Cambridge City Council
Cambridge City Council needed to upgrade its costly, ageing, and inflexible systems to respond to the needs of its 137,000 residents, and the eight million visitors to the historic university city each year.
The council’s outdated on-premise systems were requiring more and more maintenance and the council’s finance team had to rely on resource intensive paper-based processes and “work arounds”, with much of the council’s reporting taking place in different software systems.
“Our system was old, on-premise and costly,” said Richard Pym, Payables & Income Manager at Cambridge City Council. “Due to its inflexibility, we weren’t really using the system any differently to how we did when it was first installed 20-years ago. It no longer served the council’s needs.”
The council needed a modern, more flexible business and financial management solution to keep up-to-date with industry standards and provide clearer information for business managers across its different departments, ranging from housing, waste services and parking.
Cambridge City Council ran a joint-procurement process with two neighbouring local authorities, Huntingdonshire District Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council. Following a public tender, the three council’s chose TechnologyOne’s OneCouncil Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.
The new solution provides 30 finance staff, 80 business managers and over 400 council workers with access to an integrated cloud-based business and finance system, with functionality such as General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Receivable, Performance Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting.
The SaaS solution also dovetails with the authority’s CouncilAnywhere strategy, which, by moving business tools to the cloud, facilitates more flexible and agile working practices, as well as greater business resilience. From an IT perspective, SaaS has also helped future proof the council, removing the reliance on less secure on-premise software which costs more to maintain.
Matthew Wood, Financial Systems Accountant at Cambridge City Council, believes that by moving to TechnologyOne the council has been able to streamline more manual processes through automation.
“We needed to provide clearer information for our managers in the business. We wanted them to be able to serve themselves through new dashboards and reporting tools and have far better workflow functionality,” he says. “TechnologyOne has removed the need for paper-based forms and large amounts of manual data inputting. It’s also improved the availability of financial information for business managers. Information only needs to be entered into the system once now and can then be processed and worked on much faster.”
TechnologyOne has removed the need for paper-based forms and large amounts of manual data input. It’s also improved the availability of financial information for business managers.
Replacing ageing on-premise legacy systems with an intuitive, easy-to-use ERP solution has helped Cambridge City Council make significant efficiency and productivity gains.
The TechnologyOne system has delivered time savings by reducing data entry and by introducing new self-service functionality for managers. Business decision makers across the council can now easily look at management and reporting dashboards and interrogate data and invoices, which are all stored digitally on the system. It has also improved business resilience and helped the council introduce new ways of working.
Richard Wesbroom, Services Accountant at the council, says the finance team previously faced downtime, when on-premise IT systems needed to be updated. But since moving to TechnologyOne they’ve seen no loss of service. This is because vital updates and maintenance are carried out overnight in the software providers' data centres.
“As TechnologyOne is cloud based, the system has been available 24/7. Upgrades have also been easy and regular, and we’re also experiencing a continuous improvement in system functionality as new features are being added all the time,” Richard Wesbroom says.
The new TechnologyOne solution has also proven beneficial in terms of operational resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would have found it incredibly difficult to manage the impacts of COVID-19 with our old on-premise system. Whereas with SaaS, we've been able to work seamlessly throughout the lockdown,” he adds. “From a transactional processing point of view we would have been lost without our TechnologyOne SaaS solution. Having proper digital workflow management and scanned documents in the system has been vital to home working.”
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, the UK government also asked councils to support them with the award of support grants to local businesses. The extra functionality offered by TechnologyOne’s system has enabled Cambridge City Council’s finance team to seamlessly process and pay more than 12,000 grants.
“We got the process down to a fine art in a couple of weeks,” adds Richard Pym. “There’s been a huge amount of resource saved as a result of us not having to manually enter each COVID grant payment. It's very easy to forget how far we’ve actually come over the past three years until we remind ourselves how difficult this would have been using our old system.”
We would have found it incredibly difficult to manage the impacts of COVID-19 with our old on-premise system. Whereas with SaaS, we've been able to work seamlessly throughout the lockdown. Having proper digital workflow management and scanned documents in the system has been vital to home working.
Cambridge City's perspective
Cambridge City Council needed a SaaS ERP solution that would automate workflows and the processing of transactions, such as Procure to Pay whilst also providing business managers with clearer information in a modern, intuitive, and easy to use system.
Since switching to SaaS, council employees have been able to adopt more agile ways of working, accessing business tools wherever they are, using any device.
The council’s maintenance team, for example, recently had to carry out some offsite repair work and realised they were lacking certain materials to complete the job. Accessing the TechnologyOne software from their mobile devices, they were able to remotely raise an order, get it approved online by their manager and collect the materials from the builders’ merchants within an hour, meaning they could go straight back and finish the maintenance work with no disruption.
“In the past colleagues would have had to come back to the office, complete the paperwork and then go back out again,” says Richard Pym. “Due to job allocation schedules, it could have taken days whereas now it takes minutes. It’s a great example of the direct benefits it’s also delivering to our residents.”
The council has also managed to deliver benefits to partners within its supply chain by digitally transforming business processes.
Like the UK government, and other local authorities, Cambridge City Council is committed to helping the communities and local businesses it works with through a prompt payment code. Having digitised accounts payable and invoicing processes, the council has been able to improve this further, paying some suppliers within three hours of them electronically submitting an invoice.
“We’re getting regular feedback from our suppliers saying how quickly we are making payments and how important this is for them, in terms of their cash flow,” he adds.
Spotlight on Financials
Cambridge City Council chose TechnologyOne’s financial management software over other ERP providers due to the company’s understanding of UK public sector needs, the software’s modern, easy-to-use design and functionality and its value for money.
TechnologyOne’s investment into research and development also appealed strongly.
“The fact that a lot of the new functionality upgrades are driven by customer ideas means you have a say in the future of the products you use every day. Our team have had numerous conversations with TechnologyOne’s product developers, and they’ve been genuinely interested in our feedback and they’re always thinking about how to incorporate it into future versions of the software. That's a massive cultural change compared to what we've been used to with previous ERP software providers,” says Richard Pym.
Cambridge City Council’s Matthew Wood adds that the council has also benefited from working directly with TechnologyOne consultants throughout the implementation, rather than third-party resellers.
“During implementation we had TechnologyOne consultants working with us on the ground who really understood the needs of local UK government. But they also had development staff back in Australia. This meant we could test things out during the day, then staff in Brisbane would work on developing it overnight, so we had no downtime,” says Matthew Wood.
Two pieces of functionality in TechnologyOne’s OneCouncil software that particularly appealed to Cambridge City Council’s finance team were GridView and ETL.
The GridView functionality has allowed the team to easily and intuitively create new visual display reports and dashboards, by dragging and dropping new information onto the screen.
“GridView is so flexible,” said Richard Wesbroom. “If we're looking at particular budgets, actuals, or forecasts, we can easily build one-off reports using one-off criteria.”
ETL, or extract, transform and load, is also delivering unexpected benefits for the council’s finance team. Initially used to automate the uploading of data into the TechnologyOne system, the finance team has also developed it to send alerts when inaccurate or incomplete data is entered into the system.
“It’s providing us with extra sense checks. Basically, the system is stopping errors before they occur and that’s invaluable in so many ways,” said Richard Pym.
About Cambridge City Council
Cambridge City Council provides a wide range of local authority services to more than 137,000 residents, and eight million people who visit the famous university city each year. The council is committed to ensuring Cambridge is a great place to live, learn and work, and providing modern services is at the heart of delivering on this promise.
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