A fast-growing social housing and support provider has put Cloud Financials with MRI at the heart of their IT and data services strategy as part of a major upgrade to their internal systems.
Based in Witney, Advance provides housing and support for adults with learning disabilities or mental health conditions, providing homes to over 2,500 people across England. Advance have offices in Witney, Leicester, London, Dorset and Cornwall.
The housing and support provider undertook a major programme of restructuring their IT systems, moving their on-premise solutions into the cloud and re-designing their internal processes from the ground up. Simon Bradfield, Deputy Director of Finance at Advance, explained:
Advance has expanded rapidly in the past couple of years. A huge increase in invoicing meant that our previous system was no longer fit for purpose and the required extra modules caused stability issues.
As part of their broader strategic aims, the Advance team compared multiple platforms to manage their financial and reporting processes. Key priorities for the selection process were the ability to integrate with their Housing system, as well as flexibility to meet their reporting requirements.
The Advance team were also keen to move their financial platform into the cloud, since the majority of all other applications within the organisation had already been migrated as part of a broader IT strategy review.
We’re taking this opportunity to look at multiple business processes and modernise them when we can. At the moment systems drive process too much – we looked at processes first so we could design the new system around them.
Advance selected Cloud Financials with MRI, citing the relationship they built with the team as a key factor behind their decision.
We were talking to multiple suppliers, but MRI and their chosen finance software partners Advanced seemed to be genuinely keen and wanted to win the contract – we had more questions from them than anyone else in the run up to the demonstrations, they really took an interest.
The established relationship between both MRI and their software partners Advanced has allowed us to rationalise the number of suppliers we’re dealing with, which is a priority for us.
With the migration to Cloud Financials complete, Advance Housing and Support are anticipating measurable improvements in their reporting accuracy alongside a host of other benefits.
One of the major factors that led to us choosing Cloud Financials was the reporting. Too much of our current reporting relies on Excel, resulting in extra work, adding to the reporting timetable. Having all our reports coming out of one system will give us a single version of the truth and make life much easier for us.
Advance are also benefiting from greater systems stability and technical support from the team at MRI. Philip Jackson, Head of ICT and Data Services at Advance commented;
The biggest benefit is the stability and reliability. Suppliers have greater visibility of cloud solutions and they’re addressing problems before we’re even aware of them, so we’re on the front foot with issues and maintenance. There’s also less of an impact when going through upgrades – on-premise upgrades can be a big project, but with SaaS solutions it’s rolled out seamlessly.
Asked if they had any advice for similar organisations considering a move to a cloud platform, Philip stressed the importance of a strong briefing process for suppliers.
Be very, very clear about your requirements and the business drivers behind them. The preparation the MRI and Advanced team did during discovery phase was comprehensive; they clearly took the time to research us and what our problems and challenges might be. They were also quick to set up early discovery sessions and quick to share indicative pricing, which helped establish affordability at an early stage.
While the system represented a cost increase on their previous solution, Philip is confident that the team will see a strong return on their investment.
There’s definitely a financial shock to doing a big project like this. However, we get the benefit of technical expertise we don’t have in-house, particularly around things like security – it makes a big difference to the level of security assurance we can offer to commissioners, regulators and customers. This will play a big part in how we evidence the value of the project in the longer term.
About Advance Housing and Support
Advance Housing and Support Limited is a registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and a Registered Housing Provider. We provide housing, support and other community related services, specialising in supporting people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions. Services include small-scale residential care homes, supported living services, shared ownership homes, community support services and day services. We operate over a large geographical area across the Midlands, London, South East and South West.
Our vision is to transform the lives of people with a disability or mental health condition by providing the best quality housing and support services. We want to enable our customers to live the lives they choose, achieve their personal goals, feel valued and know their voices are heard.
For more information, please visit www.advanceuk.org