The Science Museum Group (SMG) is the world’s leading group of museums devoted to the history and practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. Spread across seven sites in the United Kingdom the group’s museums receive more than five million visitors most years, and is the UK’s most visited museum network by school groups.
As an organisation operating in the cultural sector, SMG recognised the need to proactively adapt to challenges that lay ahead. Like all public bodies, it faced increasing pressures to generate new income and make more efficient use of resources. Unbeknown to SMG when choosing TechnologyOne, the museum group would also face its biggest ever financial and operational challenge, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to temporary closures, lost revenues, and the need to move to new remote working patterns.
With around 1200 employees and over 1000 volunteers based in several offices, museums and collection centres, storing hundreds of thousands of artefacts throughout the UK, SMG identified improvements and opportunities that could be achieved by digitally transforming the group’s IT systems and moving business services into the cloud.
SMG’s finance department, based in three sites in London, Manchester and York, faced particular challenges when it came to providing the museum’s executives with business reporting and financial information needed for future planning. Reliant on 15-year old legacy accounting software, which needed to be maintained on premise, the finance team was struggling to provide the insight needed to support SMG’s ambitious commercial plans.
“Our finance systems weren’t fit for purpose. They were incredibly clunky and required lots of workarounds,” said David Jones, Head of Corporate Finance and Reporting at the Science Museum Group. “We were underserving the business because we were spending too much time on mundane and unnecessary data inputting.”
In 2018, SMG chose TechnologyOne’s enterprise software platform to be at the heart of its digital transformation journey.
The Science Museum Group partnered with TechnologyOne due to a number of benefits it could deliver.
Firstly, a transition to Software as a Service (SaaS) was a core part of the museum group’s IT strategy in order to improve business resilience.
“TechonlogyOne’s solution had clearly been designed as Software as a Service, rather than being a reconfigured solution. This gave us confidence in its development path for the next few years, as our IT strategy saw us move to cloud services across the organisation,” said Jones.
“Secondly, TechnologyOne’s SaaS solution was created with the end user experience in mind. The integration between modules in the ‘Financials’ product was something we were confident would be popular across the business,” he said. “We also welcomed that the management of the system, such as upgrades and patches, could be performed in the background, reducing the need for in-house database expertise.”
“The development path for SaaS ERP software also excited us. In a world where so much of our day-to-day lives can be organised from a mobile phone, we wanted to offer a financial service that was similarly easy and convenient for users,” he added.
Over a seven-month period, SMG and TechnologyOne migrated 750 users, across seven sites, working in sixteen business departments (from curatorial collections management, exhibitions, learning, retail and events, corporate services, and front of house) to the new SaaS solution. All purchasing, sales and expense management data moved on to the new system and software integrations with satellite systems, such as ticketing, retail and payroll were also set-up.
We’re now much more efficient, meaning we can more effectively meet the needs of our visitors.
As well as introducing a new SaaS solution which provides far greater business insight, SMG estimates it has cut hundreds of hours in project management reporting by switching to TechnologyOne.
“It has allowed us to redirect resource to higher-value activities such as business support, which offers good career development opportunities for our staff,” said Jones. “The solution is also fully aligned with our wider organisational strategy, allowing us to be a more agile, entrepreneurial organisation that can respond to challenges. We’re now much more efficient, meaning we can more effectively meet the needs of our visitors.”
By moving to TechnologyOne’s Financials SaaS solution, more than 100 business decision makers are now able to access information required for their day-to-day budget management needs themselves, through self-service tools.
“This has freed up the finance function to instead focus on delivering insight and strategic advice to our colleagues,” said Jones.
“More broadly we’re seeing users accessing systems remotely to process expenses, to approve requisitions and purchase orders, and to review their budgets,” said Jones. “We have higher levels of engagement with financial information across the business and a better understanding of the organisation’s performance.”
TechnologyOne’s software has provided greater insight, helping our executive team to see the whole picture and work together as unit to solve problems over the last year.
