Unit4 and Improven support Avans with overhaul of finance operations

21 September 2016 Consultancy.uk

Avans, a higher education institute based in the Netherlands, has launched a large programme that will overhaul its financial operations. Unit4’s cloud-based ERP solution has been selected as the solution to support the transformation, with consulting firm Improven brought on board to oversee the implementation process.

With more than 29,000 students and 2,600 employees, Avans is one of the larger higher education institutions in the Netherlands. The organisation, regarded by analysts as one of the top universities for applied sciences in the country, currently provides 54 study programs, delivered by an operation that spans nine campuses across three cities: Breda, 's-Hertogenbosch, and Tilburg.

As part of its long-term strategy, known as ‘Ambition 2020’, Avans has drafted a range of initiatives aimed at boosting the quality of its education to students, its track record in research and the performance of its internal operations. One of the projects that rolled out of the broader change portfolio is a major revamp of its finance function. Through the adoption of a new operating model, Avans wants to unify and simplify its finance processes, says Gerdinand Bosch, Vice President Finance and Student Administration, which, down the line, will allow the educational institution to operate with a lean and customer focused approach. “The transformation will provide us with the platform to continuously improve ourselves”, he explains. 

To support the new target operating model, Avans decided to replace its existing ERP system with a more modern variant, and in March 2016 the organisation launched a vendor selection process. After drawing up the main requirements for its to-be financial solution, a European tender was put on the market – the move incited several IT provides to pitch their ERP solution and related products. Bids were taken under scrutiny by Avans’ project team, with user tests, interviews and quality of support serving as the main evaluation criteria. “We didn’t just evaluate the system, but also the team who we will be working with”, reflects Bosch.Unit4 and Improven support Avans with overhaul of finance operationsUnit4 Business World On! ERP, a system from Unit4, an IT firm with around 4,100 employees globally, won the tender, on the back of, among others, its credentials in the educational market and approach which, in the eyes of the jury, stood out from the rest of the crowd. Unit4’s Business World ERP today operates at more than 1,000 colleges and universities globally, including in the US, UK and Germany. Unit4 heralds its own system for the high degree of specificity it offers educational institutions, the agile nature of its IT-backbone and the, compared to peers, relatively low implementation effort required. Bosch: “We truly believe that Unit4’s system can help us realise our ambition; to be in control and be a business-minded advisor to our internal customers. We are confident that they will be a long term partner.”

Martien Merks, Executive Vice President and Managing Director Benelux at Unit4, says that his firm is proud that Avans has selected its Unit4 Business World solution to support the finance transformation. The Sliedrecht headquartered company (a city close to Rotterdam) will during the implementation process be supported by Improven, a consulting firm that is one of Unit4’s preferred partners in the Netherlands*. Unit4 and Improven, formerly ConQuaestor (the consultancy rebranded earlier this month), agreed to a strategic partnership in April last year, and have since bundled their consulting and IT-solutions offerings across a range of disciplines (Finance, Procurement, Research, HR, Student Information, etc) to serve the needs of clients in the educational sector. 

The implementation of the new finance operating model will see structures, processes and systems be redesigned, in its slipstream also triggering (major) changes to human capital side of business such as changed communication flows and a culture more geared towards the department’s to-be operating principles. “We have the ambition to develop the financial department, including our people”, explains Bosch. The joint Avans, Unit4 and Improven programme team have been tasked with bringing the change transition to a successful close, with go-live planned for next year. 

After completion of the programme, Bosch says that Avans’s finance team will be well positioned to provide the transparency and control required to support the realisation of the firm’s Ambition 2020. “We will have transformed the role of the financial department from registration to orchestration, providing a reliable basis for executives to support strategic choices.”

Related engagements
Earlier this month University College London Hospitals (UCLH) – the health arm of University College London – hired Mace to deliver a new state-of-art centre, while back in May the educational institution commissioned KPMG to help it secure a £280 million credit facility from the European Investment Bank. Other recently launched technology-led transformations supported by consultancies include a back office transformation at Cushman & Wakefield (supported by Workday and Accenture) and the implementation of NetSuite OneWorld at Transavia, the low-cost carrier of Air France/KLM (executed by Capgemini). 

* Globally Unit4 has implementation partnerships with several consulting firms, including BearingPoint in the UK and Ireland, Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon in Ireland and CGI in North America.