The world’s largest amateur sports facility covers 600 acres in Blaine, Minn. The National Sports Center boasts 50 soccer fields, 8 hockey rinks, a golf course, convention center and more. Between local team practices and international competitions, the site brings in 4 million visitors a year. During peak seasons, up to 400 staff help run the nonprofit’s extensive sports programs.
When sports ground to a halt in the spring of 2020, the National Sports Center was hit hard. Visitors and employees alike stayed home, and its accounting team had to find a way to access its on-premise systems without entering the office.
Remote work through a VPN
The National Sports Center has been a Boyer client since 2013, when they first implemented Microsoft Dynamics GP. The on-premise ERP powerhouse still worked well for the most part, with one key exception — remote work. If an employee wanted to access Dynamics GP remotely, they had to connect to a VPN, a process that took time and was cumbersome.
“Covid definitely made me feel like we needed to continue to move the department in the direction of the cloud,” said James Nelson, CFO at the time of their cloud ERP implementation.
The organization was already moving other systems to the cloud so decided it was time to pull the trigger on their ERP system as well. They quickly settled on Microsoft’s cloud ERP, Dynamics 365 Business Central.
“We were going to have to go to the cloud at some point anyway,” Nelson said. “Let’s rip the band-aid off.”
Learning a new cloud ERP system
The implementation started in August 2021 and was slated to go live Jan. 1, 2022, but employee transitions delayed the project by two months. New employees had to learn the organization’s processes as well as a new ERP system.
“It ultimately came down to they just weren’t comfortable enough with the system,” Nelson said. “We wanted to understand it another layer deeper.”
Nelson said the Boyer team was very thorough, quick to respond to questions and patient when the team requested duplicate training. For his part, Nelson struggled to understand the new terminology and how to get the reports exactly the way he wanted them.
“That’s more just a new system than it is a limitation,” Nelson said. “You’re going to have your hiccups and delays in learning a new system. … There’s no way to avoid that.”
While there is a learning curve when switching to a new ERP system, Nelson said Business Central and GP are “very similar in a lot of ways.”
Overall, the transition went well. NSC implemented the general ledger, fixed assets, accounts receivable and accounts payable. They also switched from Management Reporter to third-party solution Jet Reports.
“I really like (Jet) in terms of being in Excel and being able to refresh it,” Nelson said. “Management Reporter was cumbersome to send out.” Now, he can easily refresh a report in real-time, make comments and send the report via email.
Time-saving efficiencies in cloud ERP
Moving to a cloud solution saved the National Sports Center hours in the IT department alone. Their IT director Trygve Nystuen was responsible for managing all IT tasks across the organization of 60 full-time employees and another 300-400 seasonal employees. He can manage that monumental task a bit easier now that he doesn’t have to go on location every time.
“Working remotely is just that much faster and easier,” Nelson said. Plus, the staff doesn’t have to worry about upgrades. The cloud solution is automatically updated during off-hours.
Nelson said one of his favorite features of Business Central is the ability to do automatic bank reconciliations. He said it’s saved their team 5-7 hours a month.
They save another few hours a month by being able to email invoices much more quickly than they did in Dynamics GP. While it took GP a full 2 minutes to send one invoice, Business Central can send out an entire batch of invoices with just a few clicks.
Team members can also customize their screens to work more efficiently on a daily basis. Of course, customizations come with their own hiccups since team members can’t always use the same templates when they’re customizing their screens differently.
A perk for a business with seasonal employees, Business Central makes it super easy to adjust the number of ERP users needed as the number of seasonal workers ebbs and flows.
Ready for the future with Dynamics 365 Business Central
The National Sports Center has a large customer-facing staff, but not all of its employees need to be on location.
“Especially in the accounting and finance world you don’t really have a choice to be flexible. The whole industry is pretty much remote at this point,” Nelson said.
In fact, he lost two of his accounting staff in the midst of the implementation for that very reason — They found jobs that allowed for a more flexible work-at-home schedule.
Nelson figures the pandemic accelerated the normal shift toward remote work by about 10 years. He expects that the pendulum will swing back in the middle, with more companies ultimately opting for a hybrid solution. When that happens, this time the National Sports Center will be prepared with their new cloud ERP system in place.