Thyson’s Finance Director worked hand in hand with CPiO’s consultant to make the Sage 200 project a success.
Thyson Technology, based in Ellesmere Port, is an analytical instrumentation engineering business which manufactures bespoke analyser houses for clients such as National Grid, United Utilities, and ConocoPhillips.
The business has four divisions: Analytical, Manpower, Electrical Installation and Spares and Servicing. It is vital to have reporting by division to allow the managers to be empowered and push business forward within their divisions.
The Analytical division’s sales consists of projects valued between £200k and £1m and it is essential for the business to have visibility of each project’s costs – especially labour.
Until Jackie Fisher was appointed as the Financial Director at Thyson in July 2013, the business had no software system in place but employed an external accountant to produce quarterly VAT reports and annual accounts. Information was collated in house using Excel spread sheets and there were no means to produce day to day reports on individual projects or divisions. The business had grown rapidly in recent years and Jackie realised the existing system would no longer suffice and therefore appointed an in-house finance team implementing Sage 50 as a short term software solution whilst evaluating the market place for a more long term solution.
Sage 50 provided Thyson with monthly reporting but it could not provide Thyson with the vital project accounting and divisional reporting functionality that it required. With the experience of implementing business management systems previously, Jackie took a logical and organised approach to reviewing the marketplace excluding anything as large as SAP and focussing on mid-market solutions. After a detailed review and several presentations, she identified Sage 200 as the software solution to best meet Thyson’s needs.
Jackie had done her homework and CPiO’s Project Consultant had come highly recommended. At the initial meeting with CPiO, which included a demonstration of Sage 200, the Thyson team were immediately impressed with CPiO’s knowledge and expertise. Jackie explains, “CPiO was the only software company who brought someone practical with them. CPiO’s Project Consultant had been in the engineering business for 10 years and knew our industry; he could speak our language and understood our engineering jargon. It was very refreshing.”
Jackie recognised that user adoption of Sage 200 would be fast as the overlay for each of the individual modules was the same, requiring the same user skills. “Identifying a system that’s easy to implement from a user basis is very important. I try to think ahead. It not only needs to work for finance but for the other 25 users in the business. I never lose sight of the fact that the majority of users don’t work within finance. In addition Sage 200 has a great help function; it’s fabulous as it knows which screen you’re in and tailors the advice it gives.”
At the outset Jackie documented Thyson’s existing processes and defined what she wanted to get from the new Sage 200 system. “It’s a good starting point. Identify what you need and the system structure required to obtain the reporting you will need. That’s the bit people miss. My advice to anyone beginning a project would be to think of the outputs you would like to have and work back from there. This ensures you really get what you want from a system. Do not be constrained by the status quo!”
Jackie describes herself as ‘The Queen of Lists’ and has a very organised approach to project management. “I produced an initial specification document which I continually referred back to, to ensure nothing was missed. I took complete ownership for managing the project and at every project meeting I made notes and would immediately add any actions to the outstanding task sheet. Each task would be given a high, low or medium priority and assigned to an individual. The tasks would then be regularly reviewed, progress noted and priorities reassessed if required. The task list would be circulated to all involved so each person was aware of their responsibilities. I monitored everything, all the time. Every task would stay on my list until it was completed. With the go live date as a goal I stayed focussed, taking everything step by step, day by day.”
Jackie acknowledged that it’s easy to get demoralised towards the end of a project and explains, “I tried to keep the momentum going. Towards the end, I had a flip chart with a post it note on it for each action required. They were prioritised: ‘nice to haves’, ‘critical’, etc. so there was no time wasted. We worked as a team taking one post it note at a time and then putting it on the ‘completed’ flip chart. It was a good feeling to see the actions on the outstanding flip getting fewer and the done actions greater. I never lost sight of the end goal. I like to feel in control and drive things forward, assessing each situation as it arises and then knocking things off the priority list as I work down it.”
Documenting everything including why decisions were made along the way has provided Jackie with a complete audit trail. “I created my own user acceptance testing (UAT) and no-one in the business was allowed on the live system until they’d completed UAT’s. I made sure everyone had a base knowledge before I let them go live. I have since compiled ‘dummy guides’ which have proved to be very helpful and great training aids. The next step is to publish some mini user guides for each module.”
Jackie completed her own UAT before the training sessions began to make sure everything was covered. “CPiO and I did a double act on training and held lots of user sessions. As a project manager, I thought it was important to be in on all the training sessions and help user groups understand why and how the system had developed and how it related to their roles. If they had questions I couldn’t answer, they went on the whiteboard and I would find the answers and get back to them. As a result I have total buy in across the business.”
Jackie describes the working relationship with CPiO’s Project Consultant as ‘complementary’. “I really enjoyed working with him; we have a mutual respect and our skills complement each other. We were very honest; if I was busy I would let him know that I couldn’t complete a certain task and likewise he did the same for me. We both have a ‘can do’ supportive, attitude which makes for a great project team.”
Thyson immediately began to see the benefits of Sage 200 Project Accounting. By month five, Jackie produced the most comprehensive set of reports in the history of the business. “All divisions can produce a detailed report and profit and loss by division and project. It’s made a big impact. We have robust and timely reporting. It’s the small things you appreciate too like the purchase orders matching up with the invoices, so the team no longer ask me where to post the invoices. I can now do an automated payment run and it’s saved at least one day per week. I get meaningful management information faster and human error has been minimalised.”By involving the users upfront Jackie now has some great advocates in the business, “They’re always delivering training and coming up with great ideas and feedback on how we can improve our processes. It’s so encouraging to see people’s enthusiasm for Sage 200.”
The next area of focus for Thyson is Sage CRM as Jackie explains, “I was very impressed with the way it links with Sage 200. It will work well for Sales and Marketing. Sales will be able to see all the customer details whilst they’re out on site.”
Jackie has different phases of improvement in mind for getting more from Sage 200 including how best to get generic reports using ODBC links. She has also recognised commercial opportunities within the business to link its warranties, parts and service function to its Analytical division. “By using analysis codes within the Analytical division we can see which projects are producing work in other areas, looking at sales history and trends to identify opportunity gaps and work towards closing them.” Jackie concludes, “I look forward to working with CPiO on phase two of the project; I have my post it notes at the ready!”
*Please note, Sage 200 has now been rebranded as Sage 200cloud (January 2018)