As the governing body of rugby union in Australia, responsible for the Wallabies and working with eight member unions across each of Australia’s states and territories, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) operates in a complex and multi-faceted operational environment. As a public body within an increasingly professional industry, and in an economic climate in which tight financial control and visibility is paramount, the ARU needed a new technology platform to bring about best practice, enable effective shared services across its unions and create much greater visibility of and reporting on its financial activities.
Since the dawn of professionalism in rugby in the mid-1990s “the business of rugby has grown tremendously,” says Todd Day, Chief Financial Officer for the ARU. “Before our decision to upgrade our ERP system, we were operating on a system that that had been in the business for over 15 years. Its basicness created very inefficient, cumbersome and time-consuming processes and it had clearly passed its use-by date in the business,” Todd explains.
“We were extremely limited in our ability to provide relevant and timely service to the business. We needed a finance system that could handle real-time purchase ordering and commitment processes, and a system that provided real-time reporting functionality to departments. Under the existing system it was near impossible to accurately report what the business had purchased or who had purchased it until it turned up on our doorstep. It became a bit of a lucky dip at month end and year-end in accurately reporting and forecasting the results of the business, and you cannot manage a business like that,” Todd says.
Further adding to the complexity of the operational environment was the adoption of a shared service environment by the ARU and member unions. “Whilst there were certain commonalities between us all, there are also some unique differences which need to be individually addressed, so we needed a solution that could cater for multiple situations,” Todd continues. “We needed a solution that met these shared services initiatives.”
By creating an enterprise portal that could be accessed right across the business, self-service options would empower users within the finance team and beyond, as well as creating commonalities and automating processes, ultimately providing much needed visibility of expenses, purchases and cashflow.
“As a medium-sized business we recognised the need to make the investment in a contemporary ERP system, and as an organisation we have had significant exposure to Microsoft technologies,” Todd says. “Intergen came recommended to us by our IT department, having worked with us before in other areas of the business.”
With the scope narrowed down to Microsoft ERP products, ARU and Intergen embarked on a series of diagnostic workshops to determine which ERP solution would provide the best fit. At the end of the analysis it was decided that Microsoft Dynamics AX best fitted ARU ’s needs, and the implementation process began. “The diagnostic process was a very beneficial one to go through. The exercise forces you to re-examine and evaluate the processes that your business has built up over many years,” Todd says.
“With our new ERP system in place, we now have much tighter control over our procurement processes – something we were particularly weak in. It’s a big change for the business,” he continues. “And not just for the finance team – right across the organisation.”
With Dynamics AX in place, the whole enterprise is on the same page, with staff now able to do their commitments and purchasing through the online portal, and management also able to access reports through the portal and take ownership of approvals online. The AX platform enables far greater staff engagement and direct access, as well as vastly improved visibility of financial information, a stable system, greater efficiency in reporting and real-time views.
ARU now has a solid platform for future phases of work, such as integrating with other Microsoft technologies within the organisation and is well poised to realise ongoing benefits from the solution.
“The business of rugby is like any other business, and as the economic environment confronting us becomes tighter, our ability to forecast and be more accountable in our cashflow and expense management, and timely and efficient financial reporting, is vital. I am confident that our new Dynamics AX system greatly enhances our ability to do this,” Todd says.