Whakarongorau Aotearoa (previously Homecare Medical) is a social enterprise owned by ProCare and Pegasus Health, two of New Zealand’s largest primary health organisations. The business has over 350 staff nationally and operates from premises in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and from home offices across the country.

Whakarongorau runs the National Telehealth Service, which delivers free 24/7 health and mental health advice, support and information. The helplines, running across seven different channels, include Healthline, Need to talk? 1737, Quitline and other specialist services. Whakarongorau also provides nurse triage support for around 60% of New Zealand’s General Practices, so patients’ calls are answered after-hours.

Tackling finance and procure-to-pay pains

Nick Davies, Whakarongorau's Head of Finance and Corporate Services, joined the company in early 2016. Back then, the organisation’s annual turnover was just under $30M and future financial goals were ambitious. Nick knew they needed a new finance system and a procure-to-pay solution to support their growth.

He had a clear vision of the business needs. “We wanted to automate our accounts payable process and introduce a finance system that would grow with us. Both systems needed to be off-the-shelf plug-ins that wouldn’t break the bank.”

The approve-to-pay problem

Whakarongorau Aotearoa receives around 1,000 paper and digital invoices every month.

With some invoices running up to 1,000 pages a month, there was a significant workload for the external accounts payables team of two FTE. Vast amounts of time were spent opening or downloading physical and electronic invoices. As well as manually entering the data into the finance system, each individual invoice needed to be coded, reviewed and approved for payment.

“We knew the huge amount of administrative time we spent on approving invoices could be used more efficiently elsewhere. Our process didn’t allow for people not being available to provide sign off, or invoices being misplaced or moved. We had poor visibility of what we had floating around at any one time.”

Nick Davies, Whakarongorau Aotearoa’s Head of Finance and Corporate Services

“We also faced paying invoices late or incorrectly if they weren’t properly coded. We were spending more time doing the admin than thinking about the costs we were incurring, and why. Reducing our dependency on manual processes was critical for us.”

Choosing systems to support growth

Based on a recommendation, Nick talked to Fusion5. “They took me on a journey through the finance solutions they offered. After applying my criteria of it being off-the-shelf, not requiring too much customisation, and being able to grow with us, we narrowed it down to ApprovalPlus with NetSuite Financials. The first time I saw the product demos, I was sold.”

“ApprovalPlus is simple to use, which is exactly what we wanted. Fusion5’s integrated NetSuite and ApprovalPlus solution ticked all our boxes.”

Whakarongorau Aotearoa implemented NetSuite Financials and ApprovalPlus for managing invoice processing, purchasing, project spend control, and expense claims.

A smooth implementation

Nick was realistic about the effort required to change systems and adhere to timelines. He was however, pleasantly surprised at how straightforward Fusion5 made the whole process.

My expectations were based on previous experience, and I was delighted that this project was easier than I anticipated. We had minimal time slippage, we were well trained to use the new systems, and Fusion5 wrapped it all up in great support throughout and after the implementation.

Nick Davies

Easy to use, easy to love

Homecare Medical’s accounts payable team love how easy ApprovalPlus is to use. “It’s been so well embraced across the organisation that it worries me,” jokes Nick. “I'm almost waiting for something to go wrong because everyone thinks it’s so great!”

They’re not the only ones who are impressed, says Nick. “Our Chief Executive is delighted with the solutions and lets everyone know that.”

Invoices that took weeks to get through the approval process are now processed and scheduled for payment within hours. The ApprovalPlus ‘approve by email’ function automatically delegates to the next person in line if the usual signatory is away, so invoices are never stalled in the system. As the payment cycle speeds up, Nick expects to have more conversations with suppliers about prompt payment rebates.

Whakarongorau staff now raise all purchase orders in ApprovalPlus, supporting the company’s desire to gain more visibility, control and awareness of spending. And NetSuite is a hit with the finance team who appreciate the ease of use, search-ability and visibility it provides within a robust, secure and accessible cloud environment.

Caucasian lady talking on the phone. Caucasian lady talking on the phone.

We’ve taken the right strategic path. It could have been very different for us if we hadn’t made this investment.

Nick Davies | Head of Finance and Corporate Services, Whakarongorau Aotearoa

Streamlining costs and expenses

ApprovalPlus’ in-built analytics alone are saving Homecare Medical time and money. For example, querying the costs incurred on any one of the 900+ telephone lines providing support to individual GPs across New Zealand used to take 5-10 minutes. Now, ApprovalPlus automatically flags any surges in costs, line by line.

ApprovalPlus has also streamlined the complex, paper-heavy expenses routine with a new process, cutting a six to seven week out-of-pocket expense payment cycle down to just one week.

A good investment

This process has brought Whakarongorau Aotearoa’s entire finance function in-house and has reduced the headcount required.

“Without ApprovalPlus, we would’ve added at least another person to the accounts payable team by now,” says Nick. “We’ve taken the right strategic path. It could have been very different for us if we hadn’t made this investment.”

Nick expects to realise a genuine return on investment with ApprovalPlus. “We’ll get payback within the first 6-12 months, there's no doubt about that.”

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