The Learning Lab is the leading education center for preschool, primary, secondary and junior college students across Singapore. It used a set of disconnected tailor-made packages for billing, attendance, customer management, and a legacy accounting package to run its regional educational centers.
One solidified version was difficult to obtain among the siloed applications; something executives knew needed to be updated in order to grow and focus on providing their customers with the best learning solutions. Desiring to be the educational center of choice in a competitive environment and create a modern, data-driven financial foundation, The Learning Lab deployed an Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) system designed for education delivered by Constructor.
- Connected disparate business applications into one integrated system, streamlining the entire operation
- Eliminated multiple data entries including claims submissions, reducing resources needed to operate the organization
- Increased collaboration among siloed teams, improving communication and enabling greater customer satisfaction
- Obtained deeper access to revenue and financial data, enhancing decision-making and financial governance
- Improved inventory visibility with the intercompany module, increasing accuracy and the ability to locate products instantly across its regional centers
- Acquired a modern business platform for future growth with the ability to add new functionality and integrated third-party solutions
The Learning Lab is a privately-owned educational enrichment organization based in Singapore that is committed to bringing out the best in every student. It reaches over 12,000 students teaching English, Mathematics and Science disciplines, empowering students to think beyond the confines of the classroom. For years, the company relied on an outdated version of Microsoft Dynamics for general ledger financials and fixed assets, a custom-made billing system that lacked internal controls, a CRM, and other software to handle its billing, attendance and class scheduling.
The company was using very outdated accounting software for basic book-keeping,” says Ying-Jian Chan, ex-CFO. “Our finance team realized this was not sustainable given our volume and growth and set out to replace it with a financial solution with robust financial management for cash management, expense claims and procurement.”
Because the old system was rudimentary and was not connected to the company’s CRM, the financial team didn’t receive a lot of customer data with an order. For example, they could not access insightful information such us knowing which lesson a parent purchased, when the session would start, or which subject a student selected. They also didn’t know which center the student would attend, making proper revenue allocations nearly impossible.
Only a few of The Learning Lab’s approximately 500 employees had access to the financial system, leaving a data entry team of two to input expense reports and other financial information into the system. This tedious task included entering the same transactional information into different applications resulting in slower processes and unnecessary manual labor.
The system was not designed to pull the session information into the invoice,” says Shirley Lim, The Learning Lab’s Director of Finance at the time. In addition, “There was no ability to set (access) controls, so we couldn’t provide very many team members access to information they might need to do their jobs. The billing application didn’t have an AR schedule, and we had a lot of validation and reconciliation issues,” she said.
Ms. Lim had previous experience using ERPs from SAP and Oracle and started the search for a cloud-based ERP not only with strong financials but the ability to easily integrate with other applications. Furthermore, they needed a solution designed for education institutions, a flexible system that understood and adapted to the need to keep up with and track the thousands of students taking one or two of the 2,000 classes offered a week. In short, The Learning Lad needed an ERP built for education offering a software that offered minimum expensive for customization.
"We needed something affordable and flexible. We didn’t want to feel locked into just one solution but be able to connect best-of-breed software for the different functions we needed,” Shirley Lim stated. The Learning Lab wanted an out-of-the-box solution for financials that was easy to use and could be accessed from any of their regional centers, enabling them to focus on their education offerings for their customers.
Advised by leading-edge education experts, Constructor delivers hands-on learning experiences and real results, leading to a continuous and easy-to-implement stream of relevant training tools and live content for customers worldwide.
Company executives talked about possible ERP solutions with several solution providers, examined the strengths and weaknesses of several, narrowing their list of options. In the end, the team selected Constructor to implement the new business solution designed for educational institutions and learning centers.
More effective training operations
The Learning Lab eliminated several positions previously devoted solely to manual data entry between its different financial systems. Every employee can access the new system delivered by Constructor at the appropriate security level, streamlining the process for the finance team who previously handled a wide variety of tasks due to the limited access controls in the old system. Each employee now enters their own expense claims into the system, for example, rather than relying on one person to handle all claims and data entry.
“An approval hierarchy empowers managers to have visibility and autonomy,” Mr. Chan says. “Being cloud-based, we are better able to work from anywhere, at any time, and this is the direction that everything is headed.”
With Constructor, The Learning Lab has greater visibility into the organization’s operations, including, for the first time, access to real-time AR and AP visibility.
“Previously we had to manually enter most transactions into the billing system, now we can batch upload bulk information in an efficient manner,” he says. “We were also able to reduce the volume of transactional work, minimizing mundane tasks and enabling our team to focus on more value-added tasks.”
The flexible architecture integrates well with both Microsoft Dynamics 365, which The Learning Lab uses for customer management and as a Student Information System, as well as Unit 4, its HR system making the entire operation more efficient.
In the future, The Learning Lab plans to create a simple user interface with its Front Desk application, which will allow users advanced tools, such as access to quickly search customer invoicing/payment history. There are also plans to implement Procurement Functionality to replace manual purchasing processes and integrate them with Advanced Financials. This would link directly to their bank feeds, further reducing data entry work and providing ease of reconciliation.
A flexible, easy-to-use solution
Ms. Lim praised the easy-to-learn and use interface, which “is simple and clear, allowing even users with no previous exposure to ERP software to quickly learn and adapt.”
The organization improved communication with its customers, advancing its online learning offerings. They now receive invoices with classroom dates, locations and center information, which significantly reduced calls and emails from parents seeking certain information and improved overall customer satisfaction. Reliable, Modern Business Platform for Growth
Most importantly, The Learning Lab now has a solidified version and a financial system it can trust. “Finance has always aimed to account for that one version of truth so having information accessible to the rest of our stakeholders will allow them to work together with Finance to ensure information is properly recognized and accounted for,” Ms. Lim said.
The implementation of a modern cloud-based ERP supports The Learning Lab’s move to be data-driven and to remain competitive. “Putting in a solution with expertise in the education field that simultaneously offers efficient business processes ensures that we have good financial governance and controls in place,” Mr. Chan says. “Our aim to support tens of thousands of students in achieving their personal best through a carefully designed educational structure that nurtures their love of learning over the years.”