Case Study: Core Business Systems Transformation
Published on: 04 Nov 2020, 04:27 pm
Business Aspect and Hearing Australia Prepare to Replace Enterprise Resource Planning Systems with a Single Solution
Hearing Australia has been caring for Australians for over 70 years, helping thousands of children, adults, pensioners and veterans connect with their loved ones and the world around them. With multiple Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in place, client interactions were cumbersome for Hearing Australia’s frontline team. A digital transformation was required for the organisation, to ensure the continuous delivery of outstanding service to the people of Australia.
After an initial review undertaken by Boston Consulting, a key recommendation for Hearing Australia was to modernise its business IT systems to enable a more efficient service. Business Aspect, a Data#3 company, was enlisted to help define a strategy for systems modernisation, assess the market, and manage the procurement process.
- Simplified cloud-based IT environment
- Standardised user environment
- Reduced administration and support time
- Seamless adoption of product upgrade
- Ability to create more agile business processes
- A single view of client information
- Improved data quality
- Elimination of duplicated work effort
- Easier onboarding processes
Most of us take hearing for granted, but the work of Hearing Australia makes a profound difference to those who face hearing difficulties. As a provider of government-funded hearing services for children, young adults, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pensioners and veterans, Hearing Australia strives to enable people with hearing loss to stay connected to their family, friends and communities.
Over time, a number of diverse IT systems had been introduced to support Hearing Australia’s 160+ centres and numerous outreach workers. This proliferation of systems resulted in staff having to enter data into multiple systems. As the existing systems became outdated, it was clear that a digital transformation was needed to best equip Hearing Australia for the future.
Armed with a recommendation to upgrade legacy IT systems, Hearing Australia needed to define what a modern IT environment should look like. The existing environment incorporated one ERP and five separate CRM systems for back office and operational purposes, which meant that data was frequently duplicated and lacked a single point of truth.
For Mike Brett, Chief Information Officer of Hearing Australia, the signs pointed to a need for a comprehensive update: it was critically important to have the right technology in place, to ensure fairness and equity for both staff and patients.
“Boston Consulting performed a review of our organisation and one key recommendation was to bring our business IT systems into the 21st Century,” said Mr Brett. “We had three core CRM systems in use across the organisation, so it was hard to get a single view of customer information.” Some systems had been in place for decades, running the risk of expensive support issues and downtime. The IT team found it hard to easily enhance the systems in place, due to the architecture and integration points.
“Our financial system was out of support, with the last major upgrade performed in 2010. Our practice management, and the way we managed our clients was a bespoke system from the early 2000s,” explained Brett. “As with most legacy systems, additional functionality had been built in over time, and it became sub-optimal and expensive to run. If someone wanted a new feature, it would take six months, and in an agile world we need to test and prototype quickly. The business simply can’t wait six months.”
Hearing Australia staff found that juggling multiple systems and data sources was time-consuming and frustrating. Hearing professionals were keen to spend more time helping clients, and less time on manual administration tasks. For Brett, it made sense to look at similar-sized audiology practices when researching for the Request for Information Tender, however, this turned out to be problematic. “We couldn’t find information about an audiology practice our size. We have 1,300 staff across over 500 locations, and over 160 of locations are permanent sites,” said Mr Brett.
It became clear that Hearing Australia needed to establish a clear set of requirements before it was to go to market, with potential architectures considered, then narrowed into a viable shortlist. From this, the organisation would have the basis of a competitive procurement process to lead to meaningful transformation. “Business Aspect were already involved with our organisation, and we knew their knowledge would help us go to market, and get it right,” said Mr Brett.
Business Aspect consultants got to work, conducting a full assessment of the existing environment and analysis of the technology needs of all parts of the business. Interviews and workshops were conducted with key stakeholders from across the organisation, and Business Aspect scrutinised existing documentation and systems. Through this, they were able to clarify strategic IT needs, and translate them into a modern, off-the-shelf redevelopment of Hearing Australia’s IT environment.
