School districts and boards are faced with pressures from all angles – parents and students, teachers and unions, and government funders. It’s an ongoing challenge to manage, gain confidence and report financial data. So how do you know when your accounting system is your hindrance?
We’ve seen it many times. A school district ends up spending a great deal of time reconciling and compiling information to produce board, trustee and government reports. It’s time to stop printing useless reports, re-keying into excel and working your evenings and weekend. If you find your board is taking a long time closing a month or a year or is only able to keep up to quarterly reports (because monthly reports are impossible to do) then your accounting system could be letting you down.
In our books, good data analytics starts with a good financial system. Here are four things to think about when putting a reporting strategy together for your board.
How easy is it to find information in your financial system? Can the right people see the right data at the right time? Increasing your visibility into financial data can reduce the time it takes to find and validate your information.
Often we find that by increasing online data-visibility in your accounting system (through simple tools like filtering data or drill down from your Chart of Account) generating reports becomes faster. In addition, you have the potential of reducing unnecessary reports in your operations.
Ensure your financial system can display charts and graphs to help you understand the trends in your operations. Data insight includes readily visible information with indicators when financial performance might start to be concerning.
Good visibility includes flexibility. Data insight needs to be readily available and flexible for the different types of users in your team. Ensure your users have the ability to personalize their access to the data so they are operating the way THEY want to work.
Dashboards and reporting tools can help you find the important stories behind the numbers thanks to data visualization and the ability to drill down into charts to find source information.
Accuracy of data means you trust your data.
Accurate data always stems from better automation. Assess how many manual processes you have and how that’s impacting your data integrity. Are you finding you are reconciling information across your operations and systems? Look for opportunities to integrate your systems and leverage workflows and controls to gain confidence in your data. Increased control means less time reconciling, validating and compiling data for reporting purposes.
Sharing data across your stakeholders is critical for alignment however your stakeholders have varying levels of system access and understanding of the data. Consider different reporting insight views that align to your different stakeholders.
Look for tools with different report views and tools that support ’any device access’ as well as simpler views for your non-accounting folks that have some fiscal responsibility.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, a robust reporting tool should provide you not just data, but insights. How often have you spent hours going through spreadsheets to determine trends or find meaning behind the numbers?
Look for tools that offer data analytic tools with a high degree of flexibility for your ad-hoc analysis. The best systems ensure data is analyzed and reported on while still connected to the original data source, not taken offline and manipulated manually. This gets rid of the need for disparate, disconnected spreadsheets, where the risk of errors grows every time data is exported or edited.
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