At the heart of every large organisation is the need for efficient and seamless services to effectively support the delivery of its organisational objectives.
Account NI is one of the shared services within the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) which does just that. The service is delivered in partnership with BT.
Account NI is the finance shared service for local Departments and utilises e-business channels to deliver streamlined services. Account NI promotes best practice, commonality and consistency and is a strategic enabler in the delivery of Departmental services. It handles all finance transactions for the NICS, a sum which reaches a staggering £12.6bn a year. This includes income and funding from Treasury and all the outgoings by Departments to suppliers, employees and a wide range of grants and other payments. The 800,000 payments it makes every year clearly play an important role in the local economy.
Geraldine McNulty, Business Director at BT Business in Northern Ireland says: “BT has been Account NI’s strategic partner since day one. It is impressive that Account NI has consistently been able to pay over 90% of suppliers within 10 days – one of their key targets." Geraldine added “The fact that Account NI hasn’t missed a single daily payment run in all that time is telling of the results that this partnership has produced”.
The success of Account NI should also be considered against the challenges the new organisation faced at first. Account NI broke new ground in the public sector in Northern Ireland, when it was established as a shared service overcoming a number of structural and organisational hurdles to bring together the financial records of a number of government departments and agencies.
Technology, innovation and collaboration are at the heart of the relationship. A recent example was in response to the major rationalisation of government Departments from twelve to nine. John Crosby, Director, Finance and HR Shared Services at Account NI said: “Restructuring was a good example of collaborative working and was one of the biggest challenges we have faced. The reconfiguration was delivered seamlessly, on time and with minimal disruption to the Departments”.
Geraldine adds: "It helps that BT has a strong onsite presence". Hazlette Benson, Head of Strategy, Governance and Transformation at Account NI agrees: “It is important that BT understands the business needs and pressures we face. This ultimately helps us to work together to identify innovative solutions”.
This has been particularly important given that Account NI has increasingly had to ‘do more with less’. The shift to electronic solutions has been a key feature and Account NI work closely with BT, refreshing existing and embracing new technologies.
Account NI will soon be celebrating 10 years of successful operation and is proud of its achievements. John Crosby is adamant that Account NI has not lost its passion for transformation, “We work closely with BT, who bring a wide range of expertise from across their internal network and beyond, to help us respond to the ever changing climate”. Account NI and BT are currently working together to deliver an e-invoicing solution. This will deliver significant benefit to suppliers wishing to submit invoices electronically.
Account NI has been acknowledged as a leading example of shared services, when it was awarded runner up in the ‘Excellence in Transformation’ category at the recent Shared Services & Outsourcing Network awards. The achievement was all the more notable beating stiff competition from multi-nationals such as Coca Cola and Shell. John Crosby advised: “the achievement is a measure of our continued commitment to our customer base, a passion that both Account NI and BT share”.