Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and automating Impact Health’s accounting, payroll and other finance systems as its new COVID-19 testing business was exploding felt something like “building a 747 in the air,” according to CFO Jennifer Herdler.
Before the pandemic, the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based firm was a healthcare staffing personnel company that chiefly ran employee screenings measuring such things as cholesterol and sugar levels for corporate wellness programs. But with many employees working remotely early in the pandemic, that business dried up and Impact Health pivoted to running COVID-19 testing sites — some massive — for clients that included the state of Florida.
Nearly overnight the firm went from having about 300 nurses to now about 20,000 and its manual payroll system as well as its Quickbooks-based finance system weren’t able to keep up. Herdler, who last year became the firm’s CFO, arrived in July 2020 as a financial consultant tasked with replacing the company’s manual processes with an ERP.
The private company, which now has about 20,000 nurses that it contracts with, saw its revenue skyrocket 20-fold in 2020 from the previous year and in 2021 its revenue doubled, she said, declining to give total numbers.
“I came in and there was so much growth it was crazy,” Herdler said in an interview. “We really had to Band-Aid these solutions as well as to build out a long-term solution.”
One of her first priorities was short-term: fixing the payroll system that was so antiquated that it entailed nurses faxing in time-sheets. That information then had to be keyed into a database and re-keyed into a payroll system, she said.
“The whole process did not scale well,” she said. “It was fraught with errors and, as you can imagine, employees were really upset because they were not being paid correctly.”
It was quickly clear that fixing the payroll system was the first priority, otherwise the company wouldn’t have employees who wanted to work for it and its profitability depended on its labor.
“Growing so much sometimes it becomes really clear you only can focus on the critical things … and you have to let the other things go in order to succeed,” she said. “And that’s what we did.”
Ultimately, 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 clock in and out through their phones, creating time-sheets that are uploaded to a payroll system. The company tapped the skills of programmers and didn’t buy a ready-made app because they weren't a good fit with Impact Health's complex project-based business, she said.
The longer-term, broader solution involved sorting through and comparing several different ERP systems. The firm ultimately settled on Oracle NetSuite. Herdler said NetSuite was a good fit because it offers a strong project management component and the company was flexible about accelerating the implementation, enabling Impact Health to set it up in just six months compared to the year that some ERP projects take.
The system's real-time information and integrated data enable the company to make better decisions, she said. For instance, the system allows for better inventory management of everything from computer equipment to COVID-19 tests.
When test kits were in short supply last fall the company was better able to track which sites had them. Given that there were hundreds of sites, that would not have been easy to do by manually using Excel spread sheets as they would have had to do previously, she said.
Herdler, a veteran finance executive who in the 1990s worked as a senior accountant for KPMG Canada, remembers when the work world operated without cell phones. But times have changed and automated finance systems that provide better data for the quicker decision making that is now demanded is key. That is why she pushed for the speedier ERP implementation.
“When you don’t have anything, it’s like you're driving blindly,” Herdler said.