Technology-enabled transformations succeed when you have strong business sponsorship, ownership, involvement and clear business outcomes guiding the way. That was a key lesson for Mace, a global consultancy and construction company, during their implementation of Oracle Cloud ERP.
Client: Mace Group
Our Role: Delivering practical advice, strong action and quick results to help Mace become a digitally enabled and data-driven organisation ready for the future.
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The driving force behind major construction projects such as The Shard, Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium and the London Eye, Mace had grown into a global business with thousands of employees. It needed a robust and proven ERP solution to support its £2+ billion revenues, along with its growth aspirations and desire to become a more data-driven business.
Mace was an early adopter of Oracle Cloud ERP, using two small business units as part of a pilot for an ERP Implementation in 2018. But it soon became apparent that the solution and its underlying processes would not be able to support its monthly financial cycle. It was obvious to Mace that a radical change was needed to get the programme back on track.
It enlisted PwC to help refocus its implementation and, fast forward to today, Oracle Cloud ERP is fully deployed across the Consultancy and Construction businesses. Mace now has a system that’s highly automated and intuitive, allowing it to become a far more data-driven operation.
When Mace asked PwC to review the programme, the conclusion was that the pilot had primarily focussed on the implementation of the software rather than on transforming the current ways of working or on how a large-scale transformation would impact the business itself.
Mace had already invested a lot of resources into its Oracle Cloud ERP implementation, but took a step back to reevaluate the business case and how the programme could support this. To appreciate the benefits of the cloud solution, Mace would need to change their business to adopt the best practice processes, not the other way round.
“We were trying to fit Oracle into Mace when the best practice was fitting Mace into Oracle’s way of working that thousands of other organizations have used,” says Richard Macgonigal, Mace’s Oracle Cloud Transformation Programme Director.
To successfully transform, Mace needed a business transformation partner that could deliver practical advice, strong action and quick results.
It was also important for the company’s board and staff to understand what had gone wrong previously and why this time would be different; it wasn’t just a technology upgrade, but a meaningful business transformation. “There’s a lot of work that must be done around winning hearts and minds,” says Steve Fraser, Partner, Engagement Leader, PwC UK. “Unless you embark on a programme that says: ‘I'm going to change the way the business works to use the technology more efficiently, it’s not going to work.’”
The best way to assure everyone that this programme would be successful was to develop a phased approach to the deployment; the solution was rolled out progressively over several ‘flights’ which allowed Mace to progress with confidence that the solution was right for the business across the UK and internationally. With the shift towards a business transformation, it was also essential that there was strong business representation in the programme team to drive ownership and adoption of the solution.
The first phase involved refining and enhancing the original pilot deployment. PwC spent a lot of time defining business processes and ensuring the project managers’ work in the field aligned with other business requirements. “We were very focused on almost resetting the business,” says Fraser, about the pilot phase.
In mid-2019 Mace launched Oracle Timecards, a programme that allows workers to easily keep track of their time when on a job, to 4,000 of their UK staff. While a relatively straightforward deployment, it highlighted how a small business process change could yield major results. Before using this tool, staff would have to use paper-based methods to indicate when they arrived on a job site, something many didn’t do. It is much easier to punch in and out with Timecards - it’s easily accessed on mobile and other devices. Mace now has far more insights into how staff are spending their time, which enables managers to improve productivity and utilisation across the organisation.
The Timecards implementation also helped the wider business see some early benefits of the transformation and understand the role they played in the programme. “That was a fairly significant shift from a change management point of view,” says Tim Poynter, a senior manager at PwC. “It made it possible to have more in-depth conversations with people across the business about the subsequent rollouts.”
In December 2019, Mace deployed the core finance, expenses, procurement and project accounting modules to its largest UK business unit. While there was a period of adoption, they were able to use the solution to run their business and support the monthly financial reporting cycle.
In January 2021, Mace launched the solution across the rest of the UK and 70% of the international business on a single day. The refinement of the solution and structured approach to user adoption resulted in a controlled transition to the new ways of working.
Executives now have far more insights into each project. There is better profitability and productivity reporting and more visibility into the commercial aspects of Mace’s projects, and with so much data coming into head office, management can make much better decisions on how to run their business. Where leadership once had to get data from multiple spreadsheets, they can now find the rich insight they need in Oracle at the push of a button.
“This has been a gamechanger for us in becoming a fully connected, data driven business and will enable us to have our fingers on the pulse in terms of the financial health of our projects. The deployment of Oracle will further enable us to fast track the measurement of critical KPIs such as productivity and the diversity across our business.” Says Michelle Barkess, Mace CIO and Programme Sponsor.
The main takeaway for Mace was that successful business transformation requires much more than just a software update, implementing technology alone will not drive genuine change. Businesses need to embrace and adopt the standard best practice processes that underpin cloud technologies rather than trying to adapt them to meet their existing ways of working. The company did this by putting the business case front and centre from the start. Alongside PwC, they reviewed their many business processes and then adjusted their ways of working to fit the system’s capabilities.
Mace Group is now well on its way to meeting its business objective of becoming a more purpose- and data-driven organisation. While still early days, Mace’s employees have adopted the new ways of working and understand how to use the solution as part of their regular working day. The board has confidence in the integrity of the data they are seeing and takes comfort in the controls and security that Oracle brings. PwC’s project delivery was also on time and on budget, which was a success metric for this project. “People are satisfied, impressed and relieved,” says Macgonigal. “Now we can build on these foundations and turn our agenda to more analytics and more innovation.”
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