Best Emerging Technology Solution Highly Commended: Heathrow Airport

Published: Aug 2023
Airport with planes being loaded

Vandana Vajir

Head of Finance: Treasury Operations, Credit & Systems
Heathrow Airport logo

Heathrow Airport Holdings is the United Kingdom-based operator of Heathrow Airport.

in partnership with

ERP connector delivers transformation for Heathrow treasury

The challenge

Heathrow Airport began its treasury transformation journey back in 2021, when it split its TMS landscape between treasury operations and accounting functions. With functional limitations in the legacy TMS systems it was left with highly manual and time-consuming processes.

Going to market the company looked for a strategic technology partner who could assist with its existing functional challenges, but also set the foundations for innovation and modernisation of its entire treasury function in the new digital world.

“Supporting this vision, one of the guiding principles of our programme was to ensure we sought to identify, validate and then implement the latest digital technologies to support our operational objectives, satisfy our programme ROI and to ensure Heathrow treasury is ‘future-proofed’ in the new digital world,” explains Vandana Vajir, Head of Finance: Treasury Operations, Credit & Systems.

The vision was to use the digital technologies which can make both an immediate, and long-term difference to Heathrow with a strong focus on ‘real-time’ and ‘cloud integration.’

One of the KPIs of the mandate was to deploy technologies that brought the TMS and ERP (Oracle Fusion) world’s together in a manner that had previously not been possible. Historically, Heathrow had suffered from complex and manual accounting integrations, resulting in month-end close challenges and delays and cash visibility that was heavily dependent on manual aggregation and Excel spreadsheets, resulting in the inefficient use of cash/working capital. Solving these challenges was critical to the success of this programme.

The vision was to:

  • Ensure two-way connectivity (files and messages) between the ERP and ‘to-be’ TMS.

  • Ensure real-time connectivity (data flow) between the ERP and ‘to-be’ TMS.

  • Utilise APIs as the Heathrow ‘default’ for integrations.

  • Avoid flat files or any other traditional ‘integration’ approaches/methods.

  • Eliminate both customisation and embrace standardisation.

  • Remove any possibility of manual intervention (both at the process and data level).

  • Enable real-time process and transaction monitoring, with real-time status updates and alerts.

  • Unlock cash management benefits for the group via real-time integration of AP/AR data, enhanced machine learning models providing treasury with the most accurate and advanced decision-making tools available.

The solution

The detailed request for proposal (RFP) process identified FIS, through its forward-looking approach to technology and digital innovation, was the ideal solution partner. In addition, it became clear the FIS ERP connector solution would be key to unlocking the ERP to TMS conundrum. In conjunction with its TMS solution ‘Quantum’, Heathrow identified this technology combination would provide treasury with the strongest opportunity to deliver on its challenging mandate.

Best practice and innovation

In 2022, Heathrow became the world’s first company to go-live with real-time, two-way TMS to Oracle Fusion cloud-based integration covering both accounting and cash flow forecast data.

The use of APIs, cloud-based integration tools, real-time monitoring dashboards and advance statistical machine learning models, has been a strategic game changer for the treasury team.

Not only has its approach delivered cutting-edge tools that have empowered treasury operations, but it has also moved to a standardised integration model that has distanced it from legacy custom solutions (so prevalent in the industry) that are both costly to deploy and maintain.

Daily during the cash positioning process, it can now pull the current Oracle AP/AR position into the TMS in real-time using FIS ERP Connector. The AP/AR invoice data is converted into a smart cash flow forecast which uses machine learning to derive highly accurate due dates for operational activity by analysing historic settlement behaviour within the ERP data set.

Additionally, on both a daily and period-end basis it can now, in real-time, monitor the end-to-end flow of accounting journals from the TMS into Oracle, with status messaging alerts (automatically sent from Oracle to the TMS) where postings have failed. These can then be isolated, investigated, fixed and reposted individually if required.

Key benefits

  • Cost savings.

  • Process efficiencies.

  • Return on investment (ROI).

  • Increased automation.

  • Risk mitigated.

  • Improved visibility.

  • Errors reduced.

  • Manual intervention reduced.

  • Future-proof solution.

  • Exceptional implementation (budget/time).

The Heathrow team, working alongside both the FIS and Covarius teams, not only delivered against the programme mandate on time, but proved the adoption of the latest digital solutions can solve some of treasuries biggest legacy challenges, as well as future-proofing treasury operations.

Graham Thorton

Partner, Treasury Systems & Global Delivery, Covarius

Working with Heathrow was a hugely enjoyable and successful experience, as we worked with engaged professionals who shared our passion for quality and innovation. Working in close collaboration with both the treasury business and IT functions, along with the software vendor FIS, we were able to deliver on Heathrow’s vision for a new treasury management system for the group, along with a ‘world-first’ real-time, two-way integration between Oracle and FIS Quantum for accounting journal and cash forecast data.

in partnership with

The Adam Smith Awards is the industry benchmark for best practice and innovation in corporate treasury. The 2023 awards attracted 320 nominations spanning 34 countries. To find out more please visit: http://treasurytoday.com/adam-smith-awards.

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