CFO Profile: Kristina White, Omnia Inclusive Employment Solutions
Kristina White knew that Omnia Inclusive Employment Solutions, an inclusive employment agency operating in NSW and Queensland, needed a better financial system to achieve its business goals.
These goals included reducing the time frontline staff were spending on administrative tasks, and improving the speed and detail of financial reporting. The company had plans to expand into new areas, and White was concerned that using the existing accounting software would slow down this expansion.
“The discussion with the Board was that we needed a modern, more flexible platform that would support the business and IT strategy,” says Kristina White, Omnia’s CFO.
A cloud-based ERP would be more agile, adaptable and provide faster and more detailed reporting to analyse data and make better business decisions.
There were some obvious improvements to make. Key tasks such as raising purchase orders and paying suppliers took up too much time for frontline staff as well as the finance team.
“When I walked in, the agency was still using paper purchase orders. The accounting software was nothing more than a bookkeeping system,” Ms White says.
The accounts payable process required frontline staff to write out a purchase order on paper, take it to a manager for approval, scan the form into a printer and send it to the finance team. The finance team would then physically match the supplier invoice to the paper purchase order, enter it into the accounting software and then pay the supplier.
The whole process took staff away from delivering services and kept the finance team bogged down with data entry. Ms White saw that a more modern finance platform would have an impact in other departments too.
“We needed to improve not just finance but other areas to improve corporate support. Investment in technology was necessary to raise that bar and create those efficiencies, deliver innovation and improve productivity,” Ms White says.
Redesigning finance on a new platform
Ms White brought in GiuntaBell, a financial services consultancy that specialises in the not-for-profit sector, to help find an ERP that could handle Omnia Inclusive Employment Solutions’ requirements. The workforce operates from 32 sites across NSW and Queensland to deliver employment and training services for people with disabilities.
GiuntaBell recommended Sage Intacct, a cloud-based ERP with a strong following among NFPs in Australia and the USA. The implementation took 12 weeks, with plenty of time to train staff and ensure the cutover occurred with minimal disruption.
The digitisation of the paper-based accounts payable process had an immediate and substantial impact. Ms White estimates that it took 75 percent less time to complete, freeing up frontline staff to focus on delivering services.
The finance team was also far more efficient. “We import data as opposed to entering it. It all pushes it up into the system automatically and it’s far quicker,” Ms White says.
By recovering man-hours previously spent on data entry, Ms White could expand the role of the finance team and find ways to serve the business. The team now had time to create scenarios for business opportunities or help frontline staff keep within their budgets.
Dimensional reporting, a key element of Sage Intacct, was a huge advantage in both these cases. The previous accounting software was very structured and had a single way of displaying information. The ability to slice and dice the cost of those dimensions and report on that has certainly made things easier, Ms White says.
“Our reporting has improved immensely. The Board has improved reporting, our managers have their own dashboards so they can view their results, which gives them more information on how to run their business.”
Creating a culture that welcomes questions
The time savings in finance gave Ms White the opportunity to reallocate staff. An employee who wanted a shorter working week agreed to move from a full-time accounts payable role to three days a week. A second member of the finance team was reassigned to work part time in a frontline role.
The technology transformation has brought about a change in the company culture, creating an environment that promotes collaboration. Now managers can see on their dashboards how they’re tracking against their budget and against performance drivers for the company. This greater awareness of financial metrics among business users has led to greater collaboration between departments, Ms White says.
“While the frontline staff are specialists in their fields, the coming together of the operational and the financial in Sage Intacct is creating a broader understanding, both for them and for us. We are likely to get a lot more questions around budgets now, which is great.”
Reorienting the finance team to provide answers to business queries requires more time invested in data analysis. Pulling more types of data into the system will unearth new correlations that drive performance, Ms White says.
“It’s just the next step up for us in our journey. Let’s bring all the data together and see how we can then use it to even further understand the business.”