As Chief Financial Officer-cum-Company Secretary for Plant Health Australia – the national coordinator of the government-industry partnership for plant biosecurity in Australia – Michael Milne is tasked with helping to preserve our country’s environmental health, a goal that is no small feat.
From safeguarding the livelihood of producers, to minimising the impact of pests; day-to-day he’s fielding phone calls from multiple stakeholders, including federal government heavy-hitters, and farmers, all while monitoring the progress and costing of almost 200 projects.
“We have 175 or so projects running continually annually,” explains Michael. “All of which can have such massive impacts, so it’s really important that we get it right. And given my our relatively small team of 30 or so staff, having the right accounting software that can deal with this volume is crucial.”
Enter SapphireOne After struggling with the limitations of their previous accounting software, Michael and his team made the decision to embark on the journey to find a better product that had the functionality to support their needs.
“We were using Reckon a common product,” recalls Michael,. “But it was very limited, it didn’t give us information on where we were up to with a project, there was no real scope for customisation – we couldn’t get the formats that we wanted – and there wasn’t support for further development to our specific requirements.
“We wanted to find software that could produce reports to replace manual spreadsheets. Given the large number of projects we manage – each with seperate costing – the processes can be fairly complex. We also wanted to be able to manage our internal resources and to monitor their respective costings.”
Introduced to SapphireOne, Michael made certain to put in the hard yards in terms of research and due diligence before committing.
“The team at SapphireOne showed us the functionality of their product and we asked a lot of questions to make sure it would satisfy our requirements,” he says. “We also compared their offering with others on the market before signing up.”
Migrating software for any organisation can be a tricky process, but at the cornerstone of Plant Health Australia’s seamless transition was the assistance from SapphireOne’s dedicated support team.
“They’ve been great,” enthuses Michael. “Super-quick Quick to respond, friendly and able to troubleshoot and get problems rectified very quickly. They made sure that we didn’t lose any of our historical data during the transition, and they’ve been working with us throughout to improve our outputs to match what we want. If we have an issue they’ll work with us together to create a solution, and while sometimes the problem won’t be fixed in a few minutes, they try their best to ensure it’s solved as soon as possible.
It’s this organic relationship with clients that is a real point of difference, especially when comparing SapphireOne with their big, international counterparts. The team liaise directly with customers to make real-time changes, which doesn’t happen with these software giant’s, unless you’re prepared to spend big bucks.
For now, both Michael and his team are still experimenting and getting to grips with the capabilities at their disposal.
“We’re taking our time in getting to know the product,” explains Michael. “We’re still exploring the offering and processes. For example, we know there’s a lot that SapphireOne can do, which we don’t use yet.
“One of our key staff was on maternity leave for eight months during the implementation process and that impacted us, plus, we’ve been in expansion mode recently, with a number of staff joining the team, so we’ve admittedly dropped the ball a bit.
“One of the key things that differentiates SapphireOne is that they work very closely with us to develop new additions and functionality, specifically for our needs. For example, one of our team requested some workflow additions and these were added, as were individual electronic time sheets.”
Though Michael is still getting to know the ins and outs of SapphireOne’s capabilities, there’s one feature that’s a definite winner for him: the report writer. Given that a huge part of the not-for-profit’s remit is to report back to its plentiful members – including all governments and most plant industries – on how funding is being spent, reports are a perennial for the organisation.
“We need to constantly produce accurate reports on the contracts and processes we’re working on,” he explains. “Our stakeholders need financial reports to show how their money is being spent and the progress in relation to budget.
“It’s a bit like lawyers. We need to allocate the time and resources against each project so that the costings for each is correct. We also need to report on the total cost of the projects combined, including staff time and all the other direct expenses, such as travel and external contractors. It goes beyond just the expense and the revenue, it’s also where the projects are up to, how many milestones they’ve achieved and what stage of completion they’re at.”
Acknowledging that switching software has been a real game-changer, Michael has already received understandable relief via SapphireOne’s incredibly powerful report generating functionality, and he’s looking towards the future and to the additional streamlining and time saving benefits that the software will bring.
“We’re still finding new features and discovering new ways of doing things,” he says. “The database is amazing comprehensive, yet we’re only using a tiny amount of its capacity. What’s great is that SapphireOne has continued to evolve and develop, as have we – there’s always new functionalities being added, be it document management or software technology.
“Yes, its taken awhile to figure out how to best use it, and I’m still learning, but we know that if we take more time to master it, we’ll have even more capabilities at our disposal, helping to make our processes easier, and to free up my time even more for other priorities.”
Read More from SapphireOne Blog – https://blog.sapphireone.com/2017/09/invoicing-made-easy/