It’s no secret that accounting and finance professionals in the continuing education (CE) industry have a lot of responsibilities.
From budgets and grant management to overall strategy, there are a lot of things they need to “get it right” for the financial health of the school or college.
FE institutions are often sold as “the next big thing” in software to transform their finance function, but they seldom live up to their promises or expectations.
Is your establishment hostage to its accounting and financial software?
Here are some tips to help you break free:
Financial technology in the FE sector
For many years, the education sector has experienced a ‘maturity’ in digital solutions – whether modernizing classroom equipment or facilitating distance education – enabling schools and colleges across the country to streamline their operations and provide more flexibility.
But when looking specifically at school and college accounting and finance software, it often happens that the systems in place are of the legacy variety. Many are awkward and inflexible in appearance and operation, and they often operate on a local area network (LAN) accessed by awkward virtual private networks.
In essence, it can often feel like stepping back in time when starting one of these on-premises systems, and it’s quite different from the modern, fast, and reliable software that finance professionals use everywhere else in their business. personal life.
But overhauling the entire financial infrastructure is an important decision for FE institutions, so it has to be the right one. And sadly, many are often “sold on dream” but feel disappointed with reality.
It’s also common for vendors of these archaic and un-agile systems to lock customers into long-term contracts, so it’s harder for them to walk away when they realize that the software is getting old and unable to keep up. adapt to their evolving needs. And this exploitation must stop.
Are existing systems preventing real progress?
It is no secret that educational institutions across the country are continually evolving their operations and their overall offering to students and teachers, in order to continue to provide a high quality education offering. But what about the technology behind the scenes?
Accounting and financial systems are the lifeblood of FE sites – a place to manage funding, control budgets, report, etc. – but old solutions limit the extent to which an institution can improve and streamline its processes.
Not only do long-term contracts tie sites to this rapidly aging solution, procurement teams are strained when technology requires updating, resulting in a significant additional cost, unspecified early in the process. purchase.
And this is how FE establishments are quickly taken hostage by their investments.
Feature frustrations are also a common issue with legacy technologies. For example, while Remote Desktop Access is often used with older systems because it allows staff to access a specific PC from a different location, the process can often be slow and frustrating.
Therefore, what should be quick and simple tasks, such as authorizing transactions or creating reports by department, is time consuming and inefficient. This often involves the need to export large data to Microsoft Excel and also to reconstruct the information.
In reality, a modern financial system should act as an “activator”: automate, and therefore reduce, the time spent on mundane tasks and should also offer seamless integration and flexible access from anywhere, on any device. . Fundamentally, it must meet and satisfy the individual needs of the institution and facilitate, not hinder, the productivity of staff.
Is the cloud the way forward in education?
Yes, but it depends on the type of cloud.
In truth, turning to the cloud can help solve the problems faced by many EF institutions – around flexible and agile access and headache-free cash flow management – so why legacy systems are they still in use?
Much of this could be attributed to the “fear of change” sweeping across the education sector. But while the idea of migrating accounting and financial operations may seem like a headache to implement, it can actually be done easily by working with a dedicated “real cloud” vendor who is attentive.
Unlike on-premises, on-premises solutions, the cloud does not require sites to invest and install expensive hardware, and generally has a lower risk of downtime. Yet, while scalability is also much easier with cloud solutions, it is important to seek out the “fake cloud” and avoid it.
But what exactly is the “false cloud”?
In a nutshell, this is when tech vendors take the on-premise version of the software and host it on hardware in an off-site location, which means it’s not at all a “real cloud”.
As a result, colleges can continue to use legacy software designed for LANs and PCs, not the cloud, with limited functionality, scalability, and integration capabilities. It’s called SoSaaS “Same Old Software as a Service” – pretending it’s a modern system when it isn’t.
Ultimately, while cloud solutions provide increased flexibility for educational institutions, due diligence during procurement is crucial – not only to avoid being held hostage to complex, aging, and expensive technology. to maintain, but to ensure that the tool adapts to the needs of the establishment. , and not the reverse.
The digital evolution of the education sector continues at a rapid pace and there has never been a better time to bridge the gap between the technology in place and the goals FE sites aspire to.
Only when this is achieved are these goals made possible, and FE can reap the benefits of the savvy software that commercial organizations have known for the past few years.
Paul Sparkes, Commercial Director, implicit