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UNIT4, the world’s leading provider of business software for Businesses Living IN Change (BLINC™), today announced that Xentrall, the UK shared services partnership between Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington Borough Councils, has selected UNIT4’s cloud platform for shared services solution. Named “Shared Journey”, the cloud platform will underpin delivery of Agresso Business World as the finance system of choice to support the growing number of schools in the area that are applying to become independent Learning Academies.

The Academies Programme lets UK schools opt to receive funding directly from central government to independently manage their own affairs rather than relying on local authority services and national curriculum guidelines. The benefits of UNIT4’s ‘Shared Journey’ platform, with its shared costs, faster implementation times, support for business change and flexibility inherent in cloud software deployments, mean Xentrall can deliver cost effective support services that fully support the Academies and the UK Government’s efficiency agenda. It takes just two weeks to roll out the system to a new Academy, significantly less than a traditional on-premises implementation.

As the Academies Programme expands, Xentrall must compete effectively to take advantage of new commercial opportunities; the UNIT4 cloud platform was identified as the most effective means to accomplish this.

Shared Journey is a new offering from UNIT4 that allows groups of companies, public sector bodies or not-for-profit organisations to work together to quickly set up and launch a shared services operation. The solution is unlike competitive options in that it allows each organisation or division within the shared service to obtain the benefits of cloud computing while maintaining the highest level of independence and identity, while delivering group benefits and efficiencies. Key to the UNIT4 Shared Journey is affordable subscription-based pricing that includes the shared license, maintenance, and technical IT and operational support services. A demand-driven pricing model allows groups to scale and grow as required. It’s also incentive based which means the more organisations that join Shared Journey, the lower the monthly fee becomes for the other Eindividual members.

Deploying a “Shared Journey” approach for the Academies means that Xentrall can prevent breaches in data security by easily separating organisational data at minimum cost whilst continuing to leverage its long-standing investment in the existing on-premises Agresso ERP system.  It also means it can provide the Academies with a scalable solution that is highly competitive at minimum cost.

“The Academies only need a web browser to access the system,” said Steve Vasey, Finance Manager (Business Services) at Xentrall. “Shared Journey is cloud based, so it allows us to rapidly scale to demand while the Academies only pay for what they use. There is no capital outlay and no redundant capacity. The flexibility of Agresso is very impressive; we will be able to manage changes in house, tailoring the solution to each Academy’s specific needs. This means they don’t need to focus on IT or finance system maintenance, only on managing their resources effectively and creating excellent educational standards.”

Initially Xentrall will focus on the 40 or so schools in Darlington that could convert to Academy status, but are already generating interest from Academies outside their locality.

“Shared Journey gives Xentrall the competitive agility we need to succeed in the current climate,” continued Vasey. “We believe we have a product that will become the market leader and the finance system of choice for Academies. In addition we believe that Shared Journey potentially opens up new shared service and commercial opportunities that would previously have been too hard to do using traditional methods of deployment across IT networks; deployment over the web is much easier and more cost-effective.

UNIT4 is the leading provider of financial ERP solutions to the UK local government. “Flexible, cloud shared services will have a significant role to play in helping the public sector drive out inefficiency and provide tailored shared services that meet the needs of the individual organisations,” commented Anwen Robinson, UK Managing Director, UNIT4.