Streamlining systems at Marie Curie
A case study from Touchstone Charities Division (see Accounting Software page)
Marie Curie Cancer Care is at the forefront of cancer care with an unrivalled nationwide network of nurses caring for patients in the community. Founded in 1948, Marie Curie Cancer Care is now the UK's largest and most comprehensive cancer care charity.
Marie Curie needed to ensure IT systems were in place to cope with the future. All of the vital services were provided free of charge, as cost implications were paramount.
In undertaking a thorough system review Marie Curie Cancer Care acknowledged that efficiency gains would be made. It was felt that by integrating with external products the core activities of Caring Services, Accounts, Fundraising and Marketing would be streamlined.
With the assistance of Touchstone's Project Management Team, the key areas that were needed to be addressed were identified. This meant that the Journey of Change would involve a thorough investigation of the following:
- the existing Chart of Accounts and Analysis Codes within SunSystems
- what modules were required
- links with external systems
- utilisation of reports and report writers
- possible migration from Novell to Unix
Two key points were considered in conjunction with the above - the cost and the time frame.
On 1 January 1996, manual systems had just been automated. It rapidly became clear that systems were still being under-utilised and even non-compatible systems were being developed: New hardware was in place but this had not lightened the staff workload.
Within Finance, every possible transaction was batch processed, month end met month end and overall systems and processes were unreliable. The situation resulted in a lack of understanding and communications between Finance and other departments. They, in turn, did not have faith in Finance. This lack of trust evolved into multiple accounting systems being held.
The conclusion was made that the expectations of the business were not being met by Finance. It was deemed inefficient. Little time was spent analysing the information within SunSystems, and staff were often doing other peoples' jobs. Structurally the department was inefficient.
The implementation team from Touchstone worked in partnership with Marie Curie staff. The team spirit that existed ensured a smooth implementation. The chart of accounts was reduced from 685 to 150 codes and the use of 'T' Codes extended from 3 to 5. These "T' codes were moved from hard to soft coding which ensured built-in flexibility.
With significant external systems, (Nurselink, Fund Raising Database, Payroll Systems, Stock Management), the decision was taken to operate a more functional split to incorporate client divisions/departrnents. External systems and SunSysterns were updated at the same time through the same files.
Output from the systems required a review of report writers. A defined standard report pack for all management accounts was designed. Products like Vision and Inside Out were used to achieve this.
With an ever increasing volume of transactions (from 50,000 to over 700,000) speed was an issue. Historically, it was taking over 2 hours to run a trial balance. With the implementation of UNIX, this dropped to a few minutes. Management reports were also produced much more quickly. This efficiency ensured that time is now spent on analysing information rather than generating paper. Finally, enquiry times dropped by over 80%.
The improved situation ensured that the processing of information is now on a day to day basis. Management information for 300+ budget holders can be ready in 3 days at any point during the month. The Finance Department now know their clients. This continuous developing of new ideas and ways of simplifying processes with its clients is improving the communication channels internally.
Effective use of resources ensures that time is now spent analysing information. This has resulted in a huge reduction in the number of queries, complaints and errors. Clients are happier and acknowledge that Finance is delivering a significantly improved service.
At the onset, it was acknowledged that the solutions were long term, not short term, and that individuals required training and this in itself encouraged ideas and new thoughts.
The overall process has resulted in further simplification and improvements to processes via SunSystems. The review ensured and assisted in maximising returns from fund-raising and marketing activities.
The quality of Project Consultants and the detailed training provided throughout by Touchstone ensured that Marie Curie achieved what they had set out to do.
The cost implications of the review have been measured and reviewed in both financial terms and time. The conclusion made was that the cost of not taking any action was estimated in present value terms of £400,000 and the intangible savings and opportunity cost savings - which are unquantifiable - are approximately £250,000.
Throughout this two year process Marie Curie believe that the keys to their successful restructuring include the following:
- Leadership is critical
- Actions speak louder than words
- You need to look at the new process rather than the old one
- The speed of change must be fast o The skill base and motivation of suppliers is essential
- Change should be dramatic not incremental
- Concerns must be dealt with immediately
- People are key to the success of the project
- No idea should be discarded
- A positive attitude is important.
As with any project a number of key factors need to be considered. Throughout every stage of the project Marie Curie had the confidence that the professionalism, skill and dedication of the Touchstone staff ensured the project ran smoothly.
As a basic guide, it is imperative that common sense should prevail.