When the Scottish sport and leisure charity, Edinburgh Leisure, first started working with TechnologyOne back in 2014 it had an uphill challenge on its hands.
Scotland had one of the highest proportions of overweight adults in the world, and a life expectancy lower than the European average. So, any closure of Edinburgh Leisure’s services including 15 gyms, 10 swimming venues which includes five Victorian pools and the Royal Commonwealth Pool, six golf courses, three soft play venues, Europe’s largest climbing arena, 141 sports pitches, 32 tennis courts and 800+ fitness classes each week would have likely life changing consequences for many in the capital city.
But, charity Edinburgh Leisure born out of the City of Edinburgh Council but operating as a separate organisation since 1998, was struggling to provide these public services due to funding pressures, rising costs and an inability to process financial and operational data in a timely and efficient way.
“Our ability to innovate or find a way to truly save money and keep services open was paralysed by a lack of faith in our ability to accurately report performance or compile budgets that managers felt accountable to deliver,” said Kevin Johnston, Commercial Director at Edinburgh Leisure.
However, by implementing TechnologyOne’s financial and accounting software, Edinburgh Leisure saw a dramatic and speedy turnaround in its fortunes. Within a year of switching to TechnologyOne’s enterprise resource planning system, the charity, part funded by the Council, saw a £1m operational and £2m cash turnaround, enabling it to refurbish four gyms in 2015 alone. Over the following two years, Edinburgh Leisure was able to reinvest approximately £3m each year into its sports facilities.
“We’ve not made this change alone; we’ve transformed our business with the support of our technology partner, TechnologyOne,” said Johnston. “Far from seeing multiple venue closures, the people of Edinburgh are active in vastly improved facilities at the heart of their communities. We’re now a healthier organisation: fit for purpose and in better shape for the future.”
Fast forward five years and Edinburgh Leisure faced new challenges and opportunities. Once again it called on TechnologyOne to help.
Thanks to the financial and operational improvements, Edinburgh Leisure was asked by the Council to take onboard further responsibilities and activities, including the management of sports facilities for 23 schools, outside of curricular hours. Alongside this, the charity saw the number of departments needing financial and accounting management support expand from just over 50 to around 80, with employee numbers increasing from 800 to around 1,000.
Then, in 2020, the spread of the COVID-19 virus put further financial pressures on leisure centres, with national lockdowns enforcing closures. This meant that the management team, and employees, needed to rapidly adapt to keep on top of finances and be able to work from anywhere, using different devices.
Edinburgh Leisure initially adopted an on-premise solution in 2014 and then introduced the Performance Planning module in 2016. Advancements in cloud computing, and TechnologyOne’s platform, paved the way for a move to Software as a Service (SaaS) in 2019. This was quickly followed by the implementation of a module for automated supplier invoice processing.
Core to Edinburgh Leisure choosing TechnologyOne was the desire to have a system which could be constantly evolved to improve business processes, ensuring they kept apace of ever changing organisational and customer needs.
By introducing such a system, the charity also wanted to help their finance team develop and become more motivated and engaged.
“TechnologyOne’s software is really malleable and easy to use, especially when it comes to adding new functionality,” said Johnston. “They show you how to build the system, work with you and the team to develop it, and make your organisation self-sufficient as a result.”
“Employee engagement and constant improvement are the true legacy of this system,” he added. “As it’s so adaptable and intuitive, the team are always coming up with great new ideas. It’s enabled people who want to make a difference for the company to do just that.”
We’ve transformed our business with the support of our technology partner, TechnologyOne. We’re now a healthier organisation: fit for purpose and in better shape for the future.
TechnologyOne’s ERP solution helped the charity achieve a huge reduction in operational costs and millions of pounds in savings from the beginning. But, as new modules went live, greater automation and self-service functionality also cut out hundreds of hours of manual data inputting, allowing it to focus more on business improvements.
Edinburgh Leisure’s 10 finance and procurement experts, 45 managers and 100 requisitioners now use TechnologyOne to order new equipment, goods and services, as well as process invoices. The charity has been able to move from multiple spreadsheets to a holistic online reporting system, bringing far greater accuracy, self-service, and speed, as well as greater procurement and budget control.
The became even more apparent during 2020 and 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, as employees were able to securely access business applications wherever they were working, at any time, using different devices.
“For employees accessing TechnologyOne from home during the pandemic, the experience has been seamless. We’re still having to do exactly the same tasks we did in the office, so thankfully the system access and functionality at home is as good as it’s ever been,” said Edinburgh Leisure’s Financial Controller Corrine Ingram. “If you contrast this with some of the other legacy on-premise systems and software which are not yet upgraded to a SaaS platform, the experience is streaks ahead.
“With some legacy technologies we’re still having some unpredictable access issues,” Ingram said. “Such a situation would have been untenable for us in the finance and commercial team due to the number of reports we have to write for the Board and various sub-committees, often within very short timescales. If we have a meeting coming up with the Audit Committee, the Strategy & Financial Planning Committee or The Board, requiring up to date insights and financial information, we have to be able to guarantee access to the system. The ‘always available’ element of TechnologyOne’s financial software has been crucial for us,” she added.
