Biota is a leading anti-infective drug development company based in Melbourne, Australia and Oxford, UK. Although the company conducts research into a number of respiratory and other diseases, it is currently best known for the development of Relenza, the first-in-class drug commonly used to treat Swine and Avian Flu.
Biota Holdings Limited has four wholly-owned subsidiaries – Biota Scientific Management which is the company’s research and development arm; Biota Europe Ltd, which manages all UK activity, plus Biota Respiratory Research and Biota Investment, both of which hold intellectual property assets for the group. Locally Biota employs around 80 research and development staff plus an administrative team of 15. In the UK, there are an additional 13 employees.
In 2008 Biota applied to the US Government for a multi-million dollar research grant to carry out the advanced development of Laninamivir, a second generation influenza treatment that, unlike its predecessor, will require only a single dose to become effective. Over the next three years, Biota progressed along the grant short list and was visited by contractors who advised Biota management of the extensive reporting and administrative procedures that would be required by the US Government should Biota win the grant.
Karen Adams, Biota’s Financial Controller explains, “The contractors identified what our current financial system, Microsoft Dynamics GP, could do and how we could map the necessary information. It involved some cumbersome approaches with additional general ledger classifications. Importantly, we also needed to be able to capture information at a more detailed level which included job cost numbers.”
Recognising that she needed help, Karen sought advice from Professional Advantage, Biota’s long-term IT partner. After careful consideration, Professional Advantage proposed WennSoft’s Job Cost and purchase order modules to capture the additional job-related financial information, and QlikView, a business discovery platform that delivers self-service business intelligence, to provide the depth and variety of reporting that would be required. Both solutions offered seamless integration with Microsoft Dynamics GP, thereby maximising the use of existing financial data and minimising the data capture and reporting effort required of Biota staff.
“If we won the grant we knew we would have to report information in a different format and that we would have to pull data out of Microsoft Dynamics GP in a way that could easily be put into the Earned Value reporting tool that the US Government uses.” Adams says.
On 1st April 2011 Biota Management received the news they’d been hoping for. The Office of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the company an estimated US$231 million contract. The grant will be received over a period of five years, contingent upon the delivery of key milestones.
With the contract and therefore the new reporting regime due to begin within the month, Biota had to work quickly. Adams says, “We’d done all the background work, all the mapping out of account codes and we were waiting for the go-ahead. When that came, Professional Advantage dropped everything and got it under way for us. They immediately came in and set up the WennSoft Job Cost and Purchase Order modules, and configured QlikView in a very short time period.”
Since April 2011 Biota has been using its combination of Microsoft Dynamics GP, Wennsoft and QlikView to create board and job cost reports using consolidated data from across all Biota subsidiaries. All transactions are entered into the integrated system, consolidated in QlikView then exported
to Microsoft Excel for easy reporting.
Adams notes, “We don’t have to manipulate data any longer and it eases our workload at the crucial time of month end when we are focused on getting reports out. We have project codes for every research and development program and job codes within these. We need to be able to look at who’s spending what in which pocket; what’s been spent in total; and then to slice and dice the data using QlikView any which way – by company, division, job cost, project code, or by period including current month, actuals, forecast and prior year actuals.”
Biota’s invoices to the US Government can run to nearly 200 pages and every line item must include all relevant supporting documentation. “Using QlikView we can drill down through the figures right back to the original document and have it all ready very quickly. Without WennSoft and QlikView, we could not derive the information necessary to comply and keep our US contract,” Adams asserts.
At present QlikView is primarily used by Adams, another financial accountant and two book keepers within the research and product development divisions. Over the next 12 months Adams plans to expand access to include key staff in each of the divisions so that they can better analyse data directly and prepare their own reports.
“Use of the system will grow,” Adams confirms. “Among those managers using it, it is already providing more insight into costs. This extra visibility helps to raise questions and keeps everyone accountable. Really, the opportunities for analysis are unlimited. It’s up to us as to what we want to get out of the system,” she concludes.
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