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Case Study: How the Diocese of Plymouth benefited from moving to Microsoft for Management of their finances

The Background

What happens when you look to take your organisation to the next level, expand your reach and control finances within each parish? It is said that an Accountant “is only as good as their Finance system” and the same can be said for the successful operation of a Diocese organisation.

This case study outlines the core benefits gained from rethinking the approach to using a Microsoft Accounts solution within the Diocese of Plymouth, the challenges it overcame and how it provided governance over donations, purchasing at a parish level and effective control of finances. 

The Diocese

Diocese of Plymouth – is the Catholic Church in the Southwest of England – founded in 1851 and comprising the original counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

The Diocese has a dual identity as a part of the Universal Church entrusted to its local bishop, and as a Charitable Trust in the law of the country. As a Diocese it is responsible for the mission of the Church in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. As a Charitable Trust it is responsible as a civil body for the proper exercise of its aims in accordance with all law governing employment, financial control, property, safeguarding, health and safety and so forth. 

The important element, as a Charitable Trust, of financial control in particular led the Diocese to review their incumbent account system and consider a Microsoft solution via Advantage.

Hitting the Mark

Advantage’s journey with The Diocese began in 2019 with initial scoping and design sessions to confirm our proposal and recommendation of project activities that needed to be conducted. The Diocese were keen to adopt a Microsoft solution as they had already embarked upon a Microsoft strategy through the deployment of Microsoft Office. Furthermore, the advantages of implementing a true Cloud based solution would be realised with Advantage’s help during the project.

The challenges that the Diocese had with their old Accounts system were as follows:

  • The application was not MTD compliant
  • Interoperation with Microsoft Office (Excel, email, etc) was restricted
  • As part of their compliance as a Charitable Trust, the control of expenditure is crucial. However, the management of purchasing through to invoice payments at each of the parishes, and associated churches, was extremely labour intensive & time consuming, and not efficiently controlled or tracked.
  • Accounting of Funds (donations) within the Diocese was a major challenge, and in most instances, a manual process was deployed to ensure that the necessary inter-fund entries were reflected in the accounts system.   

Change is Good

The Benefits

The Microsoft Finance solution was successfully implemented and some of the benefits realised by the move to a Microsoft solution from Advantage were:

  • Compliance with HMRC Making Tax Digital
  • Governance and streamlining of the Diocese Purchase to Pay process was introduced by ensuring purchase requests / orders submitted by the parishes went through authorisation. Supplier invoices were automatically registered into the finance solution via a Cloud-based Optical Character Recognition service. And finally, an email-based authorisation workflow was introduced for the payment of invoices.
  • Supplier bank account control was instigated, providing further traceability and governance.
  • Improved reporting and Business Intelligence capability was inherent within the core solution.
  • The solution was ‘evergreen’ not requiring future ‘upgrade’ overheads or the provision of a server
  • Remote access, particularly during Covid restrictions, became evident.
  • Accounting of Funds (donations) with the ability to easily track and allocate expenditure of a Fund was efficiently achieved. 

Securing the Future

Advantage’s implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central brought with it many benefits which people across the organisation were quick to experience. After the implementation, Anthony Akinpelu mentioned that “things are working so well and so slick” due to the changes that had been made. Anthony further enthused that “Advantage made the vision work for me and the business. They took an incumbent system that was not efficiently working for us and delivered a Microsoft solution that now works well”.

This however is just the beginning of the journey as Advantage continue to work alongside the Diocese as further improvements are in the process of being created. We at Advantage look forward to continuing this fruitful relationship with the Diocese and the further improvements in the future.