Get the most from your Unit4 solution with the Unit4 Financials/Unit4 Dream (Coda/Dream) User Group

More information: http://www.codausergroup.net/

The Unit4 Financials/Unit4 Dream (Coda/Dream) User Group is run by the users for the users. Members can seek help from fellow members in times of trouble for advice on making the most of their solution.

The User Group is a collection of like minded users sharing experiences of Unit4 Financials/Unit4 Dream (Coda/Dream). It is also forum and focal point for Unit4 Financials/Unit4 Dream

(Coda/Dream) users to make representations to Unit4 and for the users to exchange information and experiences.

Workshops cover technical updates, specific product features, topics of current interest and new and updated features in new releases. Beyond technical and application aspects, matters raised have included: consultancy lead times, support desk response times and timing and duration of Unit4 user conferences.

The fee for workshops is £300 per annum for a company which can send 5 staff to each workshop. Organisations can send up to 5 ‘most appropriate’ users to a workshop so there does not have to be an over-reliance on one individual.

A survey of user group members found the main benefits they enjoyed are:

  • New product exposure
  • Exchanging best practice
  • Training from workshops
  • Networking
  • Direct access to consultants

What value do members achieve from the User Group

“The User Group aims to cover and advance the interests of everyone in an organisation who use Unit4 Financials (Coda) or Unit4 Dream, from an accounts payable clerk to someone responsible for the technical aspects of database management,” Martin Dore, Kuwait Investment Office

“If the member sends 5 people to 6 workshops, each staff member will only cost the organisation £10 for a full-day’s training and networking on the Unit4 Financials (Coda) or Unit4 Dream version they operate. Training is usually £400 to £500 per day, so I think this represents very good value,” Tony Murphy, VisitBritain

“As each (corporate) member of the user group can send up to 5 delegates to a workshop, the most appropriate people in an organisation can attend each session,” Martin Dore, Kuwait Investment Office

“There is no minimum time commitment when joining the User Group. However as with many things in life, the more you put in, the more you can get out,” Martin Dore, Kuwait Investment Office

Specific system benefits members have achieved

“There is always a reluctance to upgrade hardware and operating systems, a significant improvement in performance was gained by upgrading the platform from 32 to 64 bit and increasing the amount of more useable memory – this might not have happened as early as it did if other users had not confirmed the benefits. IT helped us to achieve a consistently better response for all users,” Paul John, University of South Wales

“I personally gave a systems accountant a run through the Unit4 Financials (Coda) year-end process. The company he worked for had not run a year end for 5 years and he was very worried about pushing the button. The next time I saw him he said it was all up-to-date and ran with no problems,” Tony Murphy, VisitBritain

“At a workshop on workflow and metadata, the user group and consultant showed me that certain workflows could be copied and exported and then imported. This saves a large amount of work as the exported workflow could be stored and recovered as required,” Richard Ward, Global Renewables

To find out more about how the Unit4 Financials/Unit4 Dream (Coda/Dream) User Group can help you visit http://www.codausergroup.net/.

 

Media and publishing – top 5 challenges and how technology can help

1. Sustainable revenue growth

Keeping pace with changes in the ways people are demanding and consuming content is at the forefront of the minds of industry leaders and decision makers across the media and publishing industry. The move away from print towards digital media is changing how publishing houses generate and deliver content and the need to cut and control costs has never been more vital.

So it is vital that businesses in this sector can keep track of the investment made in each brand and revenue stream so as to identify and focus on those that are most profitable for further investment while scaling back on or eliminating the less profitable.

To make these sorts of accurate and timely decisions with confidence, a business needs to know that its underlying management reporting solution is robust, accurate and timely and delivers a true reflection of what is going on at any given moment in time.

2. Revenue recognition

The CFOs and FCs we talk to tell us frequently of the challenges they face when solving the problems associated with revenue recognition. Different streams of revenue are recognised in different ways. So for example subscriptions revenues can only be recognised when the product or service is delivered whereas advertising revenues fall due when the advert is published or broadcast while events and exhibitions are paid for on delivery of the event.

