[VIDEO] Brussels Airport Company takes off on SAP cloud technology to enhance performance

Apr 30, 2024
  • finance
  • IT
  • SAP

With 22.2 million passengers and 710,000 tons of cargo shipped in 2023, Brussels Airport performs its role as a European transport hub with flying colors. To further strengthen this position, airport operator Brussels Airport Company (BAC) recently embraced SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition. The integrated IT platform fuels BAC’s performance across various departments, not least finance. 

  • Client: airport operator Brussels Airport Company
  • Challenge: Reshaping the software landscape to support the airport’s growth ambitions
  • Solution: SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition for finance, controlling, credit collection, and purchasing, SAP Analytics Cloud for planning and budgeting, SAP SuccessFactors for HR, SAP Concur for expense management, and SAP Ariba Sourcing for suppliers

The challenge: next-gen ERP needed to support high-flying ambitions

At Brussels Airport Company around 1,200 people safeguard the complex airport operations that account for a massive 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. Until recently, a series of legacy IT systems – outdated and often standalone – supported tasks like finance, HR, purchasing, and project management at BAC – but these were running out of fuel…

“The oldest system dated back to 2008 and was end-of-life, creating a high maintenance burden and user frustration,” says Davy Vreys, CFO of BAC. “On top of that, the lack of integration hampered our efficiency and insights.” Understanding that that was no longer the type of software an ambitious airport should rely on, BAC set out to find next-gen software more suited to its high-flying ambitions.

Our corporate strategy is focused on three pillars: better performance, diversification, and sustainability. SAP solutions are key enablers of this strategy. They help us simplify processes and work more efficiently across the value chain.
Davy Vreys, CFO at Brussels Airport Company

The solution: SAP S/4HANA cloud gives wings

The airport operator quickly understood that SAP’s cloud solutions would ensure the user-friendly, futureproof system they sought. “SAP’s standardized approach would reduce maintenance work, enhance efficiencies, and enable best practices,” says Davy Vreys. Enter SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition, which provides BAC with the core functionality they need for finance, controlling, billing, and procurement.  

delaware was selected to implement the platform, on account of the proven track record in similar projects and integrated approach. Our experts successfully deployed the SAP S/4HANA core and seamlessly integrated other SAP solutions, including SAP SuccessFactors for HR, SAP Concur for expense management, and SAP Ariba for supplier sourcing. The SAP Integration Suite smoothly connects the SAP stack with other software within BAC’s IT landscape.  

In addition, delaware’s finance experts developed a new financial planning solution using SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). “BAC was using a financial planning tool but wanted to reap the benefits of integrated planning in the SAP stack,” explains Michiel De Meyere, business controlling expert at delaware. “So, we developed a planning solution that combines BAC’s revenue streams with operating expenses, taxes, wages, and more in a comprehensive Profit and Loss (P&L) statement. This integrated approach empowers the Finance, Controlling & Accounting teams to conduct budgeting and forecasting efficiently, taking into account data from many different departments and sources. That information is also visualized in clear management reports.”  

Integrated planning and budgeting in SAC: how and why?

The integrated planning solution at BAC focuses on financial budgeting and forecasting, rather than operational day-to-day planning. Here’s how it works: 

The solution gathers data from BAC’s 3 primary revenue streams:

  • Commercial revenues, encompassing commissions earned from shops renting space within the airport.
  • Real estate revenues, derived from leasing agreements for various buildings on the airport premises.
  • Aero and handling revenues, generated by charges levied on airlines for services, such as landing and refueling at Brussels Airport.

These revenue figures are then merged with operational expenditure (OpEx), tax, salary data, and more, resulting in a comprehensive Profit and Loss (P&L) statement. Using an indirect cash flow methodology, the system can then forecast anticipated cash flows for the period ahead. 

A touch of Project Management Office (PMO)

In addition, the PMO uses the integrated planning solution for creating and maintaining project budgets, including capital expenditure (CapEx), on a more day-to-day basis. “It helps them make more informed decisions about resource allocation,” Michiel explains.

One version of the enterprise truth

“All the data that is available in SAP S/4HANA, is automatically integrated in SAC,” Michiel explains. “In this way, the finance team relies on one, single version of the truth. SAC planning facilitates unified planning and analysis within a single interface, breaking down siloes between finance and other departments. The finance, controlling, and accounting teams collaborate seamlessly with HR, program management, and other departments to gain full visibility and insight into the company’s performance.” 

In the near future, BAC plans to build further on this connected approach to planning, by integrating workforce planning into SAP Analytics Cloud. By combining HR-related data from SAP S/4HANA and SAP SuccessFactors, BAC will then be able to budget and forecast personnel-related costs more accurately. 

The results: driving efficiency to new heights 

BAC now has an intuitive, efficient, and future-proof IT landscape, resulting in a reduced total cost of ownership. By adopting best-practice application-integration scenarios and reducing manual and paper-based work, the operator has laid a solid foundation for smooth core operational business processes.  

“One of the main benefits is the system’s user friendliness,” says Davy. “Purchase requisitions, orders, and expense approvals are now digitized and accessible on any device, including smartphones.” Within just a few months, tangible efficiency gains were already visible, says Davy Vreys: "Expense reports can now be processed and paid within a week, whereas previously that took an average of two to three weeks. In addition, we can complete the monthly financial closing more quickly. 

By the numbers

22.2 million

passengers in 2023

1 week

to process and pay expense reports (vs. 3 to 4 weeks before)

Marie-Christine Kévers, ERP Program Manager at BAC, explains: “More than reducing the time spent on processing incoming invoices, we’ve shifted the responsibility back to the business. By entrusting goods and service receipts to expert teams, we’ve improved the quality of our data and the insights derived from it. That deeper insight boosts our agility, enabling us to  react swiftly to market changes. Finance is no longer just a number cruncher but plays a crucial role in business decision-making.” 

The transition to standardized processes marks a significant departure from the highly customized environment of the past. Jan Andries, change manager and product owner for SAP SuccessFactors solutions, says, “SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition requires users to adapt to the system instead of adapting the system to the user’s requirements. Previously, it was very difficult to maintain all our codes. The cloud platform ensures automatic updates and new releases twice a year, so we always have access to the latest information and code.”

We’ve improved the quality of our data and the insights we get from that data. As a result, finance is playing a more crucial role in business decision-making, moving beyond mere number crunching.
Marie-Christine Kévers, ERP Program Manager at Brussels Airport Company

The future: the only way is up

Looking ahead, Brussels Airport Company is determined to keep optimizing its IT infrastructure, building on its existing suite of SAP Cloud solutions. One upcoming initiative involves integrating the legacy billing system with SAP solutions to enhance efficiency and transparency. Additionally, the company plans to integrate performance and goal management into the HR journey and automate the direct entry of service sheets by vendors. 

“Based on what we’ve seen, we’re very positive about the results. We’re looking forward to the next phase in our transformation,” Davy Vreys concludes. 

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