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Finding bluer skies: Migrating to Unit4 Financials on Microsoft Azure at Pinnacol

from  December 16, 2020 | 3 min read

Cloud technology has multiple benefits for most organizations. These range from increased flexibility and scalability to reduced support costs, the elimination of “hidden” costs in downtime, maintenance, upgrades, and obsolescence, and even increased security.

But for many organizations, the process of migrating can seem too daunting compared to these benefits. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the unspoken law when it comes to IT, and nobody wants to be the one who didn’t listen and caused a disaster.

To show you how smooth the process can be, I caught up with one of our customers who made the jump a few years ago at X4U – our first ever global virtual event. Pinnacol Assurance is  a workers’ compensation insurance company serving around 57,000 businesses and covering approximately 1 million workers in the US state of Colorado. They recently migrated to a cloud deployment of Unit4 Financials on Microsoft Azure. In this session, their Senior General Accountant Catherine Beus walks us through the process of migration and the benefits it’s brought to the business.

Pinnacol first moved to Unit4 in 2012, adopting an on-premise implementation of Coda to manage their accounting needs. While it was generally felt to be an excellent solution (as it could be built out to their exact specifications), they quickly found that the on-premise build had two significant disadvantages:

  1. The company lacked the on-site expertise to address these performance issues, meaning they had no way to overcome sub-standard conditions.
  2. The performance wasn’t always as good as Pinnacol needed it to be. As an example, hierarchy table builder would take 4 hours to run, posing a real obstacle to generating the financial data and reporting they needed.

Pinnacol began investigating cloud as an option to address these challenges and chose to upgrade to a cloud version of Unit4 Financials in 2016. This came with some immediate advantages – as the servers were managed for them, there was an instant reduction in IT workloads and a decreased reliance on IT teams for support and maintenance. They also saw a greater degree of visibility into their operational costs.

But they’ve also been benefitting from a much-improved level of system continuity and risk control which continue to pay dividends to this day – especially in the face of new challenges like COVID.

Pinnacol had been encouraging employees to telecommute regularly for some time now, as they feel it improves work-life balance and productivity. A cloud-based solution for accounting was a key part of this approach. With the arrival of the COVID crisis, Unit4’s solution put them in a strong position to continue working from home on a much longer-term horizon.

But interestingly, having migrated to the cloud already when the crisis struck did still have an accelerating effect on how the company made use of their systems. Although day-to-day work for accounting teams was easily made fully remote, some key processes like check printing still had to take place in the office on a dedicated machine. However, Pinnacol was able to use the functionality of our cloud solution to begin performing this task remotely as well, without compromising security in order to create a safer set of working practices for their people. As an insurer focused on occupational health and safety for its policyholders, this was extremely important.

If anything, COVID helped Pinnacol to realize they weren’t using Unit4 Financials to its full potential, and the new normal has made them reconsider what they’re not using the system for. They’re currently using the solution to create an automated clearing house (ACH) for paying vendors, and in the next upgrade will be taking advantage of even more features like capability-by-company (to restrict user access across different parts of their portfolio) and improve general access management processes via access to self-service features.

This means that Pinnacol will be able to improve security thanks to their move to the cloud rather than jeopardizing it – and create smoother and more efficient processes to boot.

The ability to automate parts of the month-end process also present further opportunities for efficiency and innovation that simply wouldn’t be possible with an on-premise implementation – or without a cloud solution’s continuous release schedule of new features.

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Benoit Dallaporta

Benoît Dallaporta

Benoît joined Unit4’s Customer Cloud Journey Team in 2020 as Migration Sales Architect. His main focus is to help existing customers reap all the benefits of running Unit4 solutions in the Unit4 Cloud.

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