Company: PS Financials
Customer: Holiday Autos
Submitted by: The itpr Marketing Group
Date: Spring 2002
Leisure car rental broker, Holiday Autos, is moving from a decentralised operation to centralising core functions such as finance and reservations. PS Financials accounting and business management software, integrated with Reservations is delivering cost benefits and consolidated group information.
Holiday Autos is the world’s largest leisure car rental broker, handling over eight million car rental days in 2001, resulting in group turnover around £190 million. Following the early success of the company in the UK, the decision was made in 1988 to expand first into Europe and then globally – resulting in one of the fastest and largest expansion programmes the travel industry has seen. Today it operates through a mix of corporate offices, joint ventures, and sales agents in over 40 countries.
As a result of its approach to international expansion, Holiday Autos has ended up with highly decentralised operations and two years ago the company took the decision to centralise core corporate functions in the UK. The process began with the implementation of the PS Financials financial accounting system. “To centralise accounts, Holiday Autos needed a flexible package that supports tight integration with core applications, such as Reservations, is easy to use and can adapt to meet local business needs and legislative requirements. PS Financials meets every criteria,” says John Williams, group finance director, Holiday Autos.
The PS Financials unified ledger, multi-currency software has been deployed in the UK, France, Benelux and Nordic regions, with Italy, Germany and Switzerland planned for 2002. PS Financials’ flexibility has been key in its successful deployment across Europe, supporting local legislative requirements such as diverse banking systems and the statutory Chart of Accounts in France. Says Williams, “As a business we have two Charts of Accounts in France – one internal and one external. PS Financials maps the two Charts of Accounts to provide the information required for Holiday Autos’ trading information review.”
He adds, “One of the difficulties for a traditionally decentralised operation is to convince local offices of the benefits of the new centralised approach. PS Financials consultants have played an important role in demonstrating to Holiday Autos companies the benefits of the software and explaining how specific features can be deployed to resolve specific local issues. That relationship between PS Financials and Holiday Autos has been extremely valuable.”
Ease of Use
One of the key benefits for Holiday Autos has been PS Financials ease of use, particularly for non-financial staff. “It takes ten minutes to train a new user which is very valuable, especially when we have temporary staff in high season. They can become productive very quickly.” The ease of use has also enabled Holiday Autos to broaden access to PS Financials to cost centre managers who have online access to their own departmental budget information. This has been facilitated both by the ease of use and PS Financials’ in built security functionality that supports many different levels.
“Obviously financial systems hold sensitive information which is a concern when it is opened up to a wide number of non-financial users. The security within PS Financials has enabled us to achieve the security we need while providing cost centre managers with self service access to detailed information, significantly reducing the number of queries that have to be dealt with by the financial team,” says Williams.
Managers can drill down through the information to the detail and in the future, should be able to view scanned copies of invoice and expenses documentation.
Moving forward, the company expects to attain further benefits as a result of tight integration of PS Financials with the new web-based Reservations system and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, as well as the Corvu management information system.
Initial integration between PS Financials and Reservations is delivering improvements in the timeliness of management information and has enabled Holiday Autos to produce the management accounts in half the time previously taken. “As a result, the financial team is now able to concentrate on advising managers around the group about our financial position,” says Williams. “In the past they have spent too much time trying to collate and analyse data.”
The integration has also enabled Holiday Autos to centralise functions including Treasury and supplier payment settlements, taking on the workload of other offices without increasing central resources. “The processes are the same whether we are dealing with 100 or 1,000 transactions,” says Williams. “We have already saved resource in other offices and we will continue to see further savings as we centralise more functions.”
He adds, “In the offices that are not yet using PS Financials the level of manual work is high, requiring financial teams twice the size of those offices using the software.”
Having consolidated four distinct supplier payment systems into one, once the rest of Europe is brought online with PS Financials, Williams expects Holiday Autos to exploit the single source of supplier cost information.
“Information on supplier accounts is available but has to be drawn from several different reports. Once unified, operational issues will be rapidly raised. For example, if there is a problem with a product feature that has not been properly costed it will become apparent for the whole group, not just one country,” he confirms.
Over the past couple of years, Holiday Autos has seen its online business increase dramatically – not least as a result of excellent deployment of web technology: the company recently won Computer Weekly’s Gold Award for e-business excellence.
As a result of its forward thinking approach to e-commerce, 30 % of Holiday Autos’ business is now booked over the Internet. “Strategically, we want to get as much business from the Internet as we can,” says Williams. “It makes the communication with the customer more focused.”
However, as Williams explains, this change in buying pattern has significant implications for the company’s financial processes. While, traditionally, the vast majority of business was derived direct from the travel trade – such as agents – the increasing direct interaction with the consumer effects the company’s handling of issues such as cancellations. “We used to account for cancellations as and when we were notified of them by the travel agent.
Now we have to think in advance of what the likely cancellation patterns are.” Throughout this intense period of business change, Holiday Autos has found the flexibility of PS Financials enables it to easily support shifts in accounting practice.
He continues, “The Internet drives the need for early information availability. The investment in PS Financials and its integration with other core applications is providing Holiday Autos with a far greater awareness and understanding of the market position from both customer and supplier perspectives.”
Williams concludes, “Within the travel industry there is a growing awareness of the need to use technology to drive customer loyalty. PS Financials will play a key role as Holiday Autos addresses the challenge of centralising and integrating both web and internal business systems worldwide.”