The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton’s finances are transformed by consolidated Cloud accounting
In 2018, The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton began a digital finance transformation initiative with AccountsIQ. It was a highly ambitious project involving complex workflow automations. There were also multiple stakeholders, including around 70, mainly volunteer, users with varying levels of accounting and IT experience.
The Diocese had been using a stand-alone finance system, called Finance Co-ordinator. “It had a good Chart of Accounts,” Sarah recalls. “But no consolidation function. At the end of the year, each parish would send in their activity and finance would re-key the transactions.”
These manual processes were time consuming and error prone. More importantly, the only management information the Diocese had was a P&L and balance sheet for each parish. “There was no granularity,” says Sarah, “the old system didn’t give us the insight we needed at individual parish level.”
In search of a more advanced cloud system, Sarah talked to AccountsIQ’s CEO, Tony Connolly, and the finance team from the Archdiocese of Dublin, who were already an AccountsIQ customer.
“AccountsIQ is Cloud-based, so I can access the parish books and see what’s going on from the centre.”
Sarah Kilmartin, COO, The Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
Moving to AccountsIQ enables automated, efficient processes
The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton chose AccountsIQ because they wanted to be able to share a single platform with their parishes. Their objective was to automate as much of their manual finance processing as possible.
Digital cash collection is an example of an effective process that AccountsIQ created specifically for the Diocese. Income from each church is entered on an online cash collection sheet, which updates directly into AccountsIQ. This means income is recognised directly on entry and can be consolidated across all parishes. Crucially, Sarah’s team didn’t simply replicate their previous, paper-based cash collection process into AccountsIQ.
“We combined a number of processes,” explains Sarah. “Now, it’s quick, easy, and error proof with no re-keying, sending emails or putting things in the post. I also look after a small parish as a volunteer and the monthly bank rec takes less than 15 minutes.
Sarah also likes the useability of AccountsIQ, “The most useful feature for me as COO is having all my parishes laid out in a list. I can click down to the transaction level detail very easily. I also have full trust in the completeness and accuracy of the data being captured; it accounts for every penny that goes through the bank.”
Granular reporting is revolutionising the church finance role
The Diocese is using AccountsIQ extensively for analysis and reporting. Each parish has its own database in AccountsIQ, and the BI coding structure enables the Diocese to run reports for each church, fund, site or central office department.
“This multi-dimensional reporting is perfect for our setting. It has revolutionised our potential to do our job here in the centre. That is to stand over these charitable funds and know exactly what’s going on with the funds of each charity.
“I find the management reports useful and look at them all the time. For example, when a new priest comes to a parish I can run through the P&L very easily. Previously, we didn’t have this level of information.”
Digital transformation is an on-going collaboration
After several years on the platform, AccountsIQ continues to work well for the Diocese. Sarah reports that they hit their year-end deadlines, with all parish accounts reconciled within two months. “Initially, we needed support to roll out the project,” she recalls. “But our users are now confident using the system.”
Looking back, Sarah describes this complex digital transformation project as a creative, on-going collaboration between the Diocese and the AccountsIQ team. “There are still things we plan to do,” she says. “For example, contactless payments have become mainstream since we started with AccountsIQ, and we need to find a solution that works for us. That said, whenever we bring problems to AccountsIQ, they understand them and help us sort them.”
“AccountsIQ is a product I would happily recommend to others. It has revolutionised how we do our job.”
Sarah Kilmartin, COO, The Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton
Summing-up, Sarah concludes that, now they have everyone working on one central Cloud accounting platform, they would never go back.
“We have fewer finance staff now, but they are more skilled. Our people costs may not have gone down, but the quality of what we know has gone up. We would certainly never go back to having 80+ desktop systems. Ultimately, AccountsIQ is a product I would happily recommend to others.”
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