When Legacy Systems Can't Keep UpBy Samuel Greengard
One of the biggest challenges organizations face is handling tasks with increasingly limited resources. For the Atlanta Visitors & Convention Bureau, which has a staff of 72 but interacts with upwards of 42 million visitors annually while handling bookings for approximately 94,000 rooms, the task is magnified. More than $15 billion flow through the local economy annually. "We have a huge impact on travel and tourism to Atlanta. Our systems must be up to the task," says Braam du Plooy, controller for the private nonprofit organization.
Unfortunately, the organization has faced considerable business and IT challenges. A few years ago, Atlanta Visitors & Convention Bureau found itself sinking under the weight of a legacy AS400 computer system. "It was great in the 1980s but it eventually became an old system that couldn't keep up with modern requirements, including cloud and mobile applications" he notes. As a result, "We lacked critical performance, flexibility and interoperability. We couldn't connect data and handle tasks in the way we desired."
In 2013, du Plooy recognized that the organization had to take a giant step forward and migrate to a more agile and flexible IT framework. After surveying the vendor landscape and examining different financial software products, du Plooy selected cloud-based ERP software from Intacct. Atlanta Visitors & Convention Bureau went live with the new system in July 2014. The transition went smoothly and data conversion took place without a hiccup. "We did a balance forward for one prior year and imported the financial data set. We were up and running," he says.
The move to a more agile and flexible IT framework has produced big gains, du Plooy says. For one thing, the organization now has visibility into real time data, including bookings. Sales teams and others can view a dashboard and drill down through data to the transactional level, if necessary. Better reporting and analytics has helped the organization become more tuned in to overall business conditions but also the success of specific initiatives and programs. Staff can access data from the office or via mobile devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
However, the gains don't stop there. Tasks that previously demanded hours now take place in seconds or minutes. For instance, the system has cut the time spent on accounts payable by nearly 70 percent, du Plooy says. The software platform also has made it easier to spot financial errors and misallocated resources. One of the most appealing features, he points out, is a social tool that allows staff to embed a message with a transaction. "If there's a question later the person viewing the transaction can go understand why it was marked or changed. There's no confusion."
To be sure, the accounting platform has helped the Atlanta Visitors & Convention Bureau take business interactions and financials into the 21st century. "We have moved away from a transactional processing mindset and become more focused on quality control and strategic issues," Du Plooy says. Moreover, "By adopting a cloud-based framework and breaking free from constant patches and updates, "We have greatly simplified business. The platform continues to advance and we advance with it."