By moving from on-premise software to SaaS, the organisation has also reduced downtime caused by software upgrades and server problems. As TechnologyOne’s system is hosted on remote servers and accessed via the internet, it’s also brought greater operational resilience. For example, if there’s a broadband outage at a particular site, or employee’s home, the rest of the team are unaffected and people can quickly re-locate to where there’s connectivity.
For employees accessing TechnologyOne from home during the pandemic, the experience has been seamless. We’re still having to do exactly the same tasks we did in the office, so thankfully the system access and functionality at home is as good as it’s ever been.
Edinburgh Leisure's perspective
A key reason Edinburgh Leisure chose to upgrade to TechnologyOne’s SaaS solution was its adaptability and intuitive ease of use. The leisure provider’s finance team is also far more engaged having switched to the new system.
“What we have now is very different to many software systems, which once in place can’t adapt. With TechnologyOne it’s an ongoing journey of constant improvement. We have a system that enables us to continually upgrade, amend and add in new functionality. The outcome of all this has been a very engaged team,” said Johnston. “We got a lot of our team involved in the TechnologyOne implementation initially and, as new team members came on board, they also showed an interest and got involved in understanding the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how it operates. So, we’ve now got strong team ownership.
“Before we switched to TechnologyOne it was incredibly difficult for us to recruit good finance people into our charity,” he said. “So, it’s always been important to develop our staff and ensure they’re engaged and motivated. TechnologyOne’s software enables this and, as a result, we are fortunate to have a very high performing team of people who are always searching for and delivering improvements.”
Rather than the Finance Director or IT department having to propose and introduce new TechnologyOne functionality and drive adoption across the business, it’s Edinburgh Leisure’s finance team who are coming to Johnston and Ingram with new ideas to improve business processes and provide better services to customers.
Financial Controller Corrine Ingram agrees: “The system has delivered great results from the start, but due to the high engagement levels, we’re able to introduce more and more stuff. We've been able to get rid of lots of spreadsheets and save time by no longer having to manually manipulate data every month. Rather than spending most of their time getting data into the system, and checking it’s right, our team are now fully utilising their skills. Fully qualified accountants are doing what they should be doing: making proper use of their knowledge to help improve the business.”
The time savings achieved through automation and introducing new business planning modules means Edinburgh Leisure has been able to grow, without having to take on additional finance staff. This meant Edinburgh Leisure was able to take on the running of 23 new school sports estates and facilities, at the request of the Council, with very little integration work and no extra financial team staffing.
“We moved from just over 50 departments in 2017 to around 80 departments two years later. Our old system just couldn’t have done that. It would have fallen over. Whereas, with TechnologyOne, we were able to do all this within a blink of an eye,” said Ingram.
Spotlight on Performance Planning
Business performance and improvement was another key priority for Edinburgh Leisure, leading to it adopting TechnologyOne’s Performance Planning module.
“We used to have lots of ‘islands of information’ across the organisation before doing this. We had our financials in one place, staffing levels and employee absences data in another place, customer satisfaction and member numbers somewhere else, and information about people signing up to gym classes somewhere entirely separate,” said Johnston. “Multiple sources of information are fine, but you need a single view of it, for it to make sense holistically.”
As a result, Edinburgh Leisure found it difficult to conduct performance reviews with different managers and teams across the organisation. Most of the reviews were paper-based making it difficult to ensure accountability and measure year-on-year changes.
Despite the huge benefits that the new Performance Planning module delivered, it only took one week of consultancy from TechnologyOne to design, and two weeks to develop.
“This was a very important add-on to the system for us, so you wouldn’t expect implementation to be achieved so quickly. Better still, managers embraced the new system immediately,” Johnston said.
Edinburgh Leisure now has a performance planning system that’s auto-populated by multiple data sources, providing the finance team and managers with a single view point of how the business, and different departments, are performing. Everyone from the Chief Executive, through to managers, can now easily receive a snapshot of how the organisation is performing, and drill down further for more granular detail.
“It was something that was really simple to put in place, but it’s been absolutely vital in helping us prioritise what’s important for the business, and for putting in place key performance indicators and standardised models. It’s ensured actions are identified, assigned and followed up,” said Johnston.
About Edinburgh Leisure
Established since 1998, Edinburgh Leisure is a Scottish charity on a mission to help people lead healthier, happier, more active lives by creating opportunities for everyone to get active and stay active.
They run over 50 sport and leisure venues across Edinburgh. With over five million customer visits pre-pandemic, they offer hundreds of activities and opportunities for the people who live, work and visit Scotland’s capital city to get active and protect their health and wellbeing.
In addition, their Active Communities Programme harnesses the power of physical activity and sport to tackle inequalities and combat the effects of inactivity. Each year they support around 10,000 people affected by health conditions, disabilities, inequalities, and poverty to get active – empowering them to improve and protect their health and wellbeing.
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