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Jigsaw Homes Group – Purchasing Case Study

A group of housing associations that own and manage properties across the North West and the Midlands.


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Introduction

For Jigsaw Homes 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 Jigsaw 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.

Jigsaw, a group of housing associations with over 33,000 properties across the North-West and the Midlands, with offices in Leigh, Chorley, Gedling 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 ensure 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, Jigsaw 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 Jigsaw 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 and partnering with Jigsaw, moves the point of control from the Invoice arrival to the earlier point of requesting a purchase. It 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, 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 Rasburn, Assistant Director of Finance at Jigsaw, 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 Rollout

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 – were trained on the new POP solution over the following months.

The solution has been used to raise purchase orders for over 5 years, the number of purchase orders processed increasing as it has been rolled out across more departments over the years. More recently, it was rolled out to their colleagues at the East & South offices. Chris Rasburn 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 Jigsaw 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.”

 
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Value for Money

Jigsaw 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 Jigsaw 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. Chris Rasburn 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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