cohealth – Case Study

EBS deploys Business Central for cohealth during first Victorian lockdown on time and under budget

When Melbourne’s largest community health organisation, cohealth recognised that its ageing accounting software system was holding them back, they undertook a detailed investigation to find a comprehensive, cost-effective replacement that met its current needs and strategic objectives. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic hitting Victoria with widespread community lockdown in early 2020, cohealth was able to deploy its new system, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, on time and under budget, with the assistance of Evolution Business Systems (EBS).

The challenge: Outdated accounting system failed to meet cohealth’s growing needs

cohealth is a large and complex community health organisation that provides health and support services for people throughout central Melbourne and its northern and western suburbs. With more than 900 employees and over 30 health centres, cohealth is a trusted community organisation with a strong record of improving the lives of people from all walks of life, including refugees and asylum seekers, people experiencing homelessness, clients struggling with addiction and people with a history of mental ill-health. Some of the health services cohealth provides are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; counselling; dental; early child development; mental health; NDIS; physiotherapy; refugee health and sexual and reproductive health.

cohealth, which was formed in 2014 from the merge of three smaller health services, inherited a legacy accounting system, Dynamics AX. But over the next five years, recognised that it was not supporting the organisation’s growing needs.

cohealth Strategic Projects Lead, Eddie McFall said the old system was “clunky” and required many manual steps to complete processes. “It was a system that was very difficult to support remotely, working from home,” he said. “You could do it through Citrix, but the user experience wasn’t very good.”

cohealth Director Finance and Reporting, Cathy Williams said using the system for reporting was complex and time-consuming. “It was beyond difficult,” she said.

“While COVID was not a driver for the project, it was definitely a catalyst. Moving to a system like Business Central where all you need is a browser to access it was a no-brainer, so we engaged EBS who delivered the whole thing from go to whoa during the first flush of COVID lockdown.”
cohealth
Eddie McFall
Strategic Projects Lead

 “It was hard to get any reporting from the old system and the link into reporting software required a lot of maintenance. I would run a Trial Balance report only to find it did not balance. It was very slow and, when we went to remote working due to the pandemic in 2020, it was almost impossible to see anything.”

By 2019, cohealth replaced its old accounting system with new software that was easier to use; aligned with its Microsoft-centric office systems, and allowed easy extraction of data to ensure greater analysis of demands and trends for their services.

cohealth engaged a consultancy to help examine a range of accounting software systems, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central was selected as the solution. cohealth was assessing the best implementation partner when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.

The journey: EBS delivered Business Central for cohealth in a ‘tight turnaround’ time

Mr McFall said cohealth had issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) in early 2020 to three organisations including Melbourne-based enterprise resource planning software specialist Evolution Business Systems (EBS). “Then COVID hit before we even signed the agreement!” he said.

“While COVID was not a driver for the project, it was definitely a catalyst. Moving to a system like Business Central where all you need is a browser to access it was a no-brainer, so we engaged EBS who delivered the whole thing from go to whoa during the first flush of COVID lockdown.”

Ms Williams said COVID-19 had made the need for change even more evident. “Our old system was very paper-based and very office-based, so it would not have coped with us working from home,” she said. “EBS was very measured and open in its response. When COVID first hit, we had a tight turnaround of just three months. Some providers were a bit offhand whereas EBS was realistic in saying that it would be tough, but the timeline was possible if everyone did what they committed to. They also challenged us in a good way about doing things in a differently. We trusted EBS to implement Business Central, and implement it well, despite the pandemic.”

Mr McFall said cohealth had chosen EBS because it had worked with similar organisations. “When we did the RFP, the response from EBS was the most targeted to what we wanted,” he said.

“EBS responded in detail to our requirements. Also, we had some really good references for EBS from community health organisations in Victoria. Community health has lots of complicated grant funding, so it is reassuring to work with someone who had worked with those organisations.

 

“EBS has its Business Central User Group too, which gives them a chance to say, ‘here’s what’s new,’ and for us to meet other organisations who can say ‘we are having this issue’. If it produces enough feedback to show that it’s a broader issue, that helps EBS add more functionality to the system.”

Ms Williams said an example of the benefit of the EBS User Group was provided by Gippsland Lakes Complete Health. “After learning how they set up for their funding, we could tell Dan and Charmaine from EBS that ‘we want what they have’: It makes it a lot easier,” she said. “We also receive regular updates through the ebs-plus newsletter that are very relevant to our needs. EBS is very relevant to how we work.”

The outcome: On time and under budget, BC is easy to use, saves time and ‘liberates data’

Ms Williams said EBS implemented Business Central as per its project plan. “It was a nice surprise that we did deploy it on time and under budget,” she said. “While some people struggled with the new system, most of our team adapted to it very quickly, allowing us to use a lot of the system immediately. We can’t compliment the responsiveness of EBS trainers Dan and Charmaine enough.

“The biggest time saving is purely data entry. It is a much quicker system with a better interface to enter transaction data. Also, Business Central has easily saved me half a day to a day each month compiling board reports. We are definitely getting better quality reports. We can get a balance sheet and a cashflow report which we couldn’t in the old system.”

Mr McFall said EBS and Business Central had met the project goals and aligned with cohealth’s broader IT strategy. “We now have a finance system that aligns strategically with our Microsoft software stack and its functionality is better,” he said.

“Business Central also allows us to liberate data to use with other systems for reporting or warehousing data. The objective is to understand our clients and our business better. Having commonality among datasets helps get a rich understanding of how they interact with each other. The aim is to provide better information to inform better decisions.”

Ms Williams said Business Central provided cohealth with more dimensions for tracking funding. “We now have visibility on lines of funding that we didn’t have before,” she said.

“Essentially, we can tag all our revenues with multiple dimensions that allow a much greater level of granularity and transparency. Using these dimensions or ‘analysis codes’ we can tag revenue streams and if that revenue stream ceases, we can follow how it flows through the system and identify its impact on our many different programs.

“EBS responded in detail to our requirements. Also, we had some really good references for EBS from community health organisations in Victoria. Community health has lots of complicated grant funding, so it is reassuring to work with someone who had worked with those organisations.”

“For example, at a recent board meeting, we discussed the important issue of the breadth of our sources of revenue, gaining transparency and understanding the sustainability of each source. As a community health organisation, we are moving from block funding to more consumer-directed fee-for-service payments. Previously, it was a lot of work to effectively analyse sources of funding and their contribution to organisational sustainability, but now it’s straightforward with Business Central.

“We will always have multiple funding streams, including grant-funding and consumer-directed care, and fee for service. Now have much better financial information, which supports strategic decisions about which funding streams to pursue. Getting that richness of analysis was essential.”

Client Profile:

cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical, oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.
cohealth.org.au
03 9448 5528

Office Location

3/47 Burgundy St
Heidelberg VIC 3084

Postal Address

PO Box 1115
Camberwell VIC 3124

Phone

1300 303 973

In the spirit of reconciliation, EBS acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past, present and emerging.