County industrial authority alleviates headaches with 92% faster audit cycle

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Serving Georgia’s Macon-Bibb County area, the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority is the area’s lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industries, and improving the quality of life. The organization develops land and industrial parks to make it easier for employers such as Amazon to bring their businesses to Macon-Bibb. With $50 million in assets and an annual operating budget of about $12 million, its income is sourced from land sales, administrative fees, tenant rents, and appropriation from other local government agency partners. Each of these streams needs to be managed and reported on separately, which was nearly impossible before the authority deployed Sage Intacct.

The other day, we had the opportunity to talk with Amy Tarpley, who joined the organization a few years ago as finance director. She told us about the challenges she faced when she first took over the authority’s tedious paper-based accounting processes, and her journey towards trusted financials and robust, audit-ready controls. While trying to make do with Intuit QuickBooks for a short time, Tarpley struggled to manage 11 funds using a large, complicated chart of accounts. As a result of this unstable financial foundation, the organization’s visibility into financials was severely limited and she had to spend half the year supporting a painful audit.

Our new customer story details how the authority achieved the following results by graduating to Sage Intacct:

  • Increased overall finance efficiency by 85%
  • Sped audit cycle by 92%
  • Shifted finance department to 100% electronic processes
  • Gained data security and transparency into financial processes, building trust and confidence

Overhauling financial processes amid a global pandemic

When Tarpley joined the organization, one of the first things she focused on was revamping outdated workflows, despite the outdated desktop version of their prior accounting software.

“Before I joined, my predecessor would make journal entries on green ledger paper — binders and binders of it — and then key entries in the old software without any descriptions or documentation,” Tarpley said. “Then one day the system crashed while I was trying to print checks, so I quickly converted to QuickBooks as a stop-gap. Of course, when the auditor came, it was so hard to find the details we needed. I ended up working side-by-side with him almost every day for six months.”

Tarpley knew that the Authority needed a modern financial system. She wanted a cloud-based solution that could be accessible to all stakeholders, including the executive director and auditors. With their support, she selected Sage Intacct and started planning for the implementation.

“Sage Intacct’s customer service has been amazing from day one, and I really liked how well the system’s multi-entity capabilities adapted to our needs,” noted Tarpley. “We looked at Tyler Technologies, but it was clear we would have to make everything fit their structure and that wasn’t going to work for us long-term.”

As a finance department of one, her goal was to greatly improve productivity by replacing paper and spreadsheets with automated processes and improving visibility through real-time reporting across funds. But Tarpley was trying to do all of this amidst a surge in industrial development — and then the global pandemic hit. Just as she started working with Sage Intacct implementation partner Armanino, COVID-19 sent everyone home.

“All of the sudden, my kids were out of school and I was working from home trying to finish this implementation,” remembered Tarpley. “I would get up and start working from 4:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and then do school with the kids. But with Armanino’s help, we managed to go live in just a few months, and it was a smooth migration.”

Dramatic productivity gains shift energy to strategic projects

Sage Intacct supports streamlined multi-entity accounting that Tarpley estimates makes her 85% more efficient. She’s been able to eliminate manual, duplicative data entry for payroll, AP, and AR, while implementing a monthly close process for the first time in the authority’s history. In addition, fund distribution for its land management function is much faster. The organization now distributes up to 300 checks a month to vendors using recurring checks in Sage Intacct — shortening a two-day process to an afternoon endeavor.

Most notably, Sage Intacct helped the authority cut its audit cycle by 92% — from 6 months to 2 weeks — by giving auditors read-only access to the system. Tarpley pointed out, “Now, any time a question arises during the audit process, they are either able to see the documentation and transaction themselves, or I’m able to confidently get them an answer within minutes.”

She added, “The time Sage Intacct’s automated workflows save lets me focus on other more strategic work. I’ve probably cut down at least a day’s worth of work each week which can instead be put towards something more productive that I wouldn’t otherwise get to.”

Accurate insight engenders trust and confidence

The Authority greatly appreciates its comprehensive financial visibility in Sage Intacct, which increases transparency through quick, easy, flexible, real-time reporting. “Now I can run a basic P&L report and check where we’re at with budget for the general fund at any time,” said Tarpley. “That information can be shared with the board, who in turn passes it along to the commission so they can monitor how we’re spending the funds that have been appropriated for us.”

With several funds and projects at various stages at any given time, Sage Intacct’s multi-dimensional structure also provides valuable insights. “Right now, we have three different projects going on at one of our industrial parks. Three years ago, if somebody asked me for a status update on the funding for one of those projects, I would have to take at least a few days to get back to them,” Tarpley shared. “Now, I’m able to easily pull that data from Sage Intacct and send it off. It’s the ability to do things like this that just make everything so much easier.”

What’s more, the organization can maintain a culture of trust, thanks to Sage Intacct. “The transparency that Sage Intacct gives us has been huge in terms of re-establishing trust in our financial processes,” commented Tarpley. “Our executive director is able to access his own Sage Intacct dashboard whenever he wants, which gives him the trust factor he needs.”

To find out more about how Sage Intacct helps the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority free up resources to advance its mission of job creation, job retention, business expansion, and improved quality of life, read our new customer story.

MBCIA – Local Industrial Authority Improves Efficiency 85%

Find out more about how Sage Intacct helped the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority free up resources to advance its mission of job creation, job retention, business expansion, and improved quality of life.

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