From its headquarters in Kent Town, South Australia, Austraining International is making an impact all over the world. The organization’s mission to deliver people-focused programs globally includes managing social development programs in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as at home in South Australia.
|At the department or regional level, managers are more aware of their performance. And when they have that insight, they take more responsibility for their own financial performance.|
| Darren Hastings|
Austraining represents a unique form of public/private partnership. As a for-profit commercial organization wholly owned by the Government of South Australia, the organization must balance its social mission with its profit motive and meet the requirements imposed by Government statutes in addition to corporate regulatory requirements.
“It’s a bit complicated,” says Austraining CFO Darren Hastings. “The organization operates around our social development mission, but we still aim to generate a surplus. Priorities shift often, and this is apparent at a strategic level, an operational level, and at an individual level. We’re constantly reconciling these two aspects of our strategy.”
The unique public/private business model combined with the diverse nature of its services creates some very complex financial management scenarios, including different costing models for different program activities, varied reporting requirements for both public and private regulators, and tracking the sources of funds for various programs.
To further complicate matters, Austraining maintains a presence in more than 20 countries, each with its own currency and culture, and manages expenses and personnel records for as many as 700 volunteers who are working abroad.
Growing in Size and Complexity
Since joining Austraining as Financial Controller in 2008, Hastings has seen the organization double in size—and the complexity in reporting and financial tasks increase accordingly. At that time, the organization was using Microsoft Dynamics SL for project management and project accounting, exporting data to Microsoft FRx or Microsoft Excel as needed for analysis or custom reporting.
Although Microsoft Dynamics SL had been sufficient for capturing financial and project information, the evolving business model demanded the additional capabilities of a full-featured enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “We had secured several new clients and projects, which introduced more complex reporting requirements,” recalls Hastings. “What had been a simple cost structure and account structure rapidly became much more complicated. As a result, we found ourselves performing a lot of manual manipulation of data.”
After an evaluation process, Austraining selected Microsoft Dynamics AX based on its financial management capabilities, as well as its ability to consolidate the organization’s offshore operations and volunteer management systems onto a single application. In addition, the straightforward migration of data from Microsoft Dynamics SL to Microsoft Dynamics AX gave Austraining the confidence that deployment could be performed seamlessly.
In the first phase of the ERP initiative, Austraining deployed Microsoft Dynamics AX to its 11-member finance team, who perform transactional processing, budgeting, forecasting, financial analysis, and costing for new project bids. With the ability to manage multiple, complex financial models, the finance team can now ensure that Austraining remains in compliance with accounting standards and regulatory requirements, and meets the reporting needs of various clients and programs.
Empowered by Information
The value of Microsoft Dynamics AX extends beyond the back office, giving project managers and department managers the ability to run their own reports and explore financial data through a web-based interface. This reduces dependence on the finance team and empowers managers in the field.
“At the department or regional level, managers are more aware of their performance,” says Hastings. “And when they have that insight, they take more responsibility for their own financial performance.”
Unified Across Geography
Since deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX, Austraining enjoys the advantages of a unified enterprise, with everyone operating from the same data. Remote managers can run reports and retrieve information from the centralized data store without requesting information from finance or IT staff.
The new system has eliminated several manual, paper-based processes, for example, reconciliation of expense reports and credit-card statements. Microsoft Dynamics AX also allows bank statements and local transactions to be recorded in their native currency, so exchange rates no longer need to be calculated manually.
In the second phase of the deployment, Austraining plans to deploy modules to add ERP functionality, including using the Microsoft Dynamics AX Human Capital Management module to manage its 700 volunteers.
Hastings expects that bringing the volunteer database and financials into a single system will allow Austraining to perform detailed performance analysis of expenses related to volunteer operations. The additional insight will enable it to forecast costs for volunteer programs, enabling it to optimize in-country operations by being able to prepare flexible and responsive long-term financial forecasting of program costs.
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Document published January 2014