Many businesses, both small and large, still find themselves having to manage these variations in a very time consuming and inefficient way; typically relying on Excel spreadsheets to solve the problem. This error prone approach can leave the organisation vulnerable to reporting inconsistencies in their accounts as well as suffering from inaccuracies across key information. The consequences of such inaccuracy and misstating/misrepresentation of accounts can be far reaching and can even threaten the survival of a business. So it is a serious matter which requires attention.

By implementing an automated, rules based revenue recognition process these challenges can be overcome. In selecting a solution with an open architecture an organisation can build and define its own business logic and rules and seamlessly integrate it with its content and delivery systems. As a result the business will benefit from a single version of the truth with data from all its key solutions being held in just the one place. This approach improves accuracy in reporting and analysis through the removal of the need for any rekeying of data between different systems into Excel as well as the need for manual calculations which are where errors proliferate.

3. Digital disruption

The digital era is inescapable and media and publishing businesses are seeing digital revenue streams surpassing traditional print revenues. As a result and in order to survive and build a business model for the future, businesses need to respond and transform the ways they do business and deliver content in the digital era. It’s all about embracing change, capitalising on opportunities to restructure, reorganise and recalibrate their businesses. Focus on the profitable and divest those less profitable business areas or operations. And the key to success is to make such change happen without having significant disruption and cost.  Technology is the enabler in this digital landscape and businesses need not feel handcuffed to the older, more traditional systems to facilitate these essential changes at a crippling and often prohibitive cost. There is a choice and we are seeing increased demand for solutions that are agile and responsive to change and allow complex system changes to be made quickly, cost effectively, at any stage of a project lifecycle and with minimal disruption.

4. Workforce optimisation

People are undoubtedly an organisation’s most valuable asset but they also represent a significant overhead which needs careful management.

The media and publishing industries are by definition people centric where each and every employee is responsible for the value it creates for customers and stakeholders. But it’s a rapidly evolving sector where change is frequent and can be marked. As a result the skills expected in staff flex and change rapidly which also makes individuals highly marketable and sought after. So having a clear strategy in place that helps with the optimisation of the workforce is key but the challenge is to increase staff productivity while also enhancing the attractiveness of the workplace to reduce staff churn rates.

With any workforce optimisation strategy a solid platform needs to be in place to allow a business to understand its workforce precisely in terms of what they do and the value they create. Ensuring the right number of employees are in place, equipped with the right skills and at the right time is a critical.

– A human capital management (HCM) solution can provide comprehensive support for all aspects of the organisation’s hire-to-retire cycle and payroll processes. Designed to be accessible and intuitive for everyday users, it should empower people- and service-focussed organisations, ensuring that they can make all the on-going updates and adjustments themselves, to tailor their systems to their organisation’s specific requirements and processes and to keep them in step with business changes.

5. Cost and efficiency

Although we are seeing signs of an on-going economic recovery, a focus on the need to reduce cost and be more efficient remains across the media and publishing sector. Printed media distribution is in free fall, advertising choice and therefore value is under pressure and the competition for audience is greater than ever. Having undertaken essential cost saving programmes, management must still keep a close eye on every aspect of outgoings to maintain the equilibrium.

ERP plays a vital role in this monitoring process, and used correctly aids performance management across all functional areas of a business, highlighting areas of success as well as concern. But we are seeing a move away from the more traditional ERP platforms as businesses seek more cost effective, flexible and responsive solutions, i.e. solutions that can adapt and change as a business does. Increasingly businesses are looking for a breadth of functionality to meet their business and finance information needs but without the price tag associated with implementing and upgrading some of the traditional, heavyweight vendor solutions like SAP and Oracle.

The cost of your organisation’s Travel and Expenses policy?

When times are tough and every penny needs to be accounted for, many organisations will look at their travel expenses costs in a bid to make efficiency savings and trim some of the waste.

