Rapid Accounts Department digital transformation case study

Faster digital transformation speeds are possible. Group enhances Accounting processes.

Hillcrest Group rapidly upgrades digital processes in Accounts Departments to match its corporate aims and values.

Scottish housing organisation Hillcrest successfully implemented comprehensive digital processes in Accounts departments across its four businesses in a fraction of the time usually required.

Pandemic stimulates thinking about business agility
Hillcrest prioritised its plans to upgrade its digital document management, which had been used in the business for ten years, as a way to enhance Group operations.

Hillcrest executives Angela Murphy, Finance Manager, and Mark Flattery, IT Manager, are among those who point to technology’s rise in strategic importance as a critical component of conducting business, and not just as a source of cost efficiencies.

Mark Flattery says: “The digitisation project was designed to achieve business resilience.”  

Hillcrest Group aims and goals
The Hillcrest Group has a clearly defined ethos with aims and values that contain watchwords such as ‘sustainable’, ‘well-being’, ‘excellence’ and ‘innovation’ that are embraced across its four businesses: Futures, Homes, Maintenance and Enterprises.

Hillcrest had worked with Document Logistix for many years and turned to the document management specialist to ask how quickly, comprehensively and safely a company-wide digital solution could be implemented.

Among the Hillcrest project goals were integration with QL Finance and the implementation of OCC to capture data contained in 50,000 invoices processed annually.

Historical accounting process challenges
Angela Murphy says that historical payment processes created issues such as bottlenecks at each stage of the process. Bottlenecks, in turn, generated repetition and duplication leading to unproductive communication to resolve issues that may have been avoided.

Other historical pitfalls resulted from the proliferation of multiple image and document types.

As for many companies, the Covid-19 outbreak caused business disruption and remote working exacerbated process inefficiencies.

“Automation became a high priority,” Angela says. “We viewed this as a sprint project. Speed – managed speed – was of the essence.”

Simplifying accounting complexity
The Document Manager implementation was more complex than most as each Hillcrest company had a different structure to the chart of accounts for coding purposes and three different workflow processes depending on the type of purchase (purchase order, works order and direct payment). 

The coding of invoices has been simplified using the DM templating feature by supplier and automated matching with open purchase orders and works orders. Express works orders are now flagged for attention if required data is not present to allow payment, and the invoice approval process is better defined, controlled and automated.

Tim Cowell, Document Logistix CIO, commented that the fast-track project stood out in a number of ways. “Hillcrest was a model customer to work with. Their project team was very enthusiastic and thorough at all stages, and they came to the project with well-defined expectations. Hillcrest also allowed enough time for meticulous testing to be undertaken prior to roll-out.”

Speedy implementation and positive outcomes
A straw poll of organisations that had undertaken comparable projects revealed that they took a minimum of eighteen months and usually more than two years to complete.

The Hillcrest digitisation project was completed in just six months while working under the constraints of Covid guidelines.

Angela Murphy says that people throughout Hillcrest experienced very positive changes following the project’s completion: “Everything was immediately less cluttered; email communications subsided; we had clear user dashboards visuals; managers and directors felt they had effective tools to assist them; and stakeholder relations in our Maintenance business were enhanced.”

Angela concludes: “With automated alerts on tasks, thresholds, authorisations and escalations, we can now be much more targeted and focused - for example, in the case of a payment dispute - and eliminate potentially relationship-damaging bottlenecks.

The tasks and reporting that were previously too complicated to generate more regularly than on a weekly basis, we can now do easily every day.”

Before and after digitisation
It is not often that an organisation can overhaul its workflow processes as the task can appear overwhelming. However, once committed, a business has opportunities to introduce unique automated processes that embed policies and best practice.

Hillcrest looked to supersede historical practices that included paper management, manual processes and scanning. The aim was to build a future-proof, sophisticated system aligned to the organisation’s guiding principles that would support its plans for growth and diversification.

A key characteristic of digital processes is visibility; everyone can see the process logic. Feedback from stakeholders suggests that processes run very smoothly, with in-built controls, secure storage, full audit trails, automated workflows and a significant reduction in human error.

A host of benefits and future potential
Angela Murphy comments: “The positive changes within Hillcrest have been far reaching.  Everyone felt part of the project. We have witnessed a change in staff mindsets, more engagement, and an increase in confidence.  

The new systems facilitate collaboration and we foresee further enhancements.”

The availability of business intelligence reports, exception reports, line-of-sight across invoices in the general ledger, and ready reconciliations, mean that Hillcrest can mine its new administrative platform to gain strategic business advantage.

Supporting the organisation’s aspirational culture
The watchwords in Hillcrest’s values underpin the Group’s leadership programme and all of the Group’s activities. Sustainability and innovation had to be incorporated in the business plan for a back-office function as much as they would be a natural consideration for housing projects.

Service is a prime performance metric in the Housing sector which is heavily regulated and requires detailed statistical returns about suppliers and delivery. As Document Manager has ready reporting and full activity audit trails, Hillcrest is now in a position to demonstrate exactly how it achieves best practice.

Hillcrest case study download


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