The Urban Land Institute (ULI), based in Washington DC, is a member-supported research and education organization. Its approximately 30,000 members are community builders; the people who develop and redevelop neighborhoods, business districts and communities across the U.S. and around the world. Under volunteer leadership, District Council offices create local programming and events to promote real estate development in their area and advocate for best practice solutions identified by headquarters research staff.
Financial reporting is done centrally off Microsoft Dynamics GP. As the number of District Councils in the U.S. grew to 51 offices all over the country, reporting became very time and resource-intensive. Each month the Finance staff under the direction of Debra Throckmorton, ULI’s Senior Vice President, Finance, generated about 2,500 pages of reports drawn from two different systems: monthly financials in FRx and General Ledger supporting detail reports directly out of Dynamics GP. Because FRx did not support delivery of reports via the Internet, reports were static and distribution was a manual process.
A task force was formed to review what the District Councils needed, not just from accounting but from all ULI departments. At the end of FY 2011, Throckmorton contacted Brittenford Systems, Inc., a Microsoft Partner they had relied on for many years, and commissioned a proof of concept for what they were trying to make happen.
Brittenford Systems, Inc. evaluated the current business process, and presented various possible technical solutions with relevant costs and enhanced workflow capabilities for each. ULI selected a solution that focused on Microsoft Reporting Services as the best fit for their needs.
Two things had been done to reduce the learning curve and gain a high degree of acceptance for the new reporting solution:
- Brittenford replicated the reports from the old system; users had a new way of getting information but not a new report to learn.
- The plan included a well thought-out approach for knowledge transfer
The solution launched at ULI’s 2011 annual Fall meeting and was a great success. Jerry Kirschenman, District Council Finance Manager, says, “I think people were surprised in a good way–that it was a system they could all use and it wasn’t overly complex and it actually worked.” Over the following year, it produced “great results that really helped everybody out.” It freed up the resources of the Finance team and it gave the District Councils secure, real-time, distributed financial reporting on demand, so that they can always know exactly where they stand.
The real return on investment? The satisfaction of the District Councils. To view the case study, click here.