Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
We sat down with Andrew Walker, Finance Manager, Financial Planning & Control Department to discuss our recent implementation of Unit4 Income Manager and our Agent Referred Payments system.
Here’s the background of the implementation process as told by Andrew.
Blueplanet understood our requirements as a council and of our customers. It was essential that they were able to communicate to me in my language. The Blueplanet team not only gave me a great understanding of the product and how it works, but also a greater understanding of how we can draw insights from our own data and how we can optimise our own processes. Consequentially, I feel much more in control and have been able to provide evidence of improvements in our effectiveness and efficiency in managing our Income Management process.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is the local authority of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. As a local authority, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, have ultimate responsibility to the citizens and businesses of the Borough from whom they collect taxes. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council want to provide the best value for money for their community and have placed this as one of their top priorities.
Southend-on-Sea were faced daily with many unallocated income transactions due our previous system’s inability to allocate payments ‘smartly’. This led to difficulties in processing and managing those unallocated payments causing a severe drain on our teams time.
Our Bank reconciliation queries were more difficult to resolve. As a result, we were chasing our tail and did not have adequate time to analyse the data or team performance.
How did we pick a provider?
Blueplanet were presented as the experts in the UNIT4 Income Manager solution. We were delighted to go with them for two reasons:
Firstly, their proven expertise in implementing Income Management solutions into other councils. Secondly their ability to configure the system to meet our needs, which they developed over years of experience working on developing the solution with the provider Unit4.
What were Blueplanet like to work with?
Set up for success
Blueplanet’s experience with other local authorities meant that they knew the potential areas of concern that we should be aware of and then prepared us well for these before implementation. In the initial discovery phase, they really earned my trust and I felt that they understood our requirements and made these their priority. Prior to going live Blueplanet prepared us for what was required and proposed a phased implementation. This helped us to manage the demands of the implementation. It was easy to trust Blueplanet and place ourselves in their hands, letting them oversee the whole implementation project. I am grateful we took their advice and proceeded with a phased implementation as it paid off. We had gained a strong understanding of the Income Manager solution before the payments solution was even set live.
Leveraging prior knowledge
I believe that Tom and David’s in-depth experience working with local councils was critical to the success of this implementation. They immediately identified the different income streams and the file types we would have. Not only that, they understood the types of systems that we would have as a local authority and that Income Manager would need to integrate with. Their experience meant they were also able to share important learnings with us and give us a greater understanding of our own processes and what they could look like for us post implementation. Their expertise helped us to trust in them from the very beginning, trust their recommendations and give us confidence in handing over responsibility of managing the project.
Based on their learnings from the initial discovery phase, they were able to demonstrate to us the full potential of using Income Manager in Southend-On-Sea. Blueplanet’s support and advice gave us certainty that the product was right for us.
What benefits Southend-On-Sea have seen?
Previously our income management system was a bit of a ‘blackbox’ that was wrapped up in code and difficult to decipher. Blueplanet’s implementation was designed for us and gave us visibility of our income and most importantly, visibility of how the system operates so that we can fine tune our income management processes.
We are now able to provide reporting to our stakeholders much more effectively and timely. Evidencing our effectiveness as a department and ensuring that income is allocated to customer accounts in a timely manner.
Reduced end of day unallocated payments to 0.03%. A smart implementation has meant automatic allocation of around 96% of payments happens in real-time.
We have closed the gap significantly on our bank reconciliation so that we are reconciling almost in real time. This has had significant impact on us resolving any discrepancies quickly and effectively.
As a result of the increase in automatic allocations my team have more time to work on those difficult cases, leading to an overall reduction in the number of unallocated payments.
My team are no longer bogged down with many unallocated payments to work through. They were stuck in a loop of longer to resolve issues and bank reconciliation queries. They are now able to make the best use of their talents and now have more time strategize and optimise.
A clearer view of unallocated payments means it is now possible to correctly identify unpaid bills and less incorrect reminder notices and penalties are sent out.
The implementation of Income Manager has meant we have gained the ability to report on the performance of our different income streams, not only that but our increased efficiency has also meant that I now have time to analysis it. We can analyse the data and make further strategic decisions like what payment methods cost us the most to collect and how can we focus on reducing costs.
How our citizens are making payments, what payments are harder for them to make and identify potential areas for review.
Going live was extremely seamless because our training and preparation was thorough. We implemented subsequent products like Blueplanet Agent Referred Payments (ARP) after the initial implementation of Income Manager. As the initial build was excellent, we were able to go live very quickly.
Benefits of Blueplanet Agent Referred Payments (ARP) Installation
I would certainly recommend Blue Planet to other organisations. Their knowledge of and experience in implementing the Unit 4 Business World Income Manager product, in my opinion is second to none. Their experience of working with the public sector and specifically their experience of income management in a local authority setting was a major benefit. In particular, I felt that they understood our requirements and were able to communicate to me in my language. They gave me not only a great understanding of the product and how it works, but also a greater understanding of our own data and our own processes. As a result, I feel much more in control and have been able to evidence improvements to our stakeholders.
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