Case Study – Templated Approach to Implementation

NFDC’s current financial management system has been adapted and extended over its lifecycle with many customisations. The current system is extremely difficult and costly to maintain, primarily due to these many customisations, and will be on an unsupported version of software from the middle of next year.

Author: Derek Edwards

The SUMMARY:

The Council’s initiative of “Delivering for our communities” which forms their corporate plan for 2016-2020 is:

  • To secure a better future for the New Forest by;
  • Supporting local businesses to prosper for the benefit of the community
  • Assisting the wellbeing of those people who live and work within the district
  • Protecting the special and unique character of the New Forest

Part of the initiative is “Living within our means”:

The Council is continually reviewing activities and services to identify opportunities for savings and opportunities to generate income to address significant reductions in government funding, whilst at the same time maintaining services that are important to their customers.

The OBJECTIVES:

NFDC’s current financial management system has been adapted and extended over its lifecycle with many customisations. The current system is extremely difficult and costly to maintain, primarily due to these many customisations, and will be on an unsupported version of software from the middle of next year. In order to meet the Council’s overall initiative and objectives, NFDC needs a new finance system that can meet its daily functional requirements, as well as provide accurate, up to date information to enable better, faster decision making for the Council. To ‘future proof’ this new finance system, it needs to be on a current version of software, using standard functionality which will therefore be more easily updated, maintained and more cost effective. The Council’s overarching project objectives are listed below, together with the critical success factors used to measure success.

Getting the basic processes right and future proofing
  • Using a proven templated and best pratice approach
  • Simplfy existing processes
A good user experience
  • Easy to understand reports
  • Relevant dashboard presentation of information over spreadsheets for budget holders
  • Ability to drill down to more detail when required
Better organisational decisions

Access to quality management reports

Effective and efficient use of resources
  • Self service capability for managers to access informaion themselves
  • Reduce time spent by accountancy team responding to budget manager queries, so they can add value to important decisions
Mobile driven
  • Support for mobile and flexible working

The SCOPE:

The scope of the project was to move to a standard implementation using a templated approach provided via the Embridge Value Accelerator (EVA) for Finance and the software provided by Unit4 Business Software (UK) Ltd.

The new Financial Management System includes the following areas:

Financial (Ledger) Management

Budgeting

i

Accounts Payable

P

Accounts Receivable

VAT

Bank Reconciliation

Job Costing

Purchasing (with Commitments)

b

Management Information

The New Forest National Park Authority is also a user of the NFDC finance management system and therefore provision is to be made for two companies to be set up.

The EVA DIFFERENCE:

The Embridge Value Accelerator provided the Council with:

  • A local government out-of-the-box solution that can be adapted to specific requirements. This template fast-tracks the implementation process and gives NFDCthe comfort that it is basing its solution on the latest functionality and reporting.
  • Access to best practice business process designs within local government enabling NFDCto ensure its business processes are streamlined, automated and are following our experience of industry best practice.
  • An established methodology to ensure changes are implemented smoothly with minimal disruption.

The CHALLENGE RESOLUTION:

The challenge that Embridge faced at NFDCwas prising them away from inefficient and, in some cases, antiquated processes using a large volume of complex customisations within its Finance Management system to facilitate the outdated processes.

Through a series of workshops, Embridge challenged the current processes in each functional area of the business and proposed new standard business processes supported by the system configuration contained in our Value Accelerator, which is based upon best practice. 

The Council found that it was able to align to 87% of the Value Accelerator, leaving just 13% of functions not aligned, mainly statutory or business critical items. The large amounts of customisation previously used by the Council in its legacy system could therefore be replaced by standard functionality and configuration in its new system.

Along with the processes and system configuration, the Embridge Value Accelerator also provides standard reporting and (through the use of the Unit4 software reporting tools) a number of dashboard-type reports were provided by Embridge to meet the Council’s reporting requirements at all levels of its organisational structure.  Use of consistent format and data gathering made cross departmental decision-making easier and more informed.

Positive Impacts & FUTURE PROOFING:

The introduction of a self-service approach enabled new ways of working for the Council’s Budget Manager community. This shift to a self-service-based approach enabled the following benefits and value:

  • The need for Excel based reporting has been minimised. Self-service provides real time reporting in an online environment, preserving the integrity of the data. (By contrast, if data is exported out of the Finance system to a spreadsheet it immediately loses real time status and data integrity is potentially compromised).
  • Budget Managers have become more empowered and self-sufficient in managing their monthly budgets and forecasts. This user experience allows Budget Managers to do more themselves.
  • A new culture across the organisation is developing at a far greater level of accountability as the Budget Manager level is instilled. Managers at all levels will become more in control of their departmental spend, resulting in a far more accurate and predictable financial position.
  • The new user experience will result in increased user engagement of the system, which will in time increase more regular monthly forecasts and budget monitoring.
  • Increased efficiency leads to increased capacity within the Finance department allowing more focus on added value / strategic activities as Budget Managers become more self-sufficient.
  • Furthermore, the new NFDCfinance management system has been deployed on Unit4’s Microsoft Azure Cloud, making it available on any internet-enabled device; employees can use it at a time and place that is convenient for them. This is particularly important for NFDC, with its workforce operating out in the District; mobile capabilities with the Unit4 software is expected to reduce costly and time consuming visits back to office locations.

The RESULTS:

As the project continues along its expected trajectory, NFDCwill continue to realise the predicted ongoing benefits, with the overall implementation costs and timeframe already significantly reduced by the use of the Embridge Value Accelerator and the partnership between Embridge and Unit4 Business Software.