Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and automating Impact Health’s accounting, payroll and other financial systems as its new COVID-19 testing business exploded felt like “building a 747 in the air,” according to CFO Jennifer Herdler.
Prior to the pandemic, King of Prussia, a Pennsylvania-based firm, was a healthcare staffing company that primarily ran employee screenings that measured things like cholesterol and sugar levels for corporate wellness programs. But with many employees working remotely early in the pandemic, this business dried up, and Impact Health switched to operating COVID-19 test sites – some massive – for customers that included the state of Florida.
Almost from one day to the next, the company went from having about 300 nurses to now about 20,000, and its manual payroll system as well as its Quickbooks-based financial system were unable to keep up. Herdler, who last year became the company’s CFO, arrived in July 2020 as a financial consultant with the task of replacing the company’s manual processes with an ERP.
The private company, which now has around 20,000 nurses with whom it enters into contracts, saw its turnover skyrocket 20 times in 2020 compared to the previous year, and in 2021 its turnover doubled, she said, refusing to give overall figures.
“I came in and there was so much growth that it was crazy,” Herdler said in an interview. “We really needed to band-aid these solutions as well as build a long-term solution.”
One of her first priorities was short-term: to fix the pay system, which was so outdated that it involved nurses faxing in timesheets. This information would then have to be entered into a database and re-entered into a payroll system, she said.
“The whole process was not scaled well,” she said. “It was full of mistakes, and as you can imagine, the employees were really upset because they were not paid properly.”
It quickly became clear that the solution of the payroll system was the first priority, otherwise the company would not have employees who wanted to work for it, and profitability depended on the workforce.
“When you grow so much sometimes, it becomes really clear that you can only focus on the critical things … and you have to let the other things go to succeed,” she said. “And that was what we did.”
In the end, it took Impact Health about three months to build the new payroll system, including creating its own app that allowed nurses to sign up for shifts and clocks in and out through their phones, and create timesheets that are uploaded to a salary system. The company leveraged the programmers’ skills and did not purchase a ready-made app because they did not fit well into Impact Health’s complex project-based business, she said.
The more long-term, broader solution involved sorting and comparing several different ERP systems. The company joined Oracle NetSuite. Herdler said NetSuite fit well because it offers a strong project management component, and the company was flexible in speeding up implementation, allowing Impact Health to set it up in just six months compared to the year that some ERPs projects take.
The system’s real-time information and integrated data enable the company to make better decisions, she said. For example, the system allows for better inventory management of everything from computer equipment to COVID-19 tests.
Since there was a shortage of test kits last fall, the company was better able to track which sites had them. Given that there were hundreds of websites, it would not have been easy to do by manually using Excel spreadsheets, as they would have had to do in the past, she said.
Herdler, an experienced CFO who worked as a senior accountant for KPMG Canada in the 1990s, remembers when the world of work functioned without cell phones. But times have changed, and automated financial systems that provide better data for the faster decision-making now required are key. Therefore, she pushed for a faster ERP implementation.
“When you have nothing, it’s like you’re driving blind,” Herdler said.