Embridge Delivers Modern, Forward-Thinking Finance at Cherwell District Council
An agile, forward-thinking Unit4 Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform is driving dramatic improvements in efficiency, agility, and faster, more informed decision-making. Implemented virtually during lockdown by Embridge Consulting – on time and on budget – this advanced finance transformation enables CDC to focus less on transaction processing and more on analysis and action.
Cherwell District Council is a modern local authority, with a ground-breaking approach to municipal services in North Oxfordshire, including the environment, housing and regeneration. This innovation also extends to digital transformation, through the Council’s visionary, laser-like focus on digital, citizen-centric service.
The Council’s ambitious Finance Systems Solution (FSS) is a central focus of this transformation. The existing finance system relied on data that was tied to separate, disconnected silos. This, in turn, resulted in a drain on time and resources, with insufficient information and significant manual intervention required to support everyday finance transactions. For example, budget management and reporting relied on complex, manual spreadsheets and large print volumes. Likewise, the year-end closure and production of the Council’s statutory accounts were labour-intensive and slow.
Once the go-ahead was given for the finance transformation strategy, a Unit4 ERP platform was selected to underpin the new operating model. Claire Taylor, Corporate Director for Customers, Organisational Development and Resources explains, “The Unit4 platform is tailored around our local government needs. It also connects easily with other systems, is intuitive to use, and offers unmatched financial management integrity.”
The next test was to choose a partner to support the ERP implementation. Step forward Embridge Consulting. Claire again: “As a boutique, mid-tier IT consultancy, Embridge was the ideal partner to support this deployment. They possess the skills, innovation, and commitment – plus a rich seam of public sector experience – to deliver successful finance transformation.”
“The advantage to a local authority in choosing Embridge is our size. Unlike the large, multinational SIs, we can be much more agile, respond to situations very quickly, and work as a tight-knit collaborative team.”Emma O’brien CEO Embridge Consulting
This is rarely the case. Technology project goals are often improperly defined and poorly communicated. This frightens and frustrates employees. Instead of adoption, you get resistance, misalignment across departments and competing interests without common goals.
To succeed long-term, a digital-first strategy demands a dramatic, organizational-wide change program – a journey that connects the technology with processes and people.
People are especially vital. Ask any CXO, and they’ll tell you, “People are our greatest asset.” However, digital transformation can only work when your people are aligned with that change. They need to understand why the change is happening, how it can benefit them and how they can engage with the change.
The challenge that no-one could foresee was the impact of Covid-19. Claire explains: “What is remarkable about this project is how people worked as one to implement an entire finance system virtually. Indeed, many of the teams didn’t meet one another physically until after the go-live. The success was down to careful project initiation, building remote relationships, and rigorous testing.”
The pandemic forced CDC and Embridge to rapidly rethink their approach, adapting their processes for remote working. For example, training sessions were delivered over Microsoft Teams and recorded, enabling people to flexibly work around personal responsibilities, such as home-schooling. Embridge also factored in people’s wellbeing to the program. For example, remote quizzes and social events were introduced to keep up the team’s resilience, while timescales were adjusted to mitigate the impact of ‘screen fatigue’.
The project was delivered on time and on budget. According to Dan Chilton, Director of Professional Services at Embridge, the EVA deployment model was vital here. “Our EVA methodology is a pre-built ERP implementation strategy and configuration, created with industry-specific best practice and includes statutory compliance. Think of it as an IKEA shelving unit: it’s pre-packed so you simply connect the components together. EVA significantly reduced the time and effort involved in the Unit4 transformation programme.”
This best-in-class unified Unit4 ERP system provides budget stakeholders, the finance team, and other Council staff with a complete, timely view into the Council’s finance situation, presented in a user-friendly, graphical format. The team has near real-time visibility and control over every stage of the record-to-report cycle – from any device, anytime. They also have the flexibility to streamline budget planning and analysis while consolidating data from across the Council into one shared system.
Leanne Lock, Strategic Business Partner at CDC was involved with the project from the start. “At every stage, the finance requirements and budget were placed front and centre. The Council also invested in a dedicated project team and assigned key decision-makers to the project board.”
This forward-thinking finance transformation reimagines finance management at the Council:
Reduced time needed for bank reconciliation from up to 18 days each month, to same-day process. Moreover, process automation has reduced the time spent on certain processes from 32 to 18 days per month.
People at the Council share one common view of finance data, enabling trusted collaboration, smarter working, and better outcomes for the citizens of North Oxfordshire.
Budget managers across the Council have the information at their fingertips to make fast, informed decisions.
Over-arching digital transformation strategy has reduced Council’s running costs by about 33% over five years.
The close partnership between the Council and Embridge Consulting delivered an on-time, on-budget implementation, despite it being deployed virtually and remotely during the pandemic lockdown.
Process automation and modernisation significantly reduced the volume of paper printed, helping the Council meet its CO2 goals and other environmental credentials.
Claire concludes, “At all stages, the project has exemplified creativity, collaboration, and care for the people involved, all the while navigating new ways of working. However, Embridge and our Council team never lost sight of their focus; to deliver a business-wide finance system which meets the Council’s fast-changing needs.”Claire Taylor Cherwell District Council
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