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KEY POINTS

  • A spend control solution that properly integrates with the
    back office finance software.
  • Access to the latest functionality and improvements in Infor
    SunSystems.
  • A host of quick but sustainable financial wins, from reduced
    headcount to better capture service charges via Infor
    SunSystems superior coding.
  • Curbs on ad hoc and unapproved spending.
  • Improved processes for suppliers, ranging from email of
    orders to quicker turnaround of payments.
  • Provision of a sound finance process basis for a growth
    programme designed to better meet the needs of clients.

Solution

The implementation of Infor SunSystems iPOS eProcurement, alongside an upgrade to Infor 10x (SunSystems 6) and Infor CPM Budgeting & Planning module.

Organisation

Peabody Trust, the UK’s oldest housing association, is a provider of affordable housing to 1% of all Londoners – and is planning to build many more homes in the next few years. The Trust owns and manages more than 27,000 homes across the capital, housing around 80,000 residents.

Objective

To upgrade and extend the functionality of its back office to both support ambitious growth plans and improve visibility into finances.

Challenge

The combination of an old version of Infor SunSystems, as well as an internally unpopular Procure-to-Pay package which was not properly interfacing, resulted in a build-up of inefficiencies and poor support for accounting best practice.

Leading London housing association Peabody Trust owns and manages around 27,000 homes which provide affordable housing for over 80,000 people.
The group, established by the American banker and philanthropist George Peabody over 150 years ago, provides a wide range of community programs for its residents and neighbourhoods, including help with employment and training, health and well-being projects, and a range of family support programmes.

But things are changing at the famous institution, which holds the honour of being the UK’s oldest organisation of its type. It intends to build up to 1,000 new homes a year, the majority of which will be for affordable and social rent and the rest to be sold on the open market to fund more social and affordable housing and community investment.

The aim is to sharply increase the choices for Londoners in terms of affordable housing, development of new homes, regenerate existing estates, and provision of yet more quality services for its clients. To help it meet these ambitious targets, a strong finance team equipped with the right tools, is seen as fundamental. Now that it has invested in a range of reliable, modern systems, centred on the latest version of Infor SunSystems, Infor CPM, and Professional Advantage’s iPOS eProcurement solution, that’s exactly the situation Peabody is in.

In the words of Sonia Ellingham, Finance Director at Peabody, “As we extend our mission, it is vital we have the appropriate systems in place to support us in delivering our objectives”.

OLDER SOFTWARE WAS HOLDING US BACK

Ellingham and her team admit this wasn’t the case until relatively recently. A Purchase-to-Pay system was being used to produce purchase orders (POs) for all expenditure not processed via the main housing management system. However, there was insufficient interfacing between that system and the central accounts process. It was a system that staff had consistently struggled to work with, resulting in improperly followed procurement processes, a less than accurate financial picture and a lack of visibility into all budget and commitment issues.

Also identified as a key requirement was an upgrade of, Infor SunSystems, to reap the advantages from vendor improvements to other functionality.

“These older systems we were using were starting to become incompatible with the latest version of our infrastructure,” notes Mike Leach, Project Manager Finance Systems for the organisation. “We knew we needed to provide staff with more flexible systems and tools that were also more easily adaptable to our changing business needs,” he adds.

In response, the decision was taken in August 2013 to address these problems in one sweep.

A KEY PLUS POINT: PROFESSIONAL ADVANTAGE’S CLOSE TIES WITH INFOR

Upgrading to the latest revision, Infor 10x, of Peabody’s trusted Infor SunSystems was a key driver of change, as Peabody knew it offered significant potential benefits for the group.

In particular, it promised cost savings from day one. “We have traditionally under-recovered on service charges,” says Leach. “But the new Infor SunSystems version has greater flexibility on codes, so we hope to capture these elements through more detailed analysis coding. The potential savings are huge.”

At the same time, a more modern, fully integrated procurement solution was seen as offering great potential benefit, too. A tender was issued and various options from the open market considered, resulting in a decision to partner with Infor directly and to move forward with all three projects (upgrade, procurement and budgeting and forecasting). The purchase of Infor SunSystems iPOS, by authors Professional Advantage, fulfilled this second project requirement and enabled retirement of the older Proactis tool. A key factor in that procurement was iPOS’ cost effectiveness, which in the team’s eyes made it stand out as a solution, as well as its tight integration with Infor SunSystems.

“iPOS’ seamless links into Infor SunSystems, plus the fact it offers all the functionality we were after, as well as smaller technology footprint and lower cost, made this a very easy decision in the end,” explains Leach.

“The fact that Professional Advantage is a very close, long-standing partner of Infor was another strong factor in its favour.”

“Peabody is a long standing user of Infor SunSystems and our upgrade to the latest version, along with the implementation of iPOS, means we will be able to work more efficiently and effectively. This will help us continue to expand and provide better services to our residents,” is Ellingham’s firm conclusion.

Those aren’t vague goals; Ellingham and her fellow managers have definite plans for what the new back office software will bring to the Peabody bottom line.

Specifically, the group anticipates a return of investment of £1m within five years as a direct result of improved coding accuracy, elimination of duplicate processes, reduced support costs, and better procurement by department.

Even more benefits are anticipated through improved reporting and economies of scale associated with bringing new subsidiaries on board easily.