Steve Ludlum Chairman and Carl Jones, CEO SA Rugby
While it has a low headcount, the administrative body for rugby in South Australia is a complex organisation which must interact with thousands of people across the region. That’s why the South Australian Rugby Union has engaged with SapphireOne for the development and deployment of an enterprise resource planning solution which provides accurate, up to date information across the organisation, expedites key business management processes and delivers management reporting for immediate performance insights.
Established in 1932, the South Australian Rugby Union (SA Rugby) is a member of the Australian Rugby Union and the governing body for the sport in the state of South Australia. SA Rugby runs a 13 club amateur competition in Adelaide consisting of senior men’s teams in four grades; and junior teams grouped by age from under 7 to under 18. For the last twenty years, a senior women’s competition has been included. The SA Rugby also selects representative teams each year to compete against other Australian states and territories.
SA Rugby CEO Carl Jones explains that the organisation’s strategic business management plan divides its activities into three pillars: governing the sport, which includes fiduciary responsibilities, marketing and running the organisation for members; sport development which includes children’s programmes, coaching, education and pathway programmes for players; and competition management services. “We’re a not for profit organisation, so we aim to return small surpluses to gradually build up reserves. Achieving that depends on the ability to closely quantify and manage our operations for optimal efficiency,” he says.
By the numbers, SA Rugby has an A$1.1 million annual turnover, has 16 members (which are clubs) and some 10 000 participants, of which around 2250 are club rugby players with the balance in schools.
What led to requiring an ERP solution, says Carl, was the necessity for improved reporting. “A lot of our financial reporting was historical, so it was about analysing what went wrong rather than being able to get out front and manage forecasts and situations,” he explains.
Describing SA Rugby as a highly fluid organisation, Carl says operations from year to year can look very different depending on events, programmes, and funding from the State Government or parent body. “As a result of this uncertainty, we have to be agile and capable of responding rapidly to changing circumstances.”
While joking that members might think they’re being taken advantage of if the organisation returns surpluses of more than two percent, Carl nevertheless made the point that SA Rugby runs on slim margins to reduce direct costs on those members. “That, however, leaves very little wiggle room should something go wrong – like cost overruns, sponsor defaults or other issues which routinely crop up.”
This drove the requirement for real time forecasting and the ability to understand where the business was positioned on a week by week basis. “We also wanted to bring everything into one system, rather than working with various ad hoc systems outside of the accounting package.”
SA Rugby engaged with SapphireOne on the basis of a proven client base and, crucially, the availability of local support and development capabilities. “The reality is that we might have stayed with the ad hoc systems, but engagement with SapphireOne through its involvement as a sponsor alerted the organisation to a better way of doing things,” says Carl.
While sports management shares many of the principles which underpin any commercial activity, it nevertheless also has unique processes and activities for which an integrated ERP system must cater. “We see the engagement with SapphireOne as a partnership, in terms of which we are working together to create a solution which integrates every aspect of our business management and provides for the optimal management and control,” says Carl. “The initial plan was put into place in April 2014 and we have been working on integrating, fine tuning and getting the various aspects of the solution to operate smoothly; the go live was around June 2014, so we’ve had a solid opportunity to evaluate it in practice,” Carl explains.
Carl has praise for the SapphireOne development and deployment team, explaining that a phased approach has allowed the introduction of the improved system with minimal disruption to SA Rugby’s operations. “There’s been a big push on getting individual players loaded into SapphireOne, which provides for simplified management as players move through their careers,” he notes.
An immediate benefit with information now contained in a single system is that budgets and forecasts are readily available. “The ability to interrogate information and drill down into audit lines, something we couldn’t previously do, is fantastic,” Carl continues.
A full inventory system now has merchandising items scanned in as they arrive from suppliers, providing for the close management of products through the value cycle, equipping SA Rugby to achieve the slim margins while optimising the cost of promotional items for fans.
“Our programme managers now have much better oversight of their projects, with the ability to understand what revenues they are generating, what is owing to which suppliers and a full profit and loss statement,” says Carl. “And my ability to rapidly produce reports for the board or other purposes is dramatically improved. It happens in real time – and, with all historical information loaded into SapphireOne, we are able to generate far better and more accurate forecasts.”
Owing to a large degree of automation of previously manual tasks between disparate systems (and a lot of data re-entry), Carl says SA Rugby staff members spend less time on drudgery, allowing a focus on better serving the needs of members and other stakeholders. “We’re moving on from messing around with administration to focusing on our members. With more accurate information immediately on hand, we’re moving on from cost overruns and crisis management, to knowing who our players are, what our stock holding is, the cost of goods and the margins they deliver.”
He singles out SapphireOne’s Document Management capability as a case in point for how the ERP system accelerates business performance. “As a paperless solution which has invoices scanned in, it is practically instant to locate information about any transaction. Compare than to digging through paper-based files whenever there was a query or issue – digitisation has just changed the game considerably.”