The YMCA is the largest and oldest youth charity in the world. Starting in London in 1844, the YMCA now has 121 branches in England, with some 45 million members in 119 countries.
A recent change in structure has brought together Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and Lowestoft branches in East Anglia, as the Suffolk YMCA. These changes gave the opportunity to review the use of systems across the 3 branches, to look at gaining any possible efficiencies. One area that stood out was the need to co-ordinate the purchasing function across the locations. The current paper based PO system of using spread sheets was slow in terms of getting approvals for orders, and not always up to date. Add to this the fact that as many as 50 people may need to raise purchase orders in the 3 locations meant a new system would need to account for a number of challenges.
YMCA Ipswich branch and offices
Sarah Nicholls (YMCA Finance and IT Manager) was therefore mindful that she would be best served by a web based system to replace the current paper output. This would mean that staff at the 3 branches could have access not only at their location, but could deal with actions required even when they were not at their location. Sarah commented:
‘We have a large number of staff who need to raise PO’s, 7 days a week, across our 3 branches, and with some of those in the approval process moving between branches – as I have to do every week- we needed to find a system that not only could provide the correct approval workflows- depending on what people ordered- but it needed to be simple to understand and use. And it would need to be possible to access approval tasks when not at a fixed location via hardware such as iPhones. Plus for top value purchases, our CEO also needs to be able to access the system to approve items.’
Sarah and her team carried out research into possible system solutions, and were pleased to find Cloud B2B via Google, who had launched a new range of HTML 5 systems in early 2012. This led from initial contact to a Meet Me remote demonstration of the generic Purchase Order and Invoice Approval software. The system fulfilled most of YMCA’s requirements, and being accessed via the web to a hosted solution meant that Sarah didn’t have to provision for additional IT hardware and support internally.
‘ We liked the icon design of the system we were shown, as it came across as being clear and easy to use – essential with the wide range of users we have. And as it can work on PC’s , tablets and smart phones, we could see that it would give us the flexibility we need. The good thing was that not only is it a Purchase Order software system, but it also has the Invoice approval software module, so we can link invoices to PO’s for approval.
After the demo sessions and when we had agreed on principal to proceed, the next task was to put down in a spread sheet format, what levels of approval were required for each department and the value bands. This was a worthwhile detailed exercise, as the Cloud B2B team were to set up the workflows based on this, and it helped crystallise our own internal processes.’
The Cloud B2B project team then made up a full system specification detailing all the features and functionality for the YMCA to sign off, including the agreed approval workflow process and design for both the Purchase Orders and the Invoices. Once signed off Cloud B2B produced the system on a test server and gave access to Sarah and nominated colleagues for a week, to ensure the processes were all correct. Once some small modifications had been carried out the system was made ‘live’ and training carried out for YMCA staff on their own system using test information.
The training was carried out remotely via a WebMeetMe session for key staff, who then went on to train the others. The session was videoed and has become the visual ‘manual’ for staff, which has proved to be a lot better than a multi page document that can be open to ‘interpretation’.
Once the training had been done, the system was cleared of test data and made live, the same day.
‘ It was interesting as a process in that we have never actually met the Cloud B2B team face to face! We have had regular contact by phone, email and where needed MeetMe sessions, which in reality, with busy diaries, has not been a disadvantage at all – in fact the whole process in terms of the carbon footprint has been very beneficial. And not seeing ‘sales people’ was also a benefit!! The other major plus point for me was that from system specification sign off, to ‘Go Live’ was only 3 weeks!
In summary, combining the raising of Purchase Orders and the approval of Invoices is bringing major benefits for both our YMCA staff and suppliers. Plus as Finance Manager the financial reports in Cloud B2B give me full visibility as to my PO and Invoice exposure, at any time’
The POPIA system currently covers 11 different departments in the YMCA, each of which have individual set approval workflows, based on 4 different approval levels. From the Purchase Order creator approvals encompass Team Leaders, Dept. Managers, SMT Managers, the Finance department and, where relevant the CEO. PO’s are routed finally to Finance / Procurement who have the last view of the PO before it is sent as a PDF to the selected supplier. As part of the system set up Cloud B2B imported details of some 130+ suppliers, to populate the list that users can select from.
The POPIA system went live in April 2013, and has already become a key business tool for the new Suffolk structure.
Sarah added ‘ Now the system has ‘bedded in ‘ with all the staff, we are seeing the levels of control that I was looking for in our revised procurement process. We have asked for a number of changes / additions to some of the workflow process, as practical use illustrated the need for some change, but I must say that the Cloud B2B support team have been both accommodating and fast in their response to the changes requested. Although we have only been live for a few months, I can see the benefits for our business.
I would be happy to recommend Documents OnLine to any potential client, and would be willing to act as a reference via email; Cloud B2B have my details!’
Graham Light, Cloud B2B’s Director who also acted as PM on the project, commented:
‘ The YMCA have been a great example of where on screen raising of Purchase Orders and linking them to the incoming supplier invoices has had real benefits to the running of the organisation. We have from the start had a good working relationship with Sarah and her team, and we, and the YMCA are looking forward to upgrading their system, with new V2 features such as the Rate a Supplier function; we now also have available a Budget Control modules as an option to offer Clients, that may well suit the YMCA . We look forward to working with the YMCA for hopefully, a long time to come."