Case study: Essex Shared Services

Provided digitised workflows to increase efficiency

Resulted in savings of £80,000 each year

Established a more ‘commercially aware’ environment

Provided back office services for finance, payroll and procurement

Challenge

Essex Shared Services Ltd is a joint venture by South Essex College and Chelmsford College that was established in July 2014. The idea was that the new organisation would provide both institutions with back-office services for the finance, payroll and procurement functions. This was for two main reasons. Firstly, the two organisations wanted to respond to budget cuts by finding new efficiencies. Secondly, they wanted to explore new ways to improve their processes and planning. Specifically, the partnership was designed to help the colleges:

Solution

As one of its first steps, the new Essex Shared Services organisation established a single back-office finance, payroll, procurement function to serve both institutions. To make this work, it wanted to source a finance ERP system that would scale with the institutions’ needs and help optimise productivity. Unit4 Business World was chosen for its finance capability, inbuilt FE-friendly processes, and track record in both the further education sector and delivering shared services. With Agilyx’s (formerly Williams Woodward’s) help, the colleges successfully implemented the Unit4 ERP system on time and to budget.

Essex Shared Services has achieved a number of important organisational and financial benefits

Benefits

“What we’ve done is look at how to centralise a function across two organisations so that IT can be run more cost effectively,” says Peter Moore, Head of Shared Services & Deputy Director of Finance, Essex Shared Services Ltd. “One of the key ways we’ve been able to achieve this is by sharing and consolidating the finance management onto Unit4. This is far more affordable for both colleges. It has also helped us to review processes generally and make them more efficient across both organisations, which enables us to operate effectively with fewer staff at both leadership and more junior levels.”

The new organisation has already achieved savings of £80,000 per year through more efficient deployment of resources. This money is now being made available to improve student experiences.

Modules they adopted
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Modules they adopted
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How Agilyx helped

The new partnership is helping to facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas for mutual benefit.

“A great example of this is a cost-contribution model that was being introduced by one college,” says Moore. “Once the other college saw how this was going to work, they saw immediate benefit for themselves. This simply wouldn’t have happened without the culture of collaborating and information sharing that Unit4 enables and the shared service partnership promotes.”

Andrea Williams, Managing Director of Agilyx UK adds, “This has been an incredibly successful project that really showcases the benefits of the Unit4 Business World platform and how better collaborative working can help multiple colleges to achieve their objectives more effectively. With its highly intuitive interface, workflow and accurate view of financial indicators, Unit4 has helped the shared services team and colleges establish a more ‘commercially aware’ culture. The insight it delivers has also meant staff are more mindful of the crucial impact their budgets have in delivering great student experiences. It’s been really gratifying to help achieve this and see the results in action.”

Essex Shared Services has also improved efficiency in ways that boost productivity. For example, it has replaced a manual process where ‘purchase invoice packs’ were printed and then delivered by hand to individuals across various campuses.
Essex Shared Services has also improved efficiency in ways that boost productivity. For example, it has replaced a manual process where ‘purchase invoice packs’ were printed and then delivered by hand to individuals across various campuses.