Waterloo Catholic District School Board began as a one-room schoolhouse in 1836 and has grown to be the 8th largest Catholic school system in Ontario. Their mission is that as disciples of Christ, they will educate and nurture hope in all learners to realize their full potential to transform God’s world.
Waterloo Catholic DSB began their journey with Sparkrock over 10 years ago. They were faced with increasingly complex financial reporting requirements, and the school board struggled with its aging ERP software, which its staff found difficult to use. As a public sector organization, Waterloo Catholic DSB makes transparency and accountability a high priority. As a result, the organization’s demand for financial reports was and is high. Its reporting needs were also becoming more complex due to changing accounting standards and new legislation aiming to promote accountability. Technology tools had played an important role in helping the school board meet these needs, but the aging BAS technology it was leveraging began creating challenges for the board as it grew. “We were using technology implemented in 1983. It was functional, but we continually had users complaining about how difficult it was to use,” said Shesh Maharaj, CFO/Superintendent of Corporate Services and Treasurer. “Our users also had difficulty reading the data that was generated by the system. As our reporting needs grew, we found ourselves up against the wall in terms of what our old system could provide. Clearly something had to give.”
The school board was also concerned about security issues around its existing solution. The product had been slated for an upgrade for six years and as the upgrade was yet to materialize, they felt the DOS-based solution was not providing the level of security Waterloo Catholic required for its confidential information. With these needs in mind, the organization decided to seek out a business application solution that would be easy to use, cost effective, and could meet its complex reporting requirements efficiently and securely.
In 2004 Waterloo Catholic began working with Sparkrock (then Altus Dynamics) on implementing a business application solution. Nicola Dickinson, one of Sparkrock’s founding partners, commented that, “As is the case with many education organizations, Waterloo Catholic had strict budgetary parameters for its new solution. This only reinforced for us the fit of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV technology to their needs, as the solution is very economical.” Sparkrock then began to work with Waterloo Catholic to ensure the solution fit precisely with the school board’s needs. The seamless integration between Sparkrock and Waterloo Catholic’s other IT systems also helped ensure that financial information was easy to access any time. Drill-down functionality and on-the-fly filters in the Sparkrock solution helped Waterloo Catholic transform budget tracking documents from passive summaries to practical instruments that offer precise statements with fully updated information. The school board now has complete financial insight across the organization so it can make timely and informed decisions—with data from both the current fiscal year and previous years. But the feature of the solution that made the it stand out furthest above competitive products was that it works like other familiar Microsoft products, helping reduce the time required to learn how to use the software and fuel Waterloo Catholic’s productivity.
Waterloo Catholic immediately felt the benefit of their new solution in 2004. “With the help of Microsoft Dynamics NAV we have revamped our budgeting process. Tasks that used to take days to complete now take only hours,” said Maharaj. “The difference is truly amazing. We got our weekends back!”
Budget management was simplified for Waterloo Catholic with the help of Sparkrock’s Finance solution and the cash management features. The solution automates bank account management tasks, as well as the entire check-writing process. The school board now also has more visibility into its budgetary processes with bank reconciliation tools and bank account statistics reports. With the ability to import cleared cheques into the business management system automatically, tracking of budget spending has become easier for the organization while data entry requirements have significantly decreased.
Waterloo Catholic also became able to email purchase orders, which allowed them to eliminate the need for a dedicated fax line, a modem, and software which was used to manage the faxing process under their old system. Simplifying the process has helped the school board to realize both cost and time savings as administrative staff can now focus on more strategic tasks.
The ease of use of the new solution provided the school board’s staff with the ability to not only generate more reports in a significantly streamlined and quicker way, but it also helped them make sense of the results. Where previously staff members looking for specific types of information would have needed the assistance of an experienced report writer to generate a more complex report, today they are comfortable performing such tasks on their own.
“The user-friendly interface is the biggest immediate benefit we’ve seen,” said Maharaj in 2004. “With our new system, transactional data is easy to read, budgets are easier to monitor, and users’ understanding of financial data is increasing across the organization. Our staff are now comfortable generating reports on their own to find the data they need—it’s a huge step for us.”
Waterloo Catholic DSB has not looked back since their original purchase of NAV 4.0 from Sparkrock back in 2004. Over 10 years later, Waterloo Catholic still believes Microsoft Dynamics NAV provided by Sparkrock is still the right choice for a sound financial and accounting management system for their board and the 55 schools they service.
Want to hear more? Below is a customer testimonial from Laura Isaac, the Senior Manager of Finance at Waterloo Catholic District School Board, from back when Sparkrock was still called Altus Dynamics: