Clark Art Institute Turns to Channel Duo for Accounting and HR NeedsBy Channel Insider Staff | Print
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Case Study: The museum's accounting and HR systems were behind the times, so the museum turned to a couple of channel companies to get them up to speed.Since opening in 1955, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has built a reputation of offering the public an opportunity to view a wealth of art and artifacts.
Less artful were the systems that supported the company's business processes. The museum's human resources system, a manual system that was largely disconnected from the museum's other financial systems, remained in the dark ages. In addition, the museum relied on a costly service bureau to provide payroll services, using money the in-stitute could have spent on more valuable resources.
The museum turned to long-time solution provider JMT Consulting Group for ad-vice on how to automate its HR service.
By integrating the two systems, the museum would be able to print paychecks that clearly outlined human resource information. The new system also would provide the ability to generate payroll reports on demand, said Gniadek.
JMT introduced their customer to Cost Management Services LLC (CMS), which had brought HR systems to other shared clients.
"We had been a long-time EDP payroll customer and we were looking to gain more con-trol of our payroll," said Bob Gniadek, director of finance at the Williamstown, Mass.-based Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, adding that getting salary checks from the outsourced payroll service that they used was a lengthy process. "We inquired with JMT and they sent us to CMS."
A History of Help
A History of Help
The Clark Art Institute began working with JMT in 2000, when the solution pro-vider had installed Sage MIP Fund Accounting. JMT kept in contact with its customer and provided software updates and functionality extensions to the accounting system as the museum needed it.
"They also provide occasional training as people come on board," said Gniadek.
In late 2004, the museum decided to move away from using an outside payroll serv-ice, which was expensive and often time consuming. The institute turned to JMT to ex-plore their options.
"Clark Art had been a client of ours for quite a while," said Jacqueline Tiso, presi-dent of JMT, in Brewster, N.Y. "Our customers look to us as trusted advisor who has relationship with them and they know they can depend on us to make recommendation in their best interest. They called us and said they were interested in addressing payroll and HR."
The solution provider discussed the capabilities and functionality of two different systems.
"The Sage ABRA HMRS seemed more functional and durable, so we decided to pur-sue that," said Gniadek. "We wanted to be able to get payroll reports on-demand with-out additional charges: Our [existing] service provider charged us for every report."
JMT knows accounting systems and specializes in implementing Sage Software ac-counting systems for its non-profit customers. But the solution provider knew that spe-cialized expertise was needed to implement and integrate new payroll and human re-sources capabilities. It suggested CMS, which focused on helping non-profit customers with these sorts of systems, just as it had since the two customers began sharing clients several years ago.
"We both have the same philosophy in that we consider ourselves experts in our particular field and are not trying to go out and be everything," said Tiso. "A lot of times, in our industry, companies try to be all things to all people. We understand that HR/payroll is a specific skill set and that it compliments ours."
CMS and JMT met through (a Sage Software regional product manager.
"He suggested that there were good synergies between our organizations," said Brian Kelly, president and owner of Farmington, Conn.-based CMS.
At that time, JMT was actively seeking out partners that had expertise in complementary areas. For example, JMT has loose alliances with other solution providers that specialize in point-of-sale, time management and billing management solutions, said Tiso.
"We wanted to identify a partner with same ethos and that complimented our skill set," said Tiso. "We went out and had a lunch and spoke about our firms, our service de-livery, and our cultures, and we realized we were very similar and that we were a natural compliment to each other."
Since the introduction, the two organizations have shared ten customers.
"We trust that if we recommend them or they [recommend] us, that we will handle it in a professional manner," said Kelly. "We have built that trust over time."
The In-House Advantage
CMS worked with the Clark Art Institute to understand the capabilities of the Sage ABRA system and to make sure it understood the needs of the museum, said Gniadek.
"Clark Art's HR systems were completely manual and the museum wanted to make sure they automated the process and put in compliance measurements," said Kelly.
"They also were looking for a full solution to replace their outsourced payroll in or-der to save money," Kelly said. "Finally, they wanted integration between their account-ing, payroll and HR systems."
The museum needed to provide information, such as accrued time-off and paid time taken by employees, directly on employee pay stubs, another option that the external service provider demanded extra fees for.
"We found that there was a charge every time we wanted to access these sorts of fea-tures," said Gniadek. "We did a cost/benefit analysis and it made sense for us to bring payroll in house."
In addition, the Clark Art Institute wanted to computerize its manual HR systems and have them closely linked to the museum's accounting system.
"We considered having our human resource database customized and written for our own purposes, but the ABRA solution allowed us to avoid that," said Gniadek. "The new system has a database and links with the payroll system so we can enter employee information in one system and it flows over to the other."
In addition, CMS stayed on-site to train two human resource, four finance and two IT employees to use the system.
"We like to configure the software to meet client requirements first and actually get them almost to a live setting and then bring them through on-site training using their own people, own configuration and own operational procedures through the training," said Kelly.
Finally, the solution provider converted the payroll information from the service provider into a format that could be read by the new system.
The project proved straightforward, and was finished in a matter of weeks, which is typical, said Kelly. "Our organization has been putting in employee systems for over 20 years, so there are not too many things we haven't faced before."
"We installed the new softwaer in November 2004, tested it and ran it parallel with service bureau," said Gniadek. "We cut over to our first payroll in January 2005."
"CMS had a very thorough understanding of how our current system worked and what our objectives were," said Gniadek. "They did a fine job of explaining how this product would meet our needs."
The new payroll and HR system paid for itself within the first year, Gniadek said.
Cost savings can be traced to cutting out redundant tasks caused by manual systems, as well as the cost of the payroll service bureau.
"There's also the question of the cost of an employee walking out the door with the entire knowledge base in their head," said Kelly. "When processes are manual, the knowledge is lost when someone leaves because it's not captured by any corporate sys-tem."
Time savings were similarly notable.
"We also managed to speed the payroll process up," said Gniadek. "We can now complete payroll on Monday and have checks ready for Tuesday. The service provider started on Monday, and we were sometimes biting our fingernails in the hope that checks would arrive by payday on Friday."
JMT and CMS find these shared engagements are a win/win for themselves and their clients.
"Together, we offer a complete solution, and that's really attractive to customers," said Kelly. "We have helped customers see that working with two organizations has a benefit. The two components, accounting and payroll/HR, are special animals and they each need specialized knowledge. We provide that higher level of service for client and focus on those unique business elements."
The two companies continue to look for ways to help each other and work together.
"If I'm at a tradeshow, I'll put up their logo," said Kelly.
The two companies also attend each other's user group meetings and tradeshows, and have done some co-marketing.
In addition, JMT and CMR co-sponsored a seminar for existing and potential cus-tomers about the basics of accounting and payroll/HR solutions. The class attracted ten people, said Tiso.
The secret to their success is simple a similar corporate philosophy, complemen-tary skill sets, and a commitment to staying in touch, said Tiso
"Communication is really critical," agreed Kelly. "If you want a relationship, you have to continue to talk on a regular basis."
Both solution providers plan to continue the alliance.
"We have had such great success with this relationship that it is absolutely going to continue," said Tiso. "And we'll probably expand it to other customers."
Meanwhile, the Clark Art Institute is moving ahead in mastering and extending the capabilities of its new system.
"There are things that this system can do that we haven't taken advantage of," said Gniadek. "However, the system is working nicely."