At a glance

When Canstar adopted NetSuite, they went from a tangle of overgrown systems to a streamlined, integrated ecosystem with centralised operational and financial data, sophisticated auditability and robust reporting across seven subsidiaries.

The client

With a team of over 150 working in offices across Australia and New Zealand, Canstar is Australia and New Zealand's largest financial research and expert ratings agency. Canstar works with over 30 finance categories and over 300 non-finance categories to provide consumers with resources for comparing products. They also aid providers by using data and AI to match them with suitable consumers. Canstar’s expert value-based star ratings and awards comparing products attract around 10 million Australians each year.

“The Annexa team were super responsive and helpful. I’m very much a relationships guy, so I want to know that I can pick up the phone when I need to.”

- Chris Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer, Canstar

During the early stages of partner and vendor selection, Annexa became really interesting, really quickly for us because of their work with many of our digital peers, including REA, Airtasker, and Carsales.
Chris Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer, Canstar

The challenge

Canstar was relying on a hairball of unreliable systems, spreadsheets and limited point solutions including a legacy on premises ERP system and XERO.
Talking about their old systems, Chris Mitchell, Canstar’s Chief Financial Officer shared, “we’d switch it on in the morning and have to press the “choke button,” stand on our heads and put tie one hand behind our back - then it might work if we were lucky. It was just not reliable.”

Xero presented problems from a consolidation perspective, “Xero is fantastic if you're a single-company group or even for two companies. But as soon as you add more companies, it gets hard and manual. For us, being able to run a consolidated set of accounts with the push of a button was really critical,” said Mitchell.

Running operations on an outdated tech stack left the finance team struggling, not just with a slow and unstable system, but also inefficiencies in routine financial tasks like reporting and monthly close, and more complex revenue recognition processes. They also couldn't efficiently produce consolidated financial reporting across all their subsidiaries or handle multi-currency conversions and inter-company transactions. Meanwhile, IT were wasting time patching a system prone to security issues.

Canstar recognised that a complete business systems overhaul would provide the most viable path forward. Investing in an extensible cloud-based ERP solution would allow the integration of critical third-party systems while supporting the introduction of automated processes, operational efficiencies, and real-time financial and reporting capabilities.

Global jurisdiction across multiple subsidiaries

Multi-entity consolidation & reporting

Multiple system integrations

Automated multi-currency conversions

The results

While Canstar started with a shortlist of potential solutions, NetSuite was consistently a top contender throughout the selection process. Annexa also became their preferred choice based on our expertise transforming the technology powering digital leaders including REA, Airtasker, and Carsales.

NetSuite Financials was adopted to centralise multi-company finance operations and improve financial controls. Canstar can now oversee multi-jurisdiction management on a single NetSuite instance with real-time analytics and reporting capabilities that support consolidated accounts and financial statements straight out of the system. This includes automated multi-currency conversions and inter-company transactions, simplifying local currency pricing per region.

“We've recently rewritten our board reporting and weekly executive reporting, and it was completed in a very short period of time. Without NetSuite, there's no way we could have done it so efficiently. NetSuite has given us a much better, easier, and standardised format for reporting, and we've had fantastic internal feedback since implementing it."

- Chris Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer, Canstar

"One of the key improvements was having a real-time view of the financial results. With NetSuite, we don’t have to wait until the end of the month to do all the work. Instead, QA and processing occurs as we go, helping to balance the team’s workload. NetSuite has allowed us to implement a far more modern approach to running the finance function."

- Peter Grimshaw, Group Financial Controller, Canstar

“Everyone's running the same reports and looking at the same numbers at the same time, we’ve got consistent visibility across the team.”

- Peter Grimshaw, Group Financial Controller, Canstar

Moving to the highly extensible NetSuite platform opened up new integration opportunities for Canstar. Initially, the focus was on customising the AP and AR approval processes to meet internal control requirements using Zone and Co, and invoicing automations. Following successful implementation of these modules, Canstar are now able to explore accessing the direct API connection for seamless data transfer between platforms in areas such as expense management, payroll and the group’s bespoke revenue management systems.

“There hasn't been much that we haven't been able to solve ourselves. There are some underrated features in NetSuite. We use the knowledge base and resources to find solutions that others have used. Or the sandbox environment to have a little play and try things out. And, if we need more specialised support, we contact the Annexa help desk or engage with their consulting team.”

- Peter Grimshaw, Group Financial Controller, Canstar

As Canstar continues to advance beyond the initial implementation phase, they are continuously reviewing existing systems to determine if NetSuite can be further leveraged. Future plans include leveraging NetSuite for planning forecasting, potentially centralising vendor contract management and introducing more systems integrations with aim to create a cohesive ecosystem of systems with NetSuite at the core.

“Every time we're reviewing a system that we're not using NetSuite for, the first question is, ‘we run on NetSuite, can we leverage it in some way?’”
- Chris Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer, Canstar

Using NetSuite to automate our accounts payable process has really cut down on the manual workload and freed our accounts payable team to concentrate on higher value tasks.
Chris Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer, Canstar