Why Change or Re-implement your Finance Solution?

Following a market test, Midland Heart decided to replace their existing finance system and join the growing list of housing providers using OpenAccounts from Orchard. Suitability for the sector such as asset processing, integration and overall simplicity, were some of the key factors driving their need for change.

Faye Harris, Business Transformation Consultant at Midland Heart said, “We chose Orchard to deliver the implementation of our new Finance and Procurement system due to their straight forward approach to system development and project management.”

How was the change process managed?

Martin Temple, Finance Operations Manager at Midland Heart who managed the project explains, “Value for money and financial transparency is very important to Midland Heart. We needed a straightforward, easy to maintain system that would be simple to administer and would control costs.”

“We ensured the specification suited the business rather than the capabilities of the system driving the solution. Module ‘champions’ were appointed for each functional area and these champions became owners / ambassadors ensuring change was embraced by the business and that objectives and benefits were realised.”

“The team had a blue sky vision of what those objectives were. These objectives were ranked in importance and mapped to solutions in the market with OpenAccounts becoming a clear winner.”

Implementation process

Martin continued, “The implementation process was an iterative process led by the modular champions who considered solution options and challenged the system constraints, which actually responded well in terms of flexibility to ultimately configure the blue-sky vision.”

The team worked with Orchard’s Senior Application Consultant, Andrew Eves, “who was always on-hand, understood the requirements and ultimately delivered a solution that is second to none. Where some of the challenges were complex, Andrew would take them away, before always returning with perfect solutions.”

Were there unexpected challenges?

Speaking about challenges, Martin Temple responded, “Midland Heart understood the challenges that lay ahead. Indeed, integration as well as getting the organisation to adopt the changes that would benefit the organisation as a whole, were key. Although some people initially saw the the finance system as a threat, what actually unfolded to the benefit of both staff and the organisation, was that job roles changed from data processing to genuine analytical work.”

What business benefits and ROI have been achieved?

Martin continued, “Automating business processes has enabled users to spend more time doing analytical work rather than data processing. Staff now spend time working with suppliers to maximise value, and customers to minimise debt, which are undoubtedly significant business benefits”.

“Significantly, in the first year alone, bad debt provision has fallen from £482k to c£50k, with accrued debt halved; achieved via the clarity of business reporting through the OpenAccounts system. Reports around invoice compliance has assisted with the culture change in the organisation.”

“Essentially, reporting from the finance system has enabled the organisation to readily identify underperforming areas of the business thus giving Midland Heart the opportunity to change culture and improve its performance.”

What lessons have been learned from the implementation? Martin explains:

  • “Know your chart of accounts and set it in stone. Changes down the line can have a knock-on effect with other documents such as purchase orders raised with one set of codes that are invalid by the time accruals are done or they are actualised.”
  • “Give yourself time to think through processes and identify benefits, e.g. Who is raising orders for asset purchases? Do they understand how to get the order correct such that the Component Accounting team can correctly create the Fixed Assets? If they do, then the assets will be correctly created, full transparency is available and retrospective corrections will be eliminated.”
  • “Ensure there is a fall-back position in terms of staffing should any key project team members leave the organisation or become unable to continue in the role.”

Speaking on the implementation of OpenAccounts, Andrew Eves commented, “In addition to the expected process support, efficiencies, controls and management information, Housing businesses today are looking to work with suppliers that add significant value to their operations. From a Finance perspective, this includes supporting increasingly complex organisational structures on a single platform, covering all processes through a unified chart of accounts. Our solution and approach offers a comprehensive partnership to tackling the challenges we see in the sector.”

Future Direction

Moving forward, Midland Heart is looking to further enhance Report development and ensure better deployment of KPI information.

As one of the top ten housing and care organisations in the UK, Midland Heart owns and manages more than 32,000 homes across 54 local authority areas, investing in excess of £100 million each year in its neighbourhoods.