The Trussell Trust is a national charity that exists so we can all be free of hunger. Their network of more than 1,300 food banks centres provides emergency food and practical support for people facing hardship. They also work with communities across the UK to change the things that push people to need a food bank. Established in 1997, this charity now employees 268 staff across the UK.
The Trussell Trust went live with Xledger on 1st April 2021. We met with the Finance Operations Manager in the spring of 2022 to understand what they thought of their experience with Xledger and the value it has added to their organisation.
The Trussell Trust was using an on-premise finance system, with an internal server that would often struggle in summer. The organisation was growing and their existing system was holding them back. The system didn’t allow them to raise POs, plus with an increasing number of employees on the road, there was a demand for them to be able to complete and approve expense claims on the go. The existing system couldn’t support this; there were modules available but these had to be bolted on.
In addition to these issues they were looking for a more sophisticated system that would support the organisation as it scaled. They had to do every task manually and so automation was key as was real time information. Their Finance Operations Manager told us “it could take the finance team up to three weeks to prepare the management accounts, only for the information to then be out of date. We knew there was a better way and that began with moving to the cloud.”
The impact of the pandemic and demand for remote working further highlighted the need to react and adapt to the pace and evolution of society, so the Trussell Trust could continue to work towards their goal of a future without the need for food banks.
Needs and requirements scoping
Before looking into new systems, Trussell Trust surveyed their staff and asked them what they wanted from a new system. “The main issues were around expenses and keeping receipts, and we wanted to make this process much simpler; purchase orders and real time information were also additional new requirements. Our timeframe to move systems was as soon as possible given what was happening in the wider society at the time. We looked at a range of platforms, realising we wanted something mid-market; that was suitable for us”.
When they were ready to start selection they acquired a list of charity finance system providers with the objective of drawing up a short list with a good fit with the Trussell Trust’s new requirements. Deep market reviews and detailed discussions led to five providers being shortlisted for the quoting stage, including Xledger. By engaging the wider team through surveys, it meant the Trussell Trust was in a strong position to convey what their ideal system looked like.
During shortlisting, it became clear that the Trussell Trust needed a clear, easy-to-use and effective back-end system. While other providers’ front-end had advantages, the back-end often lacked efficiency – which meant staff would have had to key in invoices and expenses. Whereas, Xledger has built-in OCR.
What was it that made Xledger’s software stand out?
- Xledger allowed integrations with any external system
- Real-time reporting feature
- Efficiency in back office
- Automatic bank reconciliation
- Mobile app; including on the go expenses
- Reasonable price
- Built in OCR (an added requirement following shortlisting discussions)
The Xledger experience
The Trussell Trust began their journey with Xledger by discussing their requirements with the sales team who wanted to know how many transactions they processed in a year to prepare a quote. However, they didn’t have this information to hand, so we moved them to a pricing-by-user model rather than by transaction, which made sense as the charity scaled.
The Trussell Trust had a hard deadline of year-end 31st March and ‘go live’ in the new system on 1st April, which was achieved with the support of a project manager and consultant who kept the project on track.
How was implementation?
Xledger’s consultants helped guide the Trussell Trust through the details, from designing the system, to building it and learning how to use it. We ensured the relevant people were trained in the parts of the system the charity needed to know, by assigning a champion for each department, who could then train their respective teams.
How about after implementation?
When the Trussell Trust moved from liaising with an Xledger consultant to the Xledger support function following their implementation, they explained that there were some hesitations. “We assumed it would be like other support functions we can all relate to – on the phone for 10 minutes, only to find out the person can’t help you, then being sent template documents to read through. However, we were reassured it wouldn’t be like that and to be fair, support have been brilliant! Easily the best support team for any finance software we’ve ever seen. The response times are excellent, Xledger support would often come back within an hour and fix the problem.”
“This has taken a lot of pressure off the team. If there’s an issue, we know it will get sorted. We got to know the support team really well, as well as our consultant. We use the ticketing system and often the support team would also call us back to explain an issue, which was really helpful.”
With Xledger being used throughout the business the organisation has seen real benefits from the new partnership.
The continued development of the product, alongside ongoing advice and support from Xledger consultants is enabling the Trussell Trust to get the maximum benefit from the Xledger system as it grows and its requirements change.
Now implementation is over, they are thinking about how they can continually improve processes. For example: “we used to raise POs for each train journey and hotel stays for our employees. This could be 75 plus trips a month, which was really holding things up. The Xledger consultant recommended processing these invoices through expenses which saved us a lot of time.”
From the product perspective, the investment in R&D means Xledger releases new product features regularly: In the latest release the project module got a revamp, which means organisations like the Trussell Trust can now report any which way they like within the project module; account code, fund, project, project owner. It means they can choose the way that works best for them. The product continues to develop over time as Xledger invests in developing and making the product better.
Top four technical results
The finance team highlighted four key areas in which the business had gained real value from implementing Xledger’s finance system:
- Expenses processing
- Real-time reporting through new dashboards
- Purchase orders
- OCR function for invoicing
How Xledger is enabling the Trussell Trust to keep up with an everchanging environment
We are constantly adapting as an organisation to ensure we’re supporting our network of food banks to meet the needs of their communities during unprecedented circumstances following the pandemic and through the cost of living crisis. This means ongoing training for different teams as their needs change or new people join. We decided to hold monthly inductions on the system for new starters and fortnightly drop-in sessions for ad-hoc queries on the system. This has been useful as the system is utilised organisation wide.
What advice would you offer to anyone else changing systems / buying Xledger?
“Make one person responsible to lead the project, as once it starts, it moves really quickly. Also, think about the project as much as possible before implementation. For us, this was looking into our chart of accounts, think about your processes, approval levels. Any work you can do ahead of the project commencing will help the project run smoother. Make sure you stay on schedule, it will allow the project to be completed on time.”
With improved reporting capability, automated systems, and a finance system that is used throughout the organisation, we look forward to seeing the Trussell Trust go from strength to strength, as they scale their organisation and build a future where none of us need a food bank.
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