Follow the tramlines along Great North Road and you’ll find yourself at the front door of MOTAT – the Museum of Transport and Technology.
Formed by a group of volunteers eager to collect artifacts related to New Zealand’s transport and technology history, MOTAT, in Western Springs, Auckland, is home to over 300,000 items that showcase Kiwi innovation and ingenuity.
Since opening in 1964, the museum has welcomed millions of visitors and progressively moved from being “a collection of things” to an organisation that “inspires the innovators of tomorrow”. While big-name drawcards like old steam engines and trams are still regularly fired up, the museum – and its 300-strong team of staff and volunteers – is pivotal to the development of homegrown technology and science-based innovation.
Preserving a slice of Auckland’s history
Originally, the Auckland City Council pumping station at Western Springs was the city’s main water supply. Today, the iconic brick Pumphouse is a listed Category 2 Historic Place, with the original Beam Engine still in operation after extensive and continued conservation efforts.
When volunteers banded together in the 1960s, the MOTAT group was granted use of the land and entrusted with the preservation of the pumping station and equipment.
Tony Goddard, MOTAT’s Finance and Commercial Manager, was a little boy when this was happening. Today, he is privy to the many strange and wonderful collection items, lots of which are preserved because of their future historical value.
“Merino wool surfboards and COVID-19 masks made from innovative materials – these are objects of interest that will be of historical value in the future,” he says.
New legislation requires a better system
In 2000, a big change arrived in the form of new legislation. The Museum of Transport and Technology Act 2000 publicly recognised the significance of the museum’s mission and collection. Now a statutory body, MOTAT’s operations are regulated by legislation, and it became apparent after several years that their clunky systems needed a reboot.
“We’re a professional and large institution that is responsible for public money – and we have to manage that in the best possible way we can,” Tony says.
Old system stretched too thin
Incumbent system gave little control of spending
MOTAT relies on ratepayer funding as well as commercial revenue to fund its operations.
“We spend $8-$9 million a year curating existing and new collections,” Tony says.
Over the years, MOTAT has used a mixture of manual and automated accounting systems and proprietary software to manage their procurement, but more recently found their old system cumbersome and prone to error.
“Originally, we used physical purchase-order books coupled with a digital process where the POs were keyed into a macro-driven Excel file, loaded, and then imported into our system,” he explains.
There were also complex reporting requirements because of the way the museum is structured into hubs and departments tasked with different activities.
"We actually had a license to use a product called Alchemex, but we were using this complex Excel file instead. It was sensitive, difficult to debug and if something changed in our accounting structure, it became a nightmare to extract good data to put into our reports."
Battle of the systems
MYOB Advanced comes out on top
As a public entity, MOTAT used a Request for Proposal procurement process to secure a new system. Tony explains that MYOB Advanced was on the shortlist of two systems they assessed against a long list of criteria.
Along with a robust procurement system and improved reporting functionality, cost and service capability were deciding factors. They also wanted a cloud-based system that allowed people to raise purchase orders – even from off-site.
"The weight of all our selection criteria fell to Advanced being the best fit of anything that was on the market for us at the time."
New system provides structure – plus many improvements
Automated procurement system pulls POs into line
Day to day, Tony could have up to 55 people across the organisation raising various manual purchase orders. While this used to cause problems, he now has a clear line of sight over what is being purchased – and how those transactions are flowing through the system. Delegated authority limits are set, and any purchase orders over a certain amount will trigger an approval request.
“Our procurement authority control has gone from average to very high in the stroke of turning on MYOB Advanced,” Tony says.
They also use restriction groups to moderate which departments can raise purchase orders within each budget-control area – something the organisation didn’t have before.
"I can filter to department, individual, status or date created. Similarly, it has had a significant effect on the ability of managers to manage their procurement."
Going paperless with Dataline integration
While going paperless wasn’t a specific criterion for choosing MYOB Advanced, integrating Dataline – an automated invoice-processing system – has had a major impact on the museum’s business. By streamlining that process, not only has it cleaned the finance department of paper – it has removed a huge amount of manual data entry.
“My accounts payable clerk has gone from being a data-entry key-banger to a real accounts person using their skills,” Tony says. “Now, there’s more time to review transactions to be sure they’re correct before releasing them into the system, and sorting issues with payables queries,” he adds.
Automated procurement system pulls POs into line
Overall, Tony has better visibility of individual transactions as well as more control over his team’s workflow. He can now review transactions “from high level right down to granularity incredibly quickly.”
This means when it comes to month-end processing, he can deliver his reports on time. What used to take him two days, now takes half a day at most.
“Our month-end is processed quickly and more accurately because we know exactly how many invoices are not yet approved, or in our PO system being accrued but not yet processed.
“Managers can now also see what's going on in their budget-responsible areas. Previously they had none until we sent them a report 10 or 15 days after the end of the month,” Tony says.
Recent audit through COVID-19
Audits can involve a lot of man-hours – without the added pressure of a global pandemic. This year, the organisation’s audit was done remotely. Tony says that without MYOB Advanced, “it would have been a real nightmare.”
“Using a cloud-based system with transaction click-through capabilities – this audit was like night and day compared to previous ones. On each of our GL transactions, we’ve got everything you ever need to answer any query about that transaction. Auditors used to come in and spend ages. Now that we’ve given them access to our GL, they answer most of their own questions,” he says.
Double the reporting functionality
A change of system has also re-energised the organisation’s reporting capabilities. Using sub-accounts and budget iterations, the finance team can provide management at all levels of the organisation with accurate budgets in real-time.
“We used to have to load the budget into an Excel file, so we weren’t sure everything was still in there. With Advanced, every transaction must have a valid sub-account, so that means you don’t have lost or missing transactions and you’re reporting against a budget that is robust,” Tony says.
They’ve also upgraded Alchemex, which produces the organisation’s management and board reports.
"Because we’re a statutory body, the format of our reports is a little more complicated, but MYOB Advanced is key to us being able to meet our reporting requirements accurately."
A quick history – the Museum of Transport and Technology
- Formed by a group of volunteers, MOTAT first opened its doors to the public in 1964 after being granted land by the Auckland City Council. The museum is now run by a team of 300 staff and volunteers.
- Today, the museum holds 300,000 items of significant historical value and helps foster the development of Kiwi innovation in technology, engineering, science and maths. It has been visited by millions of local, national and international visitors.
- The Museum of Transport and Technology Act 2000 came into effect on 1 April 2000, outlining the legal requirements regarding the operation of MOTAT.
MYOB Advanced enables a better way of operating
- Automated procurement system: streamlined process gives finance team control over purchase orders
- Dataline integration reduces manual data entry, speeding up month-end processing
- System gives staff tools to run comprehensive financial reports, ensuring the organisation meets its legislated reporting requirements
- Increased visibility of spend versus budget helps management make smarter business decisions
- Cloud-based system provides much-needed access to system while working remotely or on the move