reports and templates. This is exactly what I meant!! :) I wanted to see how everything was built because then I understand the system AND will want to use Vena MORE!!!! I can't dump everything into Vena if I don't know how it works. I want to, but can't until I understand the system. In my opinion this would be a huge win for Vena to have customers completely (for the most part) rely on Vena. Vena IS a great platform. I want to use it all, but am limited right now. I completely understand and empathize with wanting to learn as much as possible behind the scenes during configuration, however it is difficult for our consultants to build out the deliverables and ensure they are ready for review and testing while on live calls. Our standard approach is to build out deliverables to ensure they are ready for review and testing before reviewing on calls together. Coaching sessions are often used to build on knowledge of the behind-the-scenes data model, report mapping, and template building topics. I get it...coaching sessions = $$ for Vena. We purchased coaching hours. We definitely don't expect everything is free. But I have been through several other implementations and have had the most success from those where we were included in the actual building of the process. Yes, those were hours/days spent of build out. We chose Vena because we would be self-sufficient (for the most part). Because we were told we would be able to know the system after implementation to run with and make our own process, etc. We are utilizing Vena's ENTIRE platform, which is NOT what we intended to do. Since we pay for the entire platform we wanted to make the most of it. 

    Regarding the zoom in /out functionality taking a long amount of time, I do recall seeing this while you were sharing your screen. The same performance timing was not experienced on our side during configuration or testing. Timing and performance issues often are related to computer specifications, such as the CPU or RAM available. I will follow up with you to review this piece together. During one of the Excelerate sessions they mentioned this being an issue and is being improved by 500x. Can't wait to see this enhancement.

    Thank you again for taking the time to respond!
    Carrie



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    Carrie Billings
    Assistant Controller
    Indiana Institute of Technology
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