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Managing IT Pressures in the National Health Service as Part of a Public Sector Transformation

How public sector transformation is benefitting from workload automation

Tony Beeston
Tony Beeston, March 21, 2017 9:15 am
Blog > AWA | Finance Automation | Oracle > Managing IT Pressures in the National Health Service as Part of a Public Sector Transformation

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is the largest publically funded and state run health-care system in the world. In 2005, The NHS Shared Business Service (SBS) was established as a joint venture between the Department of Health and consultancy Sopra Steria to support both regional and specialized trusts. Employing over 1,600 people, processing over £170 billion of NHS payments each year and paying 290,000 NHS staff, the SBS has been on a journey with Automic lasting over eight years and transforming the way the organization runs.

Once Upon a Time in the NHS SBS

At the time of Automic’s involvement, the NHS SBS was supporting 132 trusts but the close improvement program started with just 12. They needed a solution that would scale, not just to the 132 trusts it currently supported, but the 300 it intended to support as part of its business growth strategy.

To deliver their financial close KPIs, the SBS had relied upon volunteers who would manually enter data and coordinate all activities, checks and process controls between themselves. While this method was far from perfect, it was just about tenable while its operation remained small. However, there were several issues, which although manageable and relatively minor for a small organization, would magnify exponentially as the company grew, rendering the current model unworkable.

As it was, the volunteers were working flat out on tasks that were not in their area of specialty, in an intense, pressurized and somewhat unreliable process. Ultimately, with all the checks they put in place, this way of working could just sustain the current system, but looking forward the SBS knew that something more scalable was required.

Making Plans

The SBS analyzed all possible options to ensure they could find a solution that was reliable, scalable and able to get accurate reports out to their clients on time.

Although the current process was totally unfeasible for a growing organization, the SBS realized that modifying their current Oracle E-Business application wasn’t a viable alternative. Customizing it was expensive, not guaranteed to work and would bring a number of problems regarding version lock-in.

Another alternative was to reengineer the financial close process, but given the number of trusts involved, getting unanimous agreement would have been a very challenging and time-consuming process. The implementation phase even more so.

Therefore, the SBS considered a third option: automation. As they had already embarked on manual execution, each step of the close was already documented. To ensure the solution they selected was scalable and adaptable, the automation tool needed to act on reports and databases but also be available to proactively manage human intervention and amendments in case of inaccuracies. Automic Workload Automation (AWA) was a perfect match.

Initial Results

The solution we proposed involved 80 different automated steps which could be used by any number of organizations, and included automation reconciliation steps as well as checking the business outcome from databases and reports. After several go-live phases, the SBS reached its initial goal of running 132 sets of books each month and closing them all within four hours. Furthermore, the SBS made a cost saving of 30-40% in financial reconciliation processes.

Dominick Smyth who was the SBS’s Service Delivery lead commented, “I am continually surprised by the depth of functionality available… it’s difficult to find limitations.”

How Did the Story End?

The story hasn’t ended and even now we are still working closely with the SBS!

In terms of results, by 2015 the SBS were closing 300 sets of books per month. They are also now running daily accounting reconciliations and include automated payment batches in their service. Any type of shared service organization should show dramatic improvements to productivity, and with Automic, the NHS SBS has shown improvements of 96% around financial close. More significantly however, there has been a huge 80% reduction in penalties for missing KPIs.

The successful implementation of AWA at the NHS SBS has shown how people, processes and systems can be linked, and output optimized by automating underlying systems. By facilitating more accurate and responsive financial close analytics, we have provided a solution that directly affects the delivery of care services and the overall success of the organization.

Dominick, who has now worked his way up to Service Deliver Manager, concludes, “After month end had been a success with our financial processing teams, we realized we’d uncovered the tip of an iceberg. We have automated our accounting AR/ AP processing and run daily accounting reconciliations for our clients’ sub-ledgers.”

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Read how automated processing is helping the UK’s health provider to deliver a 96% increase in productivity and up to 40% savings in reconciliation processes.

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Tony Beeston

Tony Beeston

Tony Beeston is Product Marketing Manager at Automic Software, and has over 30 years’ industry experience. For the last 15 of these he has been delivering solutions for running end-to-end business processes across ERP systems to companies worldwide.