The Church of England Diocese of Birmingham is part of a large and complex organization comprising 42 dioceses across England and Europe. The Birmingham diocese covers 300 square miles and includes parishes in the West Midlands like Birmingham and parts of Solihull, Sandwell, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire. The organization promotes, facilitates and assists advancement of the Christian faith with a clergy and staff team of around 220, together with (in excess of) 150 parsonages. The team manages complex budgets, working with a diverse range of stakeholders, with day to day finance underpinned by voluntary donations from its parishes.
We sat down with Financial Director Melanie Crooks to discuss how Xledger transformed her organization.
The Diocese of Birmingham came to Xledger in 2016 looking to overcome the challenges of their existing system. In an accounting system they were looking for something that would fit all accounting requirements and reduce time-consuming annual processing, allowing more time for in-depth data analysis for decision makers. They also wanted to become more cloud-based.
Challenges faced were:
- On-premise system supplemented by a ‘spaghetti of spreadsheets’
- No meaningful information in an easily accessible format
- Limited data capture
- Excessive manual entry of data
- Lack of visibility across the organization
- Difficulties with decision making
- Lack of Charity SORP compliance at data entry level
The diocese noticed that most systems on the market were not truly cloud based. They were the old fashioned server-based systems with a cloud veneer. In Xledger they found true cloud and a consistent (end to end) customer journey.
Xledger provided CoE Birmingham with a cost-effective platform, no monthly tie-in, and quarterly vendor-side updates. In the first six months the organization has achieved:
- Revised chart of accounts
- Implemented new processes together with management and reporting structures
- 25 new users including budget holders
- Implementation of Purchase Ordering
- Embedding of Project Accounting
- Budgeting for in excess of 150 parsonages with real-time insight
- Deployed integrated system in the cloud
- Agile forecasting system
- Automated banking and accounting functions
- Additional functionality for planning
- Dashboard management and easy reporting
- Support and development with the Xledger team
- Project accounting functionality
- Reporting and analytics in real-time
“The most immediate challenge Xledger helped us with is paying suppliers,” Melanie Crooks says. “We just go online and we ‘tick tick tick’, review invoices on the system…We don’t have to write checks, envelope things with compliment slips or put them in the post. Xledger sends a remittance directly to our supplier. And they know what’s been paid and when it is going to come into the bank.” The CoE team can also see their data better than ever before. “We’ve greater visibility in terms of what is happening within the organization. Our staff are now better informed in real-time. It has been a facilitator for digital change.”
Crooks continues: “Being a cloud based system I can be working remotely from anywhere in the world. It is flexible and fits around people’s working practices which has been quite a revolution for us. What was taking someone two days to sort out is now a press of a button.”