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Pobl achieves better spend control and visibility with one P2P system; implementation took just 4 months

Proactis Account Manager, Elaine Power, sat down with Tom Cadwallader, Head of Procurement of Pobl Group to discuss how Pobl achieved full company-wide engagement and adoption in order to maximise Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) outcomes such as better budget control and committed spend management.

Elaine: Please can you give us a little bit of background about the organisation?
Tom: Pobl is Wales’ largest Housing Association, with over 2,500 staff and 15,000 properties including housing and services for older people and homes at affordable rents. The Group offers a number of functions including care and support, housing, development and construction and central support team and was created by the merger of Seren Group and Gr┼Áp Gwalia.

Elaine: What challenges were you facing, and what were the main drivers to change your systems?
Tom: Following the merger, we went through a period of enterprise system change, with the identification and selection of a new financial solution and Purchase-to-Pay system. Senior members of IT, Finance and Procurement took part in the selection process.

A competitive tender for the new Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) solution took place. The Gwalia office already used Proactis for ordering goods and services, and staff members were well aware of purchasing processes, after going through the tender process Proactis Purchase-to-Pay was selected for the wider Group.

The Seren office on the other hand, was using a finance system with a purchasing module – very few orders were raised in the system. Most orders were taken over the phone, so invoices came into the Group and were manually signed, recorded and paid. It was a very resource-intensive process and, compared to Gwalia, a little behind the times.

We wanted to help all our staff become more efficient, and we also looked at processes, involving key stakeholders, and how they could be improved using a new P2P system. As Pobl is formed by different entities, there were many different ways of working. We held various team meetings across the Group, and we managed to get buy-in from all staff. This was paramount to the success of the new system.

Elaine: How did you approach implementation, considering you only had four months to go live?
Tom: We set up a project team which included senior members of the team, from Procurement, IT and Finance as well as key stakeholders from each entity – to identify what they wanted from the new systems. Everyone got involved. We worked closely with a Proactis project team who attended meetings, with milestones and targets. Working together we managed to communicate effectively around the organisation, while achieving all milestones and creating a plan into a format that everyone was comfortable with.

Due to our deadlines, we needed 500 staff to be trained in 3 weeks. We learnt from experience at Gwalia, where we perhaps didn’t focus enough on training staff, that this is a key part of system adoption and proper use.

We used a ‘train the trainer’ approach, with Super Users and Champions from different entities. We held two whole days of intense training. We included Finance, who did an excellent job of providing different possible scenarios. This helped us make the system as seamless as possible, from purchase ordering to payment of invoice.

Training was then spread across the organisation, including through the Pobl intranet. We built a real-life test environment for our most popular items (food), and we had input from suppliers in relation to contracts and an exercise sending (test) orders. We managed to get everyone up to speed quickly.

Elaine: Could you touch on the approach and plan for go-live.
Tom: We had a set date that we needed to go live for. We undertook a process of looking at transaction figures of our 2,000 suppliers, and where there was no transaction in the last 12 months we did not carry them over to the new system. Again, this involved all relevant people. In addition to this, we had people across the Group testing the system. We held a P2P quiz to improve exposure and adoption. A lot of effort went in to getting everyone involved. This was from the top down, including executives!

This resulted in great excitement around the business about the new system.
Elaine: Following go-live, where are you 12 months later in relation to P2P?
Tom: After a crazy 4 months from the appointment of Proactis to the implementation of the P2P system, we have had over 18,000 orders that have gone through the system, with a value of over £12m, with average order value of £600. Users across the Group have adopted the systems and processes. Over 550 are now on the system, with a mix of approvers and originators, and all now find the process a lot easier.

Many suppliers now have catalogues built into the system. Proactis punches out to a catalogue, for items such as stationary, this is seamlessly sent out to the portal and punched back in to the system to create the order. The order goes to the supplier, the supplier delivers the goods, the user receipts the goods/order, the order matches the invoice, and payment is made. There is no longer a requirement for any manual intervention and we currently have 60% of suppliers on the system. We hold P2P surgeries on a month-by-month basis, for new users and for those that have any concerns. We work together to sort them. Issues are usually resolved within 48 hours.

My team also visits each care home on a regular basis to make the process even more efficient, and to make sure that all new suppliers are using the system, often including catalogues.

Overall, working closely with Proactis, we have been able to focus on achieving business transformation with a range of jointly agreed initiatives to help drive full engagement from all levels of the Group, supporting rapid adoption and cultural change.

Pobl is well on the way to achieving its targets, and Proactis is proud to be part of the programme.