England is one giant heritage site – but perhaps none is more famous than Canterbury, headquarters of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT), one of the country’s foremost “heritage policemen”.
“We’re the ones who ensure heritage sites are protected and/or documented when development work takes place,” explains John Hammond, CAT’s Commercial Operations Director. “The developers pay for our professional services, as a designated investigating authority for the Department of the Environment.
“Our Greentree system gives us complete visibility of all the projects we undertake, so our managers can track their costs, which is vital for accountability to our clients. It’s also been good for us as an organisation because it requires us to follow standard, consistent operating procedures.”CAT’s headquarters are adjacent to Canterbury Cathedral. The archaeological dig there is one of many ongoing projects being run by CAT’s experts around the UK and in places as far afield as North Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
Legislative changes since the 1980s, aimed at protecting precious archaeological sites, have brought significant revenue streams for CAT – along with significant business pressures.
“When we started in the 1970s we were purely a charity; funding came from donations and the public purse,” says John. “Then in 1982 came the Act of Parliament that evolved the Polluter Pays Principle.”
Under the new law, developers had to pay for archaeological work required to preserve and document sensitive sites – so commercial archaeology was born.
“We now have a mixture of funding sources; one is straightforward commercial work,” John says. “We’re also an education charity with a very strong research ethos. We do a lot of work in conjunction with universities and we get research funding for this.”
Today, about 85% of CAT’s funding comes from commercial activities – and it was this influx of work that revealed the shortcomings of its business systems. While it’s a registered charity it’s also a limited company with a core staff of 45, but will employ upwards 100 project-based staff at any time.“Our legacy systems were an unmitigated disaster,” John recalls. “We had separate systems for accounting and job costing and while they worked with each other, our payroll system was completely separate.
“None of the figures we were getting were correct. Our finance staff had to extract raw data about hours worked and costs incurred, then manually calculate for invoicing and reports. There was a lot of double-keying and because various people used different methods, a lot of mistakes were made.”
There was no consistency or clarity in project data because if a project manager left or went on holiday, it was almost impossible for someone else to pick up the threads and carry on working.
“Post-excavation projects can go on for years and there were a number of high-value projects where we had no idea of what the budget was,” says John.
Greentree has changed all that; Workflow delivers real-time visibility to project managers, who now have control over their budgets.“Our senior project managers have responsibility for a suite of projects and keeping the clients up to date,” says John. “The developers who are paying for our work can be updated immediately on what’s been spent. Greentree is now doing the work that used to be done on paper. We’ve been able to standardise the process, so that others can pick up the work easily in someone’s absence.”
Greentree was up against Sage, but total integration and ease of use, along with recommendations from other Greentree users, including TATA, tipped the balance.
“What really swung it for the project managers was the ability to generate quotes for the clients in CRM that could be instantly converted to their project budget rather than having to input that separately, as we used to do,” John says. “You can create the quote in the system with Job Costing, send it to the client, they sign the contract, and then at the press of a couple of buttons it creates the job with the estimate attached.”CAT has several hundred projects on the go and with Greentree, it generates monthly snapshots of each project for budget tracking. Timesheets are also submitted and approved via the web – a bonus for staff working in remote areas or overseas.
The UK’s development environment is constantly expanding, and CAT is confident it has the ability to expand with it. “House building has gone mad, which has given us the opportunity to test Greentree on a huge variety of different types of projects,” John concludes. “That’s critical to how things are going to develop in the future; we now have the confidence to resource and invest in areas where we need to because we can rely on the figures we’re seeing now.”