Digitisation in focus for National Group

Assistant Account Jane Craven focuses on new technologies to support company’s growth.

Jane Craven was part of a small team that moved into National Group’s new headquarters when it relocated to the Gold Coast in 2013.

Jane, now an Assistant Accountant at National Group, recalls working with a handful of people on her floor at the Southport office. Hired as an accounts payable officer, Jane would answer phones, file paperwork and enter data, to help keep the office running.

“Everybody pitched in as National Group grew,” says Jane. “Doing all those tasks was a great way to learn about the business from the ground up and expand my role. Sometimes, it’s the tasks you don’t want to do that teach you the most.”

Fast forward almost 10 years and Jane is helping lead projects to digitise more aspects of National Group’s accounting systems. She recently implemented a new credit-card system to scan, upload and code receipts. Another project underway involves scanning invoices and uploading them to the cloud, to reduce manual work.

“Digitisation is a growing focus of my role,” she says. “My mornings still involve working on cash flow, checking that payments have been made, banking and treasury. In the afternoon, it’s more about strategic projects and planning for our systems.”

National Group’s accounting system went paperless during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent accounting projects have been about reducing manual handling, creating efficiencies and further strengthening payment-systems controls and reporting.

 “It’s vital that National Group payment systems are as efficient and robust as possible, says Jane. “The company is a lot larger these days, and has much more equipment, people and projects. Our systems have to support that growth and keep delivering ways to do things better and free up people from manual accounting tasks.”

The risk, says Jane, is assuming that what worked in the past will work in the future.  “We have had to think bigger with National Group’s payment systems. What worked well when I joined the business almost a decade ago was appropriate for then. But we need to think about where the business is today and where it will be in the next few years – and how our payment systems can accommodate an even larger business.”

Jane says everything “starts on-site”. “Our on-site teams know when parts are arriving or being sent back. They know which sub-contractors are being used and when. Our job in head office is to make it easier for people on-site to do this reporting, so they have more time for their job. Through automation, we’re making this paperwork faster for them and reducing the risk of any error.”

Career growth

As one of the original members of National Group’s Southport headquarters, Jane has watched the company go from strength to strength. Her role continues to evolve.

“I sometimes think of myself as a ‘Jill of all trades’ in our office when it comes to accounting systems,” she says. “If someone needs to know how to do something with a certain payment or system, they often ask me first.”

Jane says National Group’s willingness to back employees in their career development, its family friendly environment and its people are the main reasons she has worked there for almost a decade and is loyal to the company.

“I joke that I have a degree in life,” she says. “When I left school, I started as a receptionist in the construction industry. I never studied accounting at university and never expected to be leading digitisation projects in a company this size. But National Group has always supported me to grow my role and take on more responsibility.”

Being able to combine work and family life at National Group was integral to her career development. “I was always able to take time off to attend a school play or sporting event, and make it up later,” says Jane. “As a mum, I appreciated that flexibility and knowing that I could grow my career without having to sacrifice family time. My daughter is at uni now, but I still get calls asking mum where something is!” 

Jane says National Group’s people are another reason she loves her job. “I’ve met some great people over the years at National Group and talk to them every day. The business has changed a lot since I started, but there’s still that sense of camaraderie and people working hard as a team to get the job done.”

Another attraction is National Group’s private ownership. “I once worked for a private company that went public – it became a nightmare to get things approved,” says Jane. “If National Group ever has an issue, we meet with Mark (Ackroyd) and fix the problem on the spot. We don’t have unnecessary layers of decision-making and approvals slowing things down and getting in the way of solutions.”

As to the future, Jane would like to visit mine sites and expects to spend more time on digitisation projects. “It’s great when you successfully implement an accounting project and can see the results firsthand. I like that National Group continues to invest in and upgrade its systems. Having really strong payment systems and processes doesn’t get a lot of fanfare, but it’s so important for fast-growing companies.”