Powered by Oracle, PwC has supported Dignity to leverage the latest technology, modernising its processes, enhancing efficiencies in reporting and bringing greater stability to its operations. Trust has been critical to embracing change.
Our Role: Supporting Dignity as they leverage the latest technology, to realise sustained growth
Industry: Funeral Services
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With a rich history dating back to 1812 when its first funeral director was established, Dignity balances pride in its rich heritage with the need to look forward and embrace change. Behind the scenes, PwC helps the organisation get the benefits of innovation over a relationship that spans more than 20 years.
PwC was first engaged to help implement Oracle Financials in 1999. Fast forward to 2017 when PwC worked on a major upgrade and today the team is a trusted adviser providing managed support of Oracle on a day-to-day basis in different areas. “PwC has been with us on a technology journey over the course of two decades, helping us to manage moments of major change and lock-in the gains of big advances in technology,” said Angela Eames, Financial Controller, Dignity.
Some of Dignity’s upgrades have been subtle, while others have been transformational in the efficiency they have delivered. “I came back from a few months’ maternity leave to a completely new Oracle system and my immediate reaction was ‘wow’! It was revolutionary for how Dignity managed financial reporting,” says Eames.
While technology transformation unlocks long-term advantages, it can be a daunting undertaking. Dignity was able to embrace the change more easily because of the level of trust in the partnership.
Reflecting the collaboration in the working relationship, Eames treats PwC as an extension of the Dignity team. “What they do for us is invaluable. We have strong in-house capabilities but having PwC on board managing services such as monitoring, making sure that back-ups are running and acting as the intermediary with Oracle allows us to focus on our core work. That saves us an enormous amount of time and helps us to be more efficient as a team, and as an organisation.”
Trust is accompanied by a real sense of mutual understanding and individual relationships. PwC knows when to demystify the technical side of Oracle and cut through to the key points.
“Right across the team, PwC has gelled and understands us both as an organisation and as individuals. Personally, I’m not an expert in all Oracle’s applications so they explain things in user-friendly language; then it’s a different conversation with our IT guys. There is that innate understanding of who they are talking to, and at what level they need to pitch the conversation,” says Eames.
As well as Oracle Financials, PwC manages planning and budgeting tools, acting as a sounding board for new ideas as well as implementation. “When we are thinking about doing something new, we pick up the phone to PwC and they give us advice about what’s possible within Oracle, with clear direction on timeline, budget, pros and cons - all the things we need to know to make an informed decision,” says Eames.
One example was during COVID lockdown in 2020 when Dignity, like all businesses, was forced to radically rethink its operations. Before lockdown, Dignity was manually signing cheques on-site at the head office in Sutton Coldfield, with two physical signatures required on all cheques. The process may have been time-consuming and labour intensive but it worked and it was how it had always been done.
Once social distancing made that challenging, however, change was forced, with PwC helping to pivot a solution in weeks to automate signatures directly in the printing process. The resulting process is more efficient and accurate, saving time and money.
“There are times when change is forced by external factors outside your control, often in periods of crisis like COVID, and there’s always opportunity to find upside if you can think about the long-term opportunities,” says Brian McCabe, Application Management Services, PwC UK.
Indeed, the successful automation of the cheque-writing process has been a proof of concept that has catalysed a wave of fresh ideas about the additional benefits automation can bring to the organisation and Dignity is working with PwC to develop other solutions on a bigger scale.
“Dignity leans on technology to bring agility to the business,” comments Eames. “Beyond the essential day-to-day management of Oracle, when there is a new initiative, PwC will develop it, test it, and then hand it over to us to test ourselves, before go-live. This gives us added confidence that every time we roll out something new, we and our internal stakeholders know what to expect.”
PwC’s managed services model provides flexibility for Dignity to call on expert external resources at short notice. When PwC was first engaged by the CFO to take over from another contractor and manage core financial processes for the group, McCabe led the rapid transition hitting the ground running at full speed:
“We took on the new services in record time. What normally might take 6 to 8 weeks we managed to do in one day,” he says. “Dignity’s incumbent managed service provider went into liquidation with zero warning. The CFO knew we were a trusted organisation with strong Oracle skills, picked up the phone to me and we mobilised the team on the same day.”
To compress the timeline for such a complex task, McCabe and his team broke down the service transition into distinct priorities. Top of the list was to keep systems running without interruption, next came identifying and making improvements, and then more changes to bring further efficiencies.
“The best measure of success was that employees did not notice any impact to their systems,” adds McCabe.
The modernisation of systems have delivered multiple benefits to Dignity’s operations, including efficiencies and reduced investment in infrastructure, greater management of risk in reporting and more sophisticated financial forecasts and reporting, which gives added reassurance to investors. As the business continues to develop, it has robust back-end technology to support its growth aspirations.