Posted on 27/5/2021
Diabetes SA is a not-for-profit member-based association which aims to educate, advocate, support and fund research to provide better outcomes for people living with diabetes. To support its vital work in the fight against Australia’s most common serious health condition, the organisation relies on funding from a range of sources to help it deliver its various programs, events and health services across the state.
With inflows from a range of sources, including the government-funded National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS), fundraisers, donations, membership and a retail shop, the organisation requires deep financial insights and detailed financial reporting. This ensures Diabetes SA can track where money is coming from, how it is being distributed across its various programs and functions, which is coupled with financial reporting that enables analysis and benchmarking against budgets while also ensuring it can meet its compliance requirements. When you add to that the organisation’s payroll and HR requirements for its more than 40 staff, it’s a complex task for Diabetes SA’s two-person accounting team to keep on top of.
Without the support of the right accounting software solution, Diabetes SA’s Management Accountant, Paul Wilson, knew their processes had become inefficient, hamstrung by huge amounts of paperwork and manual handling. Simply put, their current systems didn’t provide them with the detailed financial insights they needed across each level of the organisation.
“We had a finance system that we had been using for at least 20 years, which we never really grew into, and at the same time, it also wasn’t developing as quickly as other financial packages in the market,” Paul said.
“The system was very inflexible for what we needed – we had our payroll system and asset management register sitting outside of it as well, so the amount of manual labour that was required and the amount of paperwork we were generating was overwhelming.
“We also have some pretty intensive reporting requirements. The NDSS requires quarterly acquittals, which were taking us a full week. We also needed the ability to do project costing and activity-based costing in a more efficient manner that gave us greater visibility and allowed us to report at those levels.
After some cursory research and market scanning, the Diabetes SA team felt that Xero was the right financial management solution to take the organisation forward. The next task for Paul and his colleague, Matthew Casburn, the organisations’ Executive Manager of Corporate Services, was to find the right expert to help them design and implement a solution that was aligned to their specific needs. Through a trusted referral from a fellow not-for-profit that had gone through a similar experience, Diabetes SA engaged the Perks Cloud Solutions team, led by Nick Grieve.
“We kind of knew where we needed to get to, but it would have taken us far too long ourselves, so bringing in experts who have experience in implementing customised Xero solutions for organisations similar to ours to guide us through this process was a really good fit,” Paul said.
The Perks Cloud Solutions team worked with Diabetes SA to fully explore the current and future capabilities and efficiencies that could be realised with a digital transformation. It was during this consultation phase that the team identified that an off-the-shelf Xero solution would not be robust enough to meet the organisation’s needs.
The process of designing a customised Xero solution for Diabetes SA began with an analysis of their current system and processes to ensure the transition would deliver them a net efficiency benefit and consider every aspect of financial management relevant to the organisation.
“One of the main issues we looked at from the start was ensuring we were delivering the functionality required by Diabetes SA in the most efficient and consolidated package,” Nick said.
“Their legacy system was built off of Microsoft Great Plains, which actually offers a lot more functionality than Xero off-the-shelf; however, it wasn’t optimised to perform the specific functions they needed it to.
“They were predominantly using the system as a general ledger and accounts payable platform, so the project was based at the outset on finding a way to bring that all together, to ensure data flowed through the system and provided them with the detailed reporting they needed at the end of it. That way, they would be able to see where funding was coming from, where it was being deployed and track it each step of the way.”
“One of the other core requirements we looked at was payroll and how we could make that process more efficient. This is a space where Xero really excels, and we were able to introduce much more streamlined clearing process, as well as single-touch payroll.”
While Xero was able to meet many of the organisation’s key requirements as an off-the-shelf solution, there remained two key gaps that needed to be overcome – reporting and expense approvals.
And as Nick pointed, this is where the expertise of Perks Cloud Solutions in designing and integrating custom add-ons ensured Diabetes SA received a solution that delivered a net efficiency gain and considered all aspects of the organisation’s accounting needs.
“Because of the way Diabetes SA is structured, they have some unique requirements around their accounts payable approval process, and this was generating a lot of paperwork and had become highly inefficient,” Nick said.
“Effectively, every time an invoice came in, they would have to print it off from an email, stamp it, code that stamp, get someone to sign it and then manually file it. While Xero as an off-the-shelf solution delivered some efficiencies in terms of moving that process to an online environment, we knew we could still do better.
“So, what we looked was an add-on called Approval Max which we are finding a lot of clients love and delivers really good value for money.
“And that tool basically does two things – it covered off their requirement for more flexibility and internal controls in approving purchase orders and invoices and, secondly, it means they now have a paperless end-to-end purchasing to payment process.”
“Another key integration that we looked at was the addition of Receipt Bank to assist in further streamlining expense approvals.
“Similar to Approval Max, Receipt Bank effectively allows for paperless approvals of credit card expenses. So, they can just take a photo of a receipt or an invoice on their phone and it’s automatically loaded into Receipt Bank.”
As for reporting, Nick said this is an ongoing process working Diabetes SA to further refine the system to their requirements; however, they have already made some strong progress.
“Diabetes SA wanted to have historical data in the system so we were able to migrate across a couple years of data at the programming level with detailed history and we also set up the system so they can report against budgets by costs and by program work,” Nick said.
“We’ve also brought in Microsoft Power BI and that’s really where the next step is to ensure they are using that dashboard to pull all out all the insights they need.”
According to Paul, streamlining reporting is something Diabetes SA will continue to invest more time in as well.
“The reporting out of Xero is pretty basic for what we need which is really that ability to drill down and do activity-based reporting and comparing actual spend to budgeted spend,” he said.
“Nick has done a fair bit of work setting up Power BI for our needs and we’ve started to modify it to do what we want and the next step for us is to continue to refine this and get the result we need.”
For Paul and the other members of the team at Diabetes SA who interact with its finance functions, the benefits of the transition to Xero have been significant and immediate.
From increased efficiencies for payroll staff, to better management of the organisation’s assets, Paul said the entire process of managing the organisation’s finances has been streamlined and significant administrative burdens that were plaguing them have been all but eliminated.
“Our business has fairly specific functions which are split across different areas and Perks has helped make managing this a whole lot easier,” Paul said.
“The system really excels in terms of the business-to-business integration which has helped us cut down on paper and approvals, which is a significant time saver.
“For us, the ability to better allocate overheads and do specific activity and project-based costing has been a game changer. For example, NDSS quarterly acquittals used to take me five days to go through, analyse, break up and report and I do it in about two hours now.
“The system has also been beneficial across other areas of the business as well. The seamless integration with our HR management system allows people to enter their timesheets directly into the system, which saves our payroll officer a huge amount of time and cuts down on paperwork.
“Equally, Approval Max and Receipt Bank have streamlined processes that used to be huge time sinks. Having the ability to effectively automate our invoicing, purchasing and expense claims with custom approval limits and approval flows has made life so much easier for us.
“For us, one of the best indicators is the fact we actually got rid of our printer because we don’t need it anymore.”
As a first introduction to working with Perks, Paul said the experience was fantastic thanks to the expertise of Nick and the Cloud Solutions team and the effort they made to understand exactly what Diabetes SA required from the finance software package.
“With a project like this, you could spend years getting nowhere but Perks made the whole process so seamless and quick,” he said.
“We had a pretty short timeframe between May and July to get it done but this was never an issue for Perks, even with end-of-year thrown in the midst.
“Importantly, we haven’t really had to go back to Nick for a whole lot of advice or with any issues, which shows that the installation was done well and aligned to our needs and, secondly, that the users on our end understand how it works and it integrates seamlessly with our workflows.”
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