financial process improvement for schools
Schools are unique so experience is everything
Our team have worked in the education sector for a combined 30 years, working with more than 50 non-government schools across Australia. We have worked with a variety of schools, of different sizes, faiths, and fee levels in both rural and metropolitan areas. We understand the complexities around Early Learning Centers, Out of School Hours Care and Co- Curricular activities.
As a majority of non-government schools are faith based, we understand the complications of running a commercially viable organisation whilst never compromising the religious beliefs of a school's ethos and community.
Our experience can help inform and guide schools in successfully reviewing their financial systems and prevent them from being compromised by unforeseen process issues.
It's challenging to educate the educators on the importance of corporate services and the flow on affects to school management
Finance and administration areas of schools are often overlooked, but we understand the importance of these roles in contributing to the school's overall performance.
Although school operations and environments are vastly diverse, they are all faced with similar challenges of diversifying revenue streams, securing cashflow and prioritizing expenditure under a disciplined governance structure, whilst never forgetting their main purpose - to educate students.... Sounds simple, right?
Due to wage cost restrictions, schools do not have the luxury to employ highly skilled resources, therefore robust systems and processes are critical to enable all staff to carry out their roles effectively.
New technologies and business processes are quickly changing the operations of corporate services and finance departments. First movers who change and adapt will hold a competitive advantage by improving operations and their financial performance . What does this mean for late adopters?
How does your school compare to industry best practice?
Take our free survey to find out how your school can achieve Best Practice to:
- Reduce workloads
- Improve financial reporting
- Strengthen internal controls
- Automate data entry
- Utilise available technology
school specific services
We offer a variety of specialised school services around financial process improvement
Our aim is to improve the quality, accuracy and timeliness of financial information to assist in school management.
We can identify where technology can automate and streamline processes to help your school achieve industry best practice.
Reviewing Chart of Accounts & General Ledger Structures
We understand the importance of developing an organised Chart of Accounts and the complexity of creating meaningful cost centres that can be easily managed by staff.
The Chart of Accounts creates the foundations for building useful and meaningful financial reports that can be used internally by school budget holders, the executive and the board. We advise staying within the recommended government guidelines to automate the Financial Questionnaire and other government statistical reporting requirements.
Developing Meaningful Financial Reports
It is important to create standardised internal reporting to be used by budget holders and the executive, to create accountability and transparency for financial performance. Finance Committees and Boards should receive a simplified summary version that is meaningful and accurate, where more detailed information can be given where necessary. Spreadsheet reporting should be avoided, and writing these reports in your chosen financial system ensures accuracy and efficiency.
Reviewing Debtor Systems and Debtor Management
For most schools, staying on top of parent debtors requires constant effort. Information on the status of debtors, follow up priorities and internal reporting, can greatly assist with making an Accounts Receivable role efficient and effective. Debtor management encompasses what and how the school bills, payment methods offered, information send to parents and key information stored in your debtor systems.
Effective debtor management also relies on robust school policies for enrolment, fees and fee remissions. Schools must have adequate policy that is being enforced by all staff and be diligent and take care to not send contradicting information in any parent communication.
Finance Department Reviews
Roles and positions can develop over time, so having a second set of eyes to review structures and re-invigorate finance departments can ensure roles are structured to maximize duty segregation for audit compliance.
Using our experiences to thoroughly review the structure, roles and functions, we can map information and data flows to identify bottlenecks and downtime. Clearly documenting workflows and KPIs will ensure all of the financial information is prepared in a timely manner with no double handling or mistakes.
It is critical to develop roles with streamlined workflows that produce accurate and timely financial information to assist with school performance management.
Reviewing & Documenting Financial Processes
Processes evolve over time and are changed to suit an individual staff member's workloads and skills. Current processes tend to suit people who use them, but might be confusing and time consuming for colleagues. Our experience in seeing how schools operate can greatly assist to refresh financial processes such as billing and end of month procedures, to ensure they are fast, accurate and generate meaningful financial information.
It is also important to have key financial processes documented to backup school knowledge and to enable cross-training of staff. Our processes and checklists can be critical for staff training, continuation of workflow and guaranteeing that all financial transactions are processed accurately every time. For tasks only completed once or twice per year such as fee billing and maintaining Fixed Asset Registers, having a customised documented procedure for reference is critical for mitigating business risk.
System implementation & Project Management
Whatever system your school chooses to implement, there is going to be a financial consequence from either cost, downtime or the actual data being inputted into the general ledger. When it comes to implementing financial systems, having project managers who are qualified accountants will guarantee that any business processes adopted will not compromise the integrity of your financial data.
System implementation can fall down from poorly coordinated planning and change management. We excel in planning, documentation, communication, training and providing hands-on support to ensure all stakeholders are engaged, and staff are motivated to achieve a successful outcome.
We have a holistic approach to project and change management that is sensitive to the uniqueness of school communities.
Are you ready to go Paperless?
Moving paper around a school campus is time consuming, and sending paper communications to parents and creditors is inefficient. Electronic payment and communication methods are instant and reduce postage, filing and storage issues for schools.
Schools now have the opportunity to digitalise traditional paper systems such as: purchase orders; creditor cheque payments and remittance advices; fee billing statements and reminders; and parent and community newsletters... just to name a few!
Most of these functions are available in any standard school management system, and Precision Management Accounting can help with customizing and implementing these features for you.
Going paperless sounds fantastic but there is a lot of planning and preparation involved before making the big move. Discovering where information is kept, what systems are used and which staff members are involved, can uncover many issues that need to be resolved before any system can be finalised. All document management systems must be faster and more efficient than any manual system, whilst also meeting strict control requirements from school auditors.
Electronic Purchase Orders
This is a feature of all mainstream school management systems and should be used to reduce time delays in paper processes, whilst strengthening the accuracy of financial data and controls. It is critical that budget holders have access to information to monitor how much of their budget they have spent, committed and have remaining.
Precision Management Accounting can assist with customising and rolling out electronic purchase order systems that will reduce administration time, increase controls and accountability, and improve expenditure reporting for both budget holders and accounts payable.
mobile payment technology isn't approaching - it's here
online payment portals and payment Apps
Asking parents to come into the school to pay for fees, excursions, uniforms and miscellaneous items requires a lot of time from parents and school staff, and then there is the issue of counting, storing and banking cash deposits.
Millennial parents have an expectation that payments can be made online using a mobile device. Schools can benefit from accommodating these expectations as it will result in reduced financial department workloads, process times and the incidental costs of cash management.
There are a number of readily available software applications that can be used to reduce cash transactions in schools. Precision Management Accounting have experience in these technologies and can assist with selecting and implementing system solutions that best suit your school operations.
Accruals based accounting but cashflow is critical
School accounting is unique in that it relies heavily on cashflows for financial management and budgeting despite following accrual based accounting methods.
Having worked as Business Managers and School Accountants, we understand school accounting practices, are familiar with school governance structures, and can undertake school accounting work providing detailed reconciliations and working papers.
School accounting support includes the following services:
- Developing budgets & budget models
- Enhancing accrual accounting practices
- Cashflow reporting
- Developing cashflow forecasting models
- Month end and year end reconciliations
- Financial reporting preparation
- Board/ Finance Committee reporting
Where to from here?
Take our free online School Finance Department Best Practice Survey to find out where the bottlenecks are in your financial systems and processes
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