GSL partnered with Catapult to upgrade from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Business Central and deployed a multi-company solution across their divisions.
The cloud ERP solution has provided the GSL Group with powerful reporting capabilities that’s enabled them to capture and analyze data at a high level so they can easily assess the performance of their entire organization as well as make strategic decisions at an individual company level.
Challenges With GP
GSL were using Dynamics GP 2005 to run their accounting for almost 10 years. Throughout the past decade, GSL has grown significantly and as a result they started to experience significant growing pains due to the increased complexity that came with adding new companies to their portfolio along with the growth of their existing businesses.
GSL has 3 different accounting departments that each manage one of the core lines of business: events and arenas, construction and hospitality. The accounting team were collectively experiencing limitations within Dynamics GP that prevented them from effectively consolidating financial data within their portfolio and handling intercompany transactions. They needed an ERP system that could easily consolidate data across their divisions while at the same time provide capabilities that empowered them to simply analyze and report on each company in and of itself. They could no longer rely on the traditional methods of reporting in Dynamics GP because they imposed too many limitations. Dynamics GP provided basic reports and trial balances but the team couldn’t export it out of GP so everything was either printed or they’d have to export it into Excel and do a copy and paste job in order to manipulate the data.
"When we chose Catapult and started working with the team, we started to get a real sense of what we could achieve and what that meant from a transitional standpoint, especially around reporting. This was a big draw for us - it was the reporting features that really got us excited for the transition."
Managing purchasing across the portfolio of companies was also a daunting task. To understand the sheer number of purchase orders, envision this: Imagine a hockey game is taking place in one of GSL’s arenas. There are several vendors providing food and beverage to the venue’s concessions, and they all need to order supplies to meet the expected demand during the game. To manage the request volume and the associated approvals GSL had previously created a SharePoint solution to submit purchase requests. The purchasing volume naturally triggers a large number of invoices that need to be processed in accounts payable.
A major challenge arose for all three accounting departments because the accounting team had no idea what invoices related to what purchase orders and had to go back and forth between SharePoint and Dynamics GP to figure it out and complete the process.
Security, Accessibility & Support
GSL experienced two major hacking events resulting in significant data losses. In one breach they lost seven years’ worth of documents which they had to manually re-enter into the system. Due to this data breach, GSL increased application security around their GP infrastructure to ensure no one could hack them again. If employees wanted to access the system remotely, they would have to log in from a designated IP address that was trusted across the firewall. This imposed real limitations on where the accounting system could be accessed. When travelling or working from different offices, users often ran into challenges.
The accounting teams also struggled because there was no system support because the version of Dynamics GP they were on was so outdated. They would have to rely on searching the internet to find answers to their queries which took a lot of their time and didn’t always result in a solution.
The Cloud ERP Solution
Dynamics 365 Business Central has empowered GSL to revolutionize the way they do their reporting through a unique feature called Dimensions. This is a powerful feature that supports with analysis and organization of data and can be specifically helpful for reporting off of your general ledger.
"The reality on the reporting side is that it's far better. I can drill down and pull a report on anything from Business Central. Any financial data that I want to gather from an event or hockey game I can get instantly. The team doesn't have to rework all of those account numbers to put everything in a useable format like we did in GP. In the past, every time we created a division we had to create multiple account strings. We don't have to do that anymore and it's fantastic."
In financial accounting, a general ledger is typically broken up into sections that delineate the nature of the account or activity that you’re posting to. This is how transactions are generally coded in any financial system to really designate where things need to go to get rolled up into reporting. Most accounting systems will have a segmented approach at the point of data entry where the user picks a natural account and types in segments while transacting. In the case of Dynamics GP, it uses a concatenated string of digits to define segments. This caused unnecessary complexity for GSL’s accounting teams because the segments weren’t very readable. It also limited flexibility for reporting and made it more complicated for entering data, such as pulling an income statement by event type which was a challenge because it required a whole bunch of manipulation.
When it comes to Dimensions in Business Central, the approach is completely different. Instead of being limited by digits, Dimensions allows you to input descriptive words and categorize data with dimension values (or tags), making it easy to read and report on. GSL now descriptively list their different divisions and use season codes and event codes rather than creating an account string to represent them. By virtue of being separated in different fields or columns it makes reporting a lot easier for GSL and saves them time because they no longer need to create multiple account strings when they create a new division in the system.
Catapult built a customized integration in Business Central to overcome the problems GSL were facing with purchase orders in SharePoint. The accounting teams can now use a search a field when in a purchase invoice within Business Central to look into SharePoint and lift any open purchase orders. The team simply click to see if it’s approved, then once they’ve posted that invoice it writes back to SharePoint to say how much was paid. No manual editing is required and the team no longer have to go back and forth between systems. They don’t have to leave Business Central to close the loop.
The team at Catapult also integrated GSL’s hospitality line of the business, the Coast Capri hotel. This hotel had a whole different system of integrations that they required. Coast Capri has a software called Hotel Concepts that they use to manage bookings then they have Business Central to manage their financials. The whole set up for this hotel was different to the other divisions because the system had to manage their industry needs. The integration allows the financial data from their hotel software to get extracted and put into Business Central and allows them to post charges.
"The difference we've seen is night and day. Quite honestly having a system that we are able to access support is number one. We are able to work so much more efficiently now that all users can access the system at any time from any location. It's freed up time to work on overdue and bigger projects and has become one of the biggest benefits. On average the team report saving 25% of their day. "
Remote Access & Support
Business Central is running in the cloud on Microsoft Azure and has built-in enterprise-level security and privacy which means GSL don’t have to fear another data breach. It gives them the ability to work remotely from any location and they have access to ongoing support from the Catapult team.
Upgrading to Business Central has made it easier for GSL to consolidate data across their divisions and changed their whole approach to reporting for the better.
They can easily capture data at the high level and holistically analyze the organizations performance, which lifts some of the pressure when reporting back to stakeholders. The solution has also empowered the team to slice and dice data at the lower level that’s unique to specific divisions or individual companies within their portfolio.
"We have so many projects that we want to take on and a lot of analysis that people want to see that we didn't have time for before. The reporting capability within Business Central means that we are now in a much stronger position to start analyzing data that will empower us to make big decisions and a real difference to the business. "
The team also has a lot more freedom to work where they want because the solution is cloud-based which removes the need to be in the office. Employees can work on projects simultaneously, saving time and making room for other business priorities. The unique integrations with SharePoint and the hotel software that Catapult customized for GSL has saved time and empowered all accounting teams across divisions to work more effectively.