“Business Aspect were good, our consultant was brought up to speed, and he engaged with our Chief Technology Officer very quickly. He helped us to prepare to go to the Board for approval to approach the market.”
“Business Aspect then ran a Request for Information approach to the market with us, where we were able to assess what may be an appropriate solution for us to establish a clear understanding of what technology solutions exist,” explained Brett.
The proposed outcome was designed to reduce running costs for Hearing Australia, so that more funding could be directed towards service delivery. The solution needed to aid agile business processes, so that Hearing Australia could pursue new opportunities and thrive in an increasingly competitive industry landscape. Importantly, the design factored in minimal customisation, allowing easier adoption of product upgrades. With a standardised user interface, onboarding of new staff simplified and streamlined. For Hearing Australia, staff productivity was a key focus throughout the process.
“The technical solution is based on Software as a Service, with data on a single platform that handles multiple business processes and removes the challenge of getting a single customer view. It will resolve the issues of how to line up multiple data sources at a point in time and try to make sense of it,” outlined Brett.
“A lot of ongoing support activity goes away. We can use IT staff effectively, with them working on business problems instead of tech support issues.”
In a comprehensive review, Business Aspect ranked potential solutions against clearly outlined criteria. Hearing Australia follows Commonwealth standards to prioritise the fairness and equity that Mr Brett cites as an essential element for a corporate Commonwealth entity.
“We went to a full tender because the gap presented in the Request for Information tender was pretty narrow between the responses. Our motto is to run once, run properly, and we wanted the best outcome,” said Brett.
“We followed a very rigorous process in which we documented over 1,600 functional requirements, then we evaluated each respondent to assess their proposed solution against our criteria,” stated Mr Brett.
After this intensive process, three vendors achieved very similar scores. Hearing Australia chose to take a further step and invited them in for a deep dive to their solutions, and to assess the cultural fit for Hearing Australia. Following this, Hearing Australia was then comfortable choosing a solution and a partner for the initiative. With a solution designed to consolidate the multiple CRM systems into a single, modern environment, the quality of Hearing Australia’s data is greatly improved. From marketing to finance and human resources, the improved data quality brings countless benefits for the staff, practitioners and clients. These benefits will be felt most acutely in service delivery, where Hearing Australia’s dedicated team is set to enjoy a reduction in manual administration time. The simplified work environment means the team has fewer frustrations and more time to do what they do best: interacting with clients.
“They can spend more time increasing client and community awareness of the importance and benefits of good hearing health,” confirmed Mr Brett.
The speed with which new services are rolled out is something Mr Brett expects will make the organisation more agile and better prepared for the future. Opting for a cloud-based solution also erases the delays in accessing new capabilities that were typical in the previous legacy environment. The IT team will always be working with the latest version, without spending staff time performing upgrades.
“As the cloud service builds functionality, every customer can take advantage. In the old world it would take a long time to upgrade and get new capabilities. Now we can take advantage right away.”
Faced with increasing competition and outdated systems, Hearing Australia had to devise a digital transformation that centred on clients and the community. While the organisation’s leadership team had a vision of the outcome, ensuring expert guidance was provided through the entire go-to-market process proved to be a wise decision. The right partnership proved crucial.
“A highlight of the project was the professionalism of Business Aspect. They took direction, but also pushed back when something we suggested didn’t make sense,” said Mr Brett.
“They gave us good, sage advice, and had good quality people who fit into our team.”
Hearing Australia can now face the ongoing process of digital transformation, confident it has a plan to safeguard its vital work to give Australians life-changing hearing services. Consolidating its many systems will affect every area of the business, so Mr Brett chose a hands-on approach where recommendations were considered carefully.
“I tend to listen, to trust, but validate – so when I receive good, professional advice, I test it is consistent, so I can know I am getting strong, sound advice that works for Hearing Australia’s own environment,” said Mr Brett.
“Working with Business Aspect, we didn’t feel like we were simply another project they were working on. They took the time to understand the direction we needed to take and what we were trying to achieve.”
Mike Brett, Chief Information Officer at Hearing Australia