Adactus Housing Group
A group of housing associations that own and manage properties across the North West of England.
For North-west based Adactus Housing Group, it is important to ensure that money is spent wisely to get the best deals with its suppliers.
In addition to strengthening its business processes to improve internal controls, it was crucial that Adactus partnered with a company it could trust to develop a software solution that was as intuitive to use as Amazon, while delivering real control and visibility over the purchasing process.
Adactus, a group of housing associations with over 13,000 properties across the North-west, with offices in Leigh, Chorley and Manchester, is focused on saving and getting the best value for money possible. Listening to recommendations from its external auditors, the company decided it was time to implement a Purchase Order Processing (POP) solution to make sure it had robust control over spending across all departments with a clear and transparent system of accountability for budget holders.
"Now our auditors are happy that we have robust control and a transparent solution in place that will save us time and money."
Over the last few years Adactus had implemented an electronic Document Management system (eDM) and an automated Accounts Payable solution from Invu to improve their invoice processing, visibility, throughput and control. Prior to this Adactus had a manual invoice process that had resulted in long delays in processing invoices. While automating the process significantly improved invoice approval practices, it did not allow budget holder's full control of their budgets at the point a spending commitment was made.
The solution developed through Invu, partnering with Adactus, moves the point of control from the Invoice arrival to the earlier point of requesting a purchase and enables the budget holder to see the potential impact of that commitment on their budget before any expenditure is committed to. Employee engagement was critical to obtaining buy-in to the project and so it was important that those employees responsible for placing orders found it as easy to use as making purchases at home through services such as Amazon.
The solution allows staff to search previously purchased products or services to use as a template - or simply create a new one, add it to their basket and send a request for approval based on automated business rules within the system. The solution uses these rules to relate General Ledger (GL) codes to the relevant budget holders, who can themselves approve requests, while the system also has the capability for budget holders to delegate a level of authority on each GL code to users based on monetary value. The solution is self-service so once the line items are approved an employee can raise and place an order with the supplier and 'receipt' the goods or service when delivered. Supplier invoices when received, are data-captured using ABBYY capture software, and either automatically matched to fully receipted purchase orders (straight through processing) or adjusted and approved by budget holders.
As Chris Holden, Management Accountant at Adactus explains, "We had no central purchase ordering (PO) solution in place. Having looked at other purchase ordering systems on the market that were not user-friendly we decided
to develop a bespoke solution with Invu. We wanted a POP solution that embodied the same principles as Amazon by being easy to use and intuitive."
"We have mutual trust between ourselves and Invu. We are able to have frank discussions when necessary, the Invu team are swift at delivering and we can always get hold of someone when needed. The calibre of service and staff at Invu is high, meaning we can resolve any issues swiftly and efficiently."
Implementation and company-wide roll out
Invu's professional services staff have been closely involved with the installation, configuration and integration of the software, which was carried out on an agreed plan. Since the users access the system via their web browser there is no end-user software installation required. The Corporate Services and Finance departments were first to pilot the solution and iron out any queries, when ordering items such as stationary or IT equipment. The last two departments – the Development and Asset Management - will be trained on the new POP solution over the coming months.
The solution has been used to raise purchase orders since May 2014, and the number of purchase orders processed has increased as it has been rolled out across more departments over the year. Holden adds, "Our budget holders have far greater control over what is being spent against budgets because they are seeing purchase requests before goods are ordered. This gives Adactus better oversight and we are better able to forecast our cash commitments."
"Invu's POP solution enables our budget holders to easily approve purchase requisitions or reject any that they do not wish to commit to before the supplier receives a PO - thereby preventing cash from leaving the business unnecessarily."
Value for Money
Adactus is careful to ensure it spends its money wisely and this solution compliments value for money principles by allowing increased budgetary control and awareness of expenditure.
In the future, Invu and Adactus are looking to enhance the solution to further help staff collectively improve their purchasing choices by using the historic data from across the business combined with management tools to suggest the very best matching options when they next make a request.
"Now we have an inclusive PO system in place, visibility across the whole business has since been significantly improved."
Ease of Use
The solution has so far received positive feedback from employees who have embraced moving to the automated solution. Holden adds, "When we decided to partner with Invu this meant that we had a clean slate upon which to design the solution to make it as effective as possible."
"Most people have used Amazon or an eBay portal without having to use a help manual, which is the spirit in which our system has been designed and built. While our system includes a 'tips' mechanism, it is an intuitive system requiring minimal training. Staff feel that the system is easy to operate which is testament to one of the guiding principles that influenced the design of the POP solution - to be intuitive and easy to use for the end user."
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