The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is a registered, federated charity that works to conserve nature and wildlife through practical action and education across the counties of Warwickshire, Solihull and Coventry in the West Midlands of England.
Just over a year since the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust went live with Xledger on April 1st, 2019, the Chief Financial Officer, Philip Farrell, talks us through their objectives, the hurdles, and the end result.
The finance system the Trust was using ‘ultimately wasn’t flexible enough to fulfil the requirements of the organisation’ Philip explained. In the absence of an automated cloud-based system with multi-user capabilities, the time-consuming manual processing of financial information was not only expending the finance department’s time but also fashioning poor results as the information distributed within the organisation was often outdated. Philip emphasised that ‘there was a severe lack of relevant information in a timely fashion with the old system, and management accounts were always two to three months out of date.’
What the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust wanted was a more versatile, scalable and distributed finance system that could automate workflow and issue real-time information to the rest of the organisation, not just the finance department.
- Multi-tenanted, true cloud technology for improved business operations
- Complete automation of workflow processes, removing the need for day-to-day transactional management and allowing extra time for a strategic focus
- Smart, actionable, real-time analytics to both eliminate the dependence on outdated reports and help decision-makers execute informed judgments
- Automated notifications of uncompleted tasks to lend further visibility and control.
Why was Xledger the right fit? – Philip Farrell, Finance Controller
“Once I saw Xledger, I knew it was the way forward. To extend the use of a finance system across an organisation, you need to move to something cloud-based and more distributed. The old system was very much owned by the finance department and they controlled what information people were given. Whereas with Xledger, you can see the numbers in real-time. If you’re a project manager, you can see exactly what’s happening on your project.
Xledger isn’t a big, corporate, faceless structure which sets it apart from its competitors. We received personal level support and were able to form close, lasting relationships with the team. Xledger’s consultants are also accountants, so it’s great to have someone talking to you about the finance software that actually understands the debits and credits.”
Implementation and training
The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust lacked adequate internal resources for the implementation of Xledger, so not everything started as smoothly as they’d hoped, Philip explained. ‘My advice to every organisation going ahead is to plan your project and resource your project internally. You need people to cover your old finance system while the current finance team concentrate on the implementation of Xledger’s automated cloud-based finance system. Listen to the Xledger consultants’ advice – we thought we knew better, but we got it very wrong.’
Since overcoming the initial challenges, the Trust feels that their objectives continue to be met and are ‘huge advocates’ of Xledger. ‘The support centre at Xledger is just excellent,’ Philip continued, ‘I didn’t expect them to do as much as they did, and they get back to you straight away.’ Xledger is still working closely with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, developing their knowledge of the software and Philip is keen to start exploring the budgeting and forecasting modules in the near future. Addressing the coronavirus crisis lockdown period, he added that ‘one of the beauties of Xledger, is that irrespective of where people are located geographically, remote training works. It’s gone really well.’
A year on, the ‘real benefits of having distributed financial software that’s cloud-based is very apparent’ stressed Philip. ‘I find the workflow and automation processes to be phenomenally good. It’s brought a lot more control to our organisation.’ With less day-to-day transactional management, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust can be more strategic, and additional time can be allocated to developing actions that directly benefit the Trust. Philip noted that ‘in fact, 90% of the staff appreciate how much better it is with Xledger’s automated cloud-based finance system,’ so the advantages are being felt across the entire organisation.
Philip emphasised that the complete automation of processes has empowered the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust while working from home during the coronavirus lockdown. ‘We don’t need physical hard copies of invoices; we don’t need to produce spreadsheets to send to people. The workflow works. Purchase orders are raised, goods receipt notes are input and processed, supplier invoices are received automatically and scanned into the system. If the workflow is followed, things get approved by way of workflow automation.’ The trust has needed to furlough 70% of its staff, but the ability to be dynamic with workflow meant they were able ‘to rejig the entire workflow processes for the organisation, in just half an hour.’
How Xledger has improved your business processes? – Philip Farrell, Finance Controller
“Ultimately, there’s a much slicker exchange of information and the system is just easier to use. The operational people know what’s happening on their projects, as opposed to us telling them. They can see the numbers in real-time and can move costs around, instead of waiting for a printout months after an event.
Likewise, the automation of payments is brilliant, as you don’t need to leave wads of paper invoices on an approvers desk, who then needs to go into the relevant bank software with a little keypad to put in security codes X, Y and Z because all the authority has happened throughout the workflow.”