by Susannah Patton

Doctors’ Group Profits from ERP

Sep 01, 20032 mins
ERP Systems

Volunteers from Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) rely on their commitment, brains and a limited pool of resources to treat the victims of war, famine and drought in 59 countries around the globe.

Back in Paris, CIO Catherine Duffau is expanding the aid group’s reach. Duffau is finishing an ERP system installation to track Medecins du Monde’s finances and give everyone a view of the group’s supplies. When Duffau came to the aid group in 1999, its three IS employees oversaw disparate systems for purchasing, finance and accounting. “There was an urgent need to provide information and get people connected,” says Duffau, 38. With an ERP system, Duffau reasoned, Medecins du Monde could collect precise data on doctors’ needs and expenses.

Duffau chose the French ERP software maker Qualiac, familiar to European CIOs and best known for its ease of use—which was good for her volunteers. ERP giants such as SAP and Oracle would be far too expensive, she says, and were unwilling to negotiate on price for services.

Lack of integration is common at nongovernmental organizations, says David Sovie, a vice president at Mercer Management Consulting in Paris. Smaller ERP systems can track donations and money available for missions.

So far, Duffau has accounting, purchasing, stock and investment records up and running on Qualiac, and offices throughout France have also logged on to the system.

While most far-flung volunteers aren’t using it yet, one promising field test was in Ivory Coast where a rebellion in 2002 left thousands dead and more than a million homeless. When Medecins du Monde’s volunteers there connected to the ERP system, they could quickly see how much had been spent on medication and other supplies, and could therefore plan to expand treatment when needed. More remote office tests are scheduled.

In areas such as war-ravaged Iraq, volunteers rely on satellite phones when basic phone and Internet links are lacking. Still, volunteers coming out of such areas can enter data into the ERP system. Duffau doesn’t have a firm ROI number for the system, but she says it has improved efficiency. Accountants are now paying bills from two months ago instead of four months. Duffau’s goal: information in real-time. “Then we would know immediately when we had enough money to expand our missions.”