Increased control over business expenses often means further processes and control mechanisms being put into place, rules being formulated and extra layers of authorisation being added. With all of these extra controls in place and less out-of-policy expense reports slipping through the net, you might assume that immediate savings would be made.

However, more time will inevitably be needed to for more detailed corporate travel management, and frustrations from the claimant and the expense accounting teams will occur when reimbursed expenses are late or sometimes not even made. Issues with timely employee reimbursement can quickly develop into a deep-seated grudge held by the employee, which can in turn affect productivity. Costs to the organisation can also occur when VAT is not rightfully claimed back due to receipts or information not being collected or having been lost.

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Guest blog: Zeitgeist – ERP benefits for the commissioning model

Zeitgeist – ERP benefits for the commissioning model
Guest blog by Mircea Rogojan-Rush, ERP Consultant at Unit4 partner Methods Enterprise

ERP systems and the commissioning model in local government

Following central government funding reductions and coupled with an increase in demand, we believe the current local government model is unsustainable. This is largely due to faults in design, namely inflexible structures and silo operations with little interface between each other. As a result large areas of business operations function inefficiently, delivering outcomes nobody needs or requested. In addition, similar inefficiency can be seen when it comes to software selection and utilisation. It’s not uncommon for different departments to choose different solutions that meet their specific needs with little thought to the needs or objectives of the wider organisation. The net result can be that core business processes and functions, such as business intelligence, analysis and reporting are not straight forward even at departmental level. The situation needs redressing.

So what is the impact of the new fiscal reality and how is it affecting a local authority’s choice of technology?

The reduction in funding from central government has sent local authorities in search of different ways to deal with the new fiscal reality, and so far commissioning has emerged as a winner. According to the government’s own Commissioning Academy Programme, commissioning allows local authorities to focus on understanding and responding strategically to the needs of their communities. Rather than being involved in business as usual operational matters, a local authority’s role changes to one where it monitors the performance of service providers and ensures that services are delivered efficiently to meet the needs of the wider community.

Let’s look at the role ERP systems play in the commissioning model

The commissioning model demands that local authorities think ahead and consider future software needs. So what are the steps they need to take?

–       Firstly, assessing needs so transactional accuracy, reporting across multiple business areas and ensuring access to reliable, comprehensive information.
–       Secondly, designing services. They need the ability to run scenarios to assess what is required, when and by whom.
–       Thirdly, sourcing providers. This is where procurement modules and running the tender process will be crucial.
–       And finally effective monitoring and evaluation processes need to be in place so, ensuring key performance indicators can be set and reviewed and that reporting and spend analysis are timely and accurate.

Typically many local authorities do not have the right systems and solutions in places to meet the challenges imposed by the new commissioning model and are faced with a gap between what they have and what they need to have in order to meet these requirements. This is where an ERP solution can add value and really make change happen.

ERP deployment – it’s all in the timing

At its heart an effective ERP solution collects, manages and distributes critical business, financial and operational information across functional boundaries, in effect breaking down the barriers and silos that exist in many organisations. So far so good but while making the decision to look for an ERP solution is a no brainer, timing is key.

Based on my experience in a large local authority, which was in this very position, there are three available options as to when to deploy ERP. There is overlap in all three scenarios so I’ve classified them based on when the main bulk of activities take place.

1. Prior to beginning the commissioning journey – while it may seem counter intuitive at first, implementing an ERP system before making the transition to a commissioning model offers plenty of benefits. For example, resource wise, the organisation still has the capacity required to procure, fine tune, test and implement a large project; strategically, the new model that it aspires to is still fresh in everyone’s memory, providing the right impetus and taking advantage of the enthusiasm on this side of the bell curve. Financially, provided the budget has been managed with caution, there should still be scope to secure the right solution rather than the cheapest option. The looming question is of course, can the organisation predict the future shape with such accuracy as to design the ERP system a couple of years ahead of the curve? Luckily, software platforms have become more flexible in recent times and agile systems such as Unit4 Agresso have been designed to allow organisations to make systems changes quickly and easily even after implementation.

