The London Development Agency (LDA) is the Mayor of London’s agency for sustainable economic development. It prepares the Mayor’s business plan for London and works with partners to build a thriving economy for the city’s people, businesses and communities. The LDA is currently restructuring itself in anticipation of new challenges and opportunities stemming from the decision to site the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Restructuring will also support more flexible working practices.
In the past, the LDA used its financial management system purely for accounting purposes. However, the imminent expiry of the lease on this system prompted a search for a more sophisticated alternative that would support integration with other business areas. Support for electronic processes was also a priority, in line with UK e-government initiatives. At the end of a formal tendering process that saw four leading suppliers demonstrate their products, the LDA chose CedarOpenAccounts.
“The CedarOpenAccounts financial solution had all the functionality we needed in a reasonably priced package,” explained Charles Antwi, project development accountant. “Most importantly, CedarOpenAccounts was prepared to commit to a firm time scale for implementation and training, in line with our requirements.”
Working together, the LDA and CedarOpenAccounts teams completed the implementation within the space of just three months. The new system was instantly welcomed because of its user-friendliness, which made it accessible to people other than trained accountants. Accounts payable staff, for example, could process and pay invoices directly using the system, thus speeding up financial processes. At the same time, the system’s integration capabilities improved the flow of management information. Other systems integrated with CedarOpenAccounts include the LDA’s Artemis Portfolio Director project database and its ProClarity corporate management reporting system.
Antwi is impressed by CedarOpenAccounts’ strategy of continually improving its products in line with user needs. “CedarOpenAccounts works closely with its customers to identify areas where enhancements are required. It’s very encouraging to be able to contribute to the product development process,” he said.
With the recent introduction of the eBIS Exchange Workflow web application, the LDA is now taking full advantage of CedarOpenAccounts’ support for efficient electronic processes. Initially, eBIS is being used to automate order processing, replacing a cumbersome manual system. The eBIS implementation, which coincides with the LDA’s restructuring and relocation, will ultimately see more than 200 users entering orders directly into the CedarOpenAccounts system.
“Where eBIS has already been rolled out, we are seeing big improvements in the throughput of payments. Orders are also being approved much more quickly, and users are very enthusiastic because they can use the system to monitor the progress of an order,” explained Sue Keary, IT project manager, who is responsible for the eBIS implementation.
Purchase orders are now typically raised in minutes or hours rather than days or weeks, and users can identify the codes they want using a look up search on the system rather than constantly having to look for the right codes. Integration with Microsoft Outlook is a widely appreciated feature: where an action such as authorisation is required, an email is automatically sent to the appropriate person’s mailbox. The LDA is now investigating the possibility of creating a link with its electronic document management system. This would permit relevant documents to be attached to a requisition.
According to Antwi, the improvements are supporting the LDA’s drive to achieve improved efficiency and meet key targets such as paying all invoices within 30 days. In the past, it was very difficult to keep track of orders, but the LDA is now able to monitor commitment closely. Use of eBIS will soon be extended to other areas such as expense claims. As a web-enabled system, eBIS also supports the agency’s multi site working.
“CedarOpenAccounts has immense potential to improve the efficiency of our organisation. So far we have only scratched the surface of this potential, but we plan to do a great deal more,” concluded Antwi.