Greentree puts Mercy on sound footing

They number over 1000 people and provide services to over half a million; they own or rent more than 900 properties in two countries; their Greentree system services some 30 sites. Who are they? An organisation driven not by profit, but by compassion, and a commitment to improving lives.

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Ian Hobbs Sisters Of Mercy

“Greentree has allowed us to not worry about the system, and instead concentrate on making our data work for us, which is where we really need to spend the time.”

Ian Hobbs, Director of Finance and Administration
Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea

Sisters of Mercy’s new managing institute needed to bring together widely scattered financial systems, at an affordable price.

Greentree’s Financial, HR & Payroll provide smooth functionality without breaking the bank.

Fifteen congregations in two countries now have centralised accounting, handling numerous transactions, infrastructure costs are minimal, and the system will expand according to needs.

“To bring about a more just and compassionate world” is the overriding focus of the work of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

Since the mid-19th century, Sisters of Mercy has been running educational, health and community care establishments in Australia. Today its ministries educate around 10,000 secondary school pupils every year, as well as providing health services for nearly half a million people, and residential or community care for over 3000.

However, aging and shrinking congregations brought the need to change.

Unifying to progress

“Our Mercy congregations had never previously had a hierarchy as such,” explains Ian Hobbs, ISMAPNG ‘s Director of Finance and Administration. “Each congregation in Australia and PNG was completely independent and reported only to Rome, so they all did their own thing.”

In 2010, it was decided to amalgamate 15 of the 18 congregations scattered around Australia and PNG into a single organisation that would act as the church sponsor of all the individual ministries. In order to best perform its good works, Mercy decided to put itself on a more businesslike footing.

ISMAPNG now handles the congregations’ administrative and financial affairs. They own or rent about 900 properties, including schools, hospitals and rest homes. There are also the expenses incurred by the more than 900 Sisters in their pastoral and support work, plus the wages for around 170 miscellaneous staff, and invoices from various suppliers.

“Previously each congregation had decided what business systems they would use, if any,” Ian says. “Some were employing professional accountants, contractors or part-time business managers – they all had different ways of going about it.”

Some congregations used MYOB as a cash book; others used products like Sybiz and Attache. But one congregation in Adelaide used Greentree – and this proved to be the way forward for the new institute.

Big system, small price

“I knew that what they had as individual congregations wasn’t going to suit us as an international entity,” Ian says. “So I set out to find something that was capable of dealing with a medium-to-large organisation operating in multiple jurisdictions and in multiple currencies.

“What I was looking for was the full functionality of a big-end-of-town system without the price tag. When someone mentioned Greentree, I investigated and found it was a system that would be capable of dealing with our sort of structure.”

The new system needed to operate out of the cloud, to save on infrastructure costs, and it also needed to operate across some 30 sites around Australia.

“We were looking for something that would allow us to process the volume of transactions from multiple sites,” Ian says. “We were keen on the scanning of documents because of the distance between our offices, so we didn’t actually have to move paper around the country. We were also looking for a payroll system that could deal with having employees in every state, and deal with multiple companies.”

Clock ticking on implementation

Greentree beat the likes of Sage ERP X3 and SAP B1, but the implementation partner faced a four-week deadline to get the new system up and running. The process included importing large numbers of supplier and employee records from many different sources.

Greentree does everything ISMAPNG wanted it to do from the outset, and the institute’s staff are continuing to learn the extent of its capabilities.

“It’s allowed us to not worry about the system, and instead concentrate on making our data work for us, which is where we really need to spend the time,” Ian says.

Kitted out for changing times

In recent years Sisters of Mercy has branched out into advocacy, drawing public attention to human trafficking, indigenous concerns, ecology, and asylum seekers and refugees. There’ll always be new demands for its services, and Ian Hobbs says ISMAPNG can face the future equipped with a system that will expand to fit its changing needs.

“We have successfully implemented an enterprise-wide accounting system that we can now shape to streamline our operations and allow us to do more for the Sisters and for their ministries,” he concludes.

“In terms of our ministries, the need is far beyond what any one organisation could cope with – as much as you can put in, there’s a need for it, so that will continue to grow. I suspect that the way we go about it will change, but Mercy will still be pursuing that mission for a long time.”

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Sisters of Mercy was founded in 1831 by an Irish nun, the Venerable Mother Catherine Elizabeth McAuley. It is part of Mercy International Association, an organisation of the leaders of Mercy Congregations, Institutes and Federations throughout the world. Members of the Association share the passion of their foundress: to bring mercy to people who are poor, sick and uneducated.

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Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and PNG PRIMED FOR BUSINESS

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“Everything around TV is go, go, go. So you need to have your finger on the pulse when it comes to costs. Greentree enables us to give quick responses when a producer wants to do something: here’s a report that’s up to date to the last payroll, that’s where your costs sit, you’ve got your budget – away you go.”

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