2. Concurrently. This approach allows all the benefits of the first option, enhanced by a clearer vision as the model crystalises through the various stages of the transformation. In my opinion though, this choice leaves very little room for error. ERP implementation has been proven to be typically a costly and time consuming affair, with many projects going over time and budget significantly. Coupling such an exhaustive task with a complex local authority transformation programme may induce change fatigue and prevent the organisation from excelling at either tasks. So while it may seem like the safest choice in theory, in practice the end result would be a constant warring between competing projects, resources, funds and priorities. Hardly, the cooperative environment required to build a cross organisational commissioning model.

3. Finally, a post commissioning ERP implementation may provide a solution from the gaps in rationale of the first two timing choices. On one hand, the organisation has changed and it knows exactly what software it needs to become successful in the new world and there are no competing major transformation programmes. Also the new model should be conducive to facilitating an efficient procurement and commissioning process as well as a shorter implementation time span. On the other hand, the organisation would be missing out on the benefits that an ERP system offers in expediting its transformation journey; the journey itself may be more fluid than anticipated, making it difficult to decide on the cut off. And of course, the organisation will have to deal with the double whammy of a new commissioning model underpinned by a software not fit for purpose, all this while trying to implement a new ERP system.

My view…
Local authorities aiming for the adoption of the commissioning model have or are considering an ERP solution to manage their business and financial processes and information. Of course there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the choice of ERP or the timing of any implementation but based on my experience my recommendation is to select and embed you chosen ERP solution first and then manage the transition to the commissioning model. This staggered approach allows your inter-departmental teams to understand and utilise the full breadth of ERP capabilities and to maximise your return on investment while placing your resources on the right side of the bell curve prior to any further changes in how you conduct or manage your operations.

Reference:
UK Government Commissioning Academy Programme – https://www.gov.uk/the-commissioning-academy-information

For more information about Methods Enterprise please visit http://methodsenterprise.co.uk/

Cloud Myth # 5: The cloud is one-size fits all

After dispelling a number of myths surrounding cloud computing it is time to conclude the series.

If you want to see the series continued then by all means let us know what you consider are some of the biggest misconceptions and we’ll look to address them!

Would you choose a grocer for you family’s requirements that only sell vegetables in 50kg bags? Would you frequent a café that only sold fried eggs, forget tea, the sausage, bacon and mushrooms?  As both fail to cater to individuals’ requirements it would be highly likely that they would not be very busy. For many their experience and understanding of business cloud computing is based on pretty much the same ‘one size fits all’ offering.

If this were the reality for all cloud solutions it would be totally unacceptable. Firstly the inability to adjust software would not be received well by executives who require solutions that support evolving strategy and organisational nuances. Additionally the business community would not want to be wholly tethered to the vendor’s philosophy on how best to adapt to the fast-pace nature of external markets.

While this is still the model for some vendors, it is not the case for all, if it were I think cloud ERP would be non-existent. While some processes are commoditised many of the business services that ERP underpin are complex, they are impacted by internal and external forces. We realised this early on at UNIT4, in fact we market ourselves as “the global leader in software that supports business change”. So it will come as no surprise to you that early on (our first cloud solutions date back to 1998) we did everything we could to incorporate flexibility to our cloud solutions, we are the antithesis to one size fits all. Our clients can configure the cloud the way they need it.

It has to be that way; the organisations we work with provide diverse services in incredibly changeable sectors.  Of course other vendors who jumped on the cloud bandwagon are also belatedly jumping on the flexibility message. We would advise any potential ERP buyer to road test promises and ask for any associated change costs. For UNIT4 the unique architecture of our software allows organisations to make extensive configurations largely in house without the need to call upon external consultants. Similarly configurations are fast and with minimal business disruption.

So as this series draws to conclusion I think it fitting that we have addressed perhaps the most damaging myth and highlighted that the truth, in combination with cloud’s other benefits, is perhaps the most powerful of features, you just have to choose the right vendor!

Learn more here about cloud computing with UNIT4.