Andrews are an estate agent and property services company specialising across Southern England.
Andrews went live with Xledger in January 2021. 15 months later, we spoke to Lee Warbey, Assistant Financial Controller, to hear how the process was for them and what has happened since.
Andrews was a paper-based organisation. A lack of joined up consolidation meant that different areas of the business were separated; charities maintained on a spreadsheet, while financial services, lettings and estate agencies were stored on separate data files. Lee told us that he knew it was time to move to a modern system that provided greater automation and insight into the organisation’s finances.
“Our initial aim was to get paperless; and we wanted a joined-up system. We needed to be more efficient and agile. The only way to do that is having the system to do the majority of things for you – we knew there was a system out there that did all that.”
Andrews had been with their previous finance system for many years, and it had “no longer become fit for purpose”, states Lee. “A lot of businesses we work with have some form of automation. Many seemed ahead of the curve to us, so we had to keep up with the times.” With a change in financial leadership internally, there was an opportunity to make a substantial change.
What did Andrews want to achieve?
Lee states the three results they were looking for:
- Increase automation
- Provide insight
- Real term reporting
Furthermore, the organisation wanted to share ownership with the team, allowing them to view and be in control of their finances. “If they have the information in real term values, they can control their own costs – which is something that as a business we’ve never been able to take a handle of.”
Andrews brought together a range of stakeholders, including Lee and four others, across finance, IT and project management. “We knew we needed lots of people in the room”, Lee adds. They went to market, engaged a consultant to support, and narrowed down to two systems, including Xledger.
“We sat with both providers. The other was very good, but ultimately the sales approach was too hard – there was no alteration to their sales pattern, which put our backs up.” In essence, the approach was not tailored to the needs of Andrews and their complex business requirements.
Alternatively, Lee explains: “Xledger were very honest on everything, including limitations of the system. This was refreshing. I was quite surprised at it. It was very honest, and they listened to the spec we wanted and went through it stage by stage. They stopped and were patient in answering all of our questions. They only moved on when we’d covered everything we needed.”
Lee goes on to describe: “We wanted to see something relevant to us. Their Solutions Consultant had created a demo bespoke for us, with consolidation of entities; things that made sense. It made us feel like they really wanted our business. We came away thinking, we could really work with these people.”
What made the process work well?
“Internally, we did a full and robust project analysis. We had people who knew what they could deliver and within what time frames. Xledger provided a pinwheel showing how much time we would need to put in to make it work. It wasn’t anything like what we expected. For us, I was glad we had a project manager our end, and at Xledger’s end, to keep everything on track. We had tight timeframes, but the Xledger consulting team worked extremely hard to get it done on time, including migrating much of our historic data.”
Lee advises: “From experience, anyone who thinks that they can just rely on the company to do implementation is setting up for failure. I wrote off around six-seven weeks of my day-to-day job to make sure migration happened. We had to restructure our business in a way that actually works. We thought, what do we want to achieve? We had to look at our chart of accounts, cost coding, do a bit of a data cleanse, make sure the data made sense.”
One of Xledger’s consultancy team helped support Andrews throughout their hypercare, when issues arose and they needed a quick response. “It was a case of, ‘can you just show me again’?” Lee explained, “they were really good with regards to that. We received the Rolls-Royce standard of hypercare!”
Lee continued: “the support was adaptive in relation to our business needs. They were amazing! We got the same top-quality response from the support team as we did in hypercare.” Lee explained how a previous provider would advertise that they responded in an hour – yet this turned out just to be an automatic response saying ‘request received’. Instead: “Xledger’s support team would reply the same day to a raised ticket. They’d jump on a Teams call, or a 5-minute conversation and find a solution really quickly. The support is beyond reproach.”
What changes has Xledger brought?
“We’ve got the system working in the way we want. We’ve done all the configuration and got the right people in. We now have automated invoicing, the AI is really good. What used to take two-part time members of staff (effectively working a full-time position) is now managed by one part-time employee who works two days a week. Those are real time effects.
We can keep on top of the purchase ledger in an hour. 90% of our invoices are check, confirm, send. If we find that someone’s on holiday, left the business, you just change the authorisation and happy days! The system is easy to change without the need for project managers – we can consolidate entities into one trading, helping us to scale.”
Lee continues, “fixed assets were managed on Excel. It was a nightmare. While migration was difficult, now we can forecast depreciation over the next 12 months. I can produce a report for business owners much more easily.”
“The integration tools are helpful for our charities, and the real-time results make gathering insight for stakeholders and business owners much easier. For example, you’ve introduced live banking recently, which we’ll be using for the charities. Updating the banking is going to be transformational; what takes me fifteen hours will go down to five.”
Lee added that within real estate organisations, there are complex tools which manage lettings, references and housing-specific needs. These can’t all be done within a finance system, however through Xledger’s integration capacity, all the functions could work together. As a result, the business is now reporting effectively across all these areas.
Insight and scalability
“We now have 100% insight into our financial data. We can give real-time results to stakeholders and business owners, much more quickly than historically. In addition to this, we’ve consolidated our entities into one trading entity which will greatly help us as we scale. The system has been easy to change, without the need to have project managers dealing with it. Being able to change your system in relation to our expectations is great.”
Andrews were in a fortunate position to utilise the benefits of making efficiencies within the team, without making redundancies. Lee continues, “the bottom line is important for every business. You need to find efficiencies in ways that can be uncomfortable. For us, we have reduced our headcount by five members of staff – but at the same time, not put anyone at risk. One was graduating from university, one emigrating abroad, another who retired, another who set up their own business.”
Why was Xledger the right fit?
Lee sums up how the system has achieved what they originally wanted from a new, modern finance software, “The software has saved us a very precious commodity, time. It has also enabled us to provide superior data to stakeholders within the business and at the click of a button enable them to see what makes up the figures that are being interrogated.”
“It has been a collaborative relationship. Xledger helped us get to where we need to be.”
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