There comes a time when a company is faced with what’s called a burning platform, which is when a critical piece of software reaches the end of its life and needs to be replaced.
In 2019, Direct Line Group (DLG), a leading, U.K. based insurance company was dealing with just that - a soon to be out of support ledger system that involved too many manual processes, too few system upgrades and had no good way to connect with newer and better financial technology platforms. “Spreadsheets were holding the whole thing together,” says Neil Manser, DLG’s acting CFO. “There was a burning need to become more flexible and efficient.”
DLG knew it needed to move to the cloud, which would make it much easier to increase automation, improve efficiency and put the onus on the software provider to regularly update its Software as a service. The fact that its previous programmes needed to be replaced also allowed the company to put new, bolder plans into action, says Manser.
DLG wanted to implement Oracle – both its Enterprise Resource Planning Cloud (ERP) and its Enterprise Performance Management Cloud (EPM) – because it was already using Oracle’s on-premise solution. When it came time to find an implementation partner, it issued a request for proposal, which PwC won.
Why was PwC chosen? Because of experience. PwC have experience delivering large scale transformations enabled by Oracle Cloud and have also made Oracle a part of its own digital transformation. “We know these systems end-to-end, we can make sure they perform to their full potential within our clients' business context,” says Tom Brown, Partner, Insurance and Asset & Wealth Management Sector Leader, PwC UK .
That knowledge helped PwC come up with an implementation plan that was fast and efficient, says Adam Pitt-Stanley, a chartered management consultant with PwC who specializes in Oracle finance transformations. “We were able to come up with an alternative solution to the roadmap they had,” he says. “We could deliver value faster.”
Manser was also convinced by PwC’s attitude toward transformation. PwC doesn’t just come in and tell its client what to do, it takes its time to understand the issues and work together with its clients to solve problems. PwC views implementations as end-to-end finance transformations versus a technology upgrade – it considers how software impacts business processes and company culture. “They actually cared about what we wanted, and they looked at the whole of finance and how the different parties interacted with each other rather than just doing a ledger replacement,” he says.
The implementation was delivered in two releases, the first of which took seven months and focused on the EPM components - financial consolidation, balance sheet reconciliation and enterprise data management. The second took 10 months, and went live in May 2020 deploying the ERP components with a big bang approach delivering new ledgers and subledgers to support financial accounting and financial operations, including claims payments, project accounting, asset accounting and data integrity reconciliations. “The biggest challenge was moving away from what was a heavily customized system,” explains Gary Kenney, DLG’s chief product officer.
One reason why this implementation was ultimately a success, was because of PwC’s “adopt, not adapt” approach. Rather than have a client adapt a technology to its specific needs, which can require a lot of customizations and increased costs, PwC works with its clients to make its culture and business processes work with the existing platform. That’s what happened here: DLG adopted standard Cloud solutions and then adapted how its business worked. “This approach enables organizations to benefit from PwC’s and Oracle's continual investment and evolution of the products," says Mohammad Khan, Partner and Head of General Insurance, PwC UK. "But there will still be difficult decisions and new ways of working that business must embrace to get the most value from the Cloud.”
It also helped that PwC has experience working remotely. During release 2, the world went into lockdown and so DLG had to train its staff on the new technology virtually and ensure the team could use the software remotely for the foreseeable future. The transformation could have stalled there, but both the DLG and PwC teams were determined to stay focused on the task at hand. How? By sticking to the schedule, continuing conversations and ensuring that both companies' leaderships were positive in their belief that this would be delivered as planned. “We had the mentality that nothing changes, that we keep the momentum and focus on the end goal,” explains Kenney.
PwC also quickly deployed their virtual technologies - tools they already had experience using with their global teams. “We leveraged all we had – from online collaboration software to video conference chats, it was remarkable how little momentum we lost,” says Pitt-Stanley.
The implementation has been a success. It further enhanced DLG’s excellent internal controls and compliance through standardized processes and by moving the system of record to Oracle Cloud. The new solutions also enabled faster payment processing, with the latest security and encryption services.
It went so well, in part, because PwC made sure to get DLG’s staff involved in the transformation process early. They made a point of demonstrating the processes and applications as often and as early on in the project as they could. They also empowered staff to ask questions and provide input. “If people feel as if the processes and solution are theirs, then they’ll operate them correctly and you will have delivered a sustainable change,” says Pitt-Stanley. “That’s something that’s often overlooked.”
Manser chalks up the transformation’s success to trust. “PwC was a very good partner,” he says. “That’s important because you have to trust the right people to be in the right roles to do the right things.”