Outdated finance systems were preventing the Science Museum Group’s finance team from delivering extra value to its executive team, and other decision makers. They lacked the business tools and software needed to provide business intelligence and performance insights that were wanted.
“It was apparent we needed a new software platform that not only supported our team’s activities, but also helped support the wider business’s performance,” said Jones.
SMG’s finance team also wanted as many people in the business as possible to be able to ‘self-serve’ in terms of providing business data and resolving queries, so needed a software platform that was easy to use and accessible from anywhere. “If we could get people in the business doing this, then we could be far more strategic in how we helped different business operations,” said Jones. “We want our finance team working with high-level stakeholders to look more strategically at what the business could achieve in the medium term, so they could ask: ‘what are the options over the next three to five years?’.”
After rigorous testing, the system started to be used for management and statutory reporting by SMG’s finance teams in London, Manchester and York and 750 users across the UK.
Improvements to purchasing systems, where staff can more effectively manage their relationships with suppliers; and expense processing, which can now be carried out remotely and at times that suit employees, have proved the most popular functionality.
But most importantly, having switched to TechnologyOne’s ‘any device, anywhere, at any time’ SaaS solution, the Science Museum Group’s finance team was prepared for the unexpected, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020.
“We would have struggled much more during the COVID crisis without being on a SaaS solution,” said Jones. “Our finance operations continued without interruption, even though our physical sites were closed for much of the year and many of our staff were on furlough or working remotely.”
“COVID has shown us the shape of future work and it is much more dispersed, with users managing their time and responsibilities around their other commitments. SaaS across multiple devices supports this,” said Jones.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 and museum closures, the team was forced to carry out a complete re-budgeting of the organisation’s finances during the middle of 2020 so that it could overcome the pressures, and loss of income, the pandemic had caused. Further lockdowns piled on further pressures and the public body also had to carry out a four-year spending review.
“There is no way we could have done any of this without TechnologyOne’s functionality in place,” said Jones. “It would have been impossible to keep things going and do bottom-up future planning with our old systems. It’s been game-changing.”
“While we’ve had vital support from the Government, our executive team still needed to deliver savings in the millions to get us through the pandemic and financial year. They had confidence in the financial information we had in our TechnologyOne system, as well as in the robustness of our forecasting and new processes, that they just wouldn’t have had in our old systems,” he added. “It’s provided greater insight, helping management see the whole picture and work together as unit to solve problems.”
Having successfully implemented TechnologyOne’s Financials SaaS solution, SMG is now looking at other ways it can benefit the business from sourcing and contracts self-service, through to implementing new asset management systems for the estates team. Longer term, the group is looking at how TechnologyOne can bring greater intelligence and usability to business and information systems, in other key parts of the organisation.
Spotlight on Application Managed Services
The Science Museum Group said TechnologyOne’s Application Managed Services (AMS) program was the biggest differentiator when it came to working with the enterprise software provider.
Through the program, a dedicated community of AMS consultants helped manage, maintain and optimise SMG’s TechnologyOne solution to ensure they achieved the most from their investments.
“We now have access to consultants across the TechnologyOne organisation at any time,” said Jones. “We can draw down their assistance for urgent support, small tweaks or for strategic projects requiring expert input over several months. It’s allowed us to restructure our systems support offer, making it more business focused and significantly more strategic.”
By switching to the AMS program SMG has been able to replace its finance systems manager with TechnologyOne AMS consultants and believes that doing so has been far more effective.
“TechnologyOne’s consultants quickly understood our business processes and helped us implement well controlled improvements for go live in a short period of time,” said Jones.
TechnologyOne’s training database, the TechnologyOne University, has also been a really useful tool for SMG employees of all levels using the software, says Jones.
“It has meant we have been able to reduce the level of standard training we need to offer users of the system and can instead focus on the specific areas that are of most importance for successful use,” he said.
About The Science Museum Group
The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, receiving more than five million visitors most years. It traces its origins back to London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and is the most visited museum in the UK by school groups.
Devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media, it consists of: the Science Museum in London, Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, National Railway Museum in York, National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Locomotion in County Durham.
The Group itself is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
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