Streamlining your MAT’s financial reporting processes can seem like a daunting and complex task, especially considering many education providers are already facing increased scrutiny and pressure for compliance, coupled with a sector-wide shortage of both people and financial skills.
With this in mind, streamlining often gets pushed to the bottom of everyone’s to-do lists, but it is actually an essential step in setting your organisation up to meet the reporting demands from the Dfe, ESFA, and governors.
Optimising your financial reporting processes as your trust continues to grow doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. There are a number of simple but effective solutions that can totally transform your team’s financial workflows into seamless processes that empower your staff, rather than frustrating them.
1. Save time by automating processes
The first step in streamlining your financial reporting is getting on top of the tedious workflows and processes that are holding you back, costing you time, and frustrating your team. With manual data entry being one of the biggest drainers of your team’s time and energy, automating these manual processes with modernised accounting software is a simple but effective place to start.
Modern accounting software with comprehensive automation tools are a straightforward way to begin automating processes that are currently run manually. With the right automation software solution, MATs can wave goodbye to the pain and inefficiency of manual data entry, and run their organisation more efficiently than ever before.
In fact, cloud-based accounting software provider Sage Intacct for Education, reports that automating mundane accounting tasks can increase efficiency up to 90%. On top of erasing the burden of repetitive and mundane data entry, automation also removes the risk of human error that comes hand in hand with running manual processes.
By removing manual data entry, a major culprit for causing human errors, your team can benefit from greater data accuracy and more time to focus on higher level work rather than hunting down and correcting mistakes.
Increased accuracy, productivity, and efficiency, are not the only benefits of automation software. Automating processes also provides a stress-free solution to a challenge faced by so many education providers: a shortage of people. Alongside the sector-wide shortage of staff and financial skills in general, workflows can often be disrupted by day-to-day challenges, such as staff illness, that leave natural gaps in human resources.
With software that fully automates accounting tasks like purchasing workflows, and approval processes, there is no need to rely on one or two staff members to manage the entire process manually. With an automated process, you no longer have to worry about staff being out of office, or simply not being able to recruit the staff in the first place — automation removes these challenges and replaces them with an optimised, accurate, and seamless workflow for a happier and more time-free financial team.
2. Improve visibility with financial dashboards
Visibility is crucial for Multi-Academy Trusts to stay organised and efficient. Effortless and user-friendly, financial dashboards are one of the best ways to improve visibility, keep on top of your financial data all year round, and make reporting easier than ever.
Where your current system may rely on hard-to-find excel spreadsheets scattered across folders and departments, financial dashboards offer your MAT a centralised and easy-to-understand overview of your financial health with just a click of a button.
Centralising data and documents with a financial dashboard allows education providers to quickly and easily view the metrics they need in organised easy-to-understand graphs and relieves them of the time spent scrolling through spreadsheets just to get to the numbers they need.
Dashboards make monitoring key metrics and performance easier than ever before, and allows MATs to track expenses, compare performance over time, and identify opportunities for growth in a matter of minutes with this improved visibility.
When it comes to dashboards, improved visibility isn’t just about showing you the key metrics, it’s also about showing the right metrics to the right people. Arming your team with a dashboard purposefully configured only with the numbers they need is a simple way to streamline previous disorganised systems that leave employees waiting around for data from other teams or departments.
Modern accounting software allows financial dashboards to be fully customised to suit the needs of your organisation and a specific user or group. This means that customised views can be configured to suit individual tasks, and also allows collaboration across teams with a centralised and shared view of the data.
A great example of how an education provider might use financial dashboards to streamline their reporting processes is by utilising the customisation features to create a dashboard purpose-built for their governors. For example, Sage Intacct Education is a cloud-based accounting solution that allows education providers to give governors read-only access to customised financial dashboards.This means that Multi Academy Trusts can offer key stakeholders, such as governors or auditors, easy access to view the data that they need at any time and from any place. Not only is this an easy way to boost transparency and compliance, remote accessibility empowers your trust to give the right numbers to the right people at all times, and removes the need to wait around for numbers to be calculated and circulated. With this newfound accessibility and visibility, financial reporting workflows should run smoother than ever before.
3. Speed up reporting with real-time insights
Is there anything financial teams dread more than chasing around team members and scrambling to find the data they need to finalise reports at the end of every month, quarter, or year?
Month end can be stressful, time-consuming, and frustrating for financial personnel who don’t have the data they need for a solid understanding of current financial performance. Eliminate the need to play the waiting game and speed up both your reporting process and the time it takes to close by using real-time data insights.
Investing in accounting software that provides real-time visibility into your MATs current financial performance is a powerful and pain-free way to streamline reporting processes. By gaining real-time visibility into where your finances stand at that very moment in time, you can eliminate spreadsheet nightmares, reduce the time it takes to close by over 70%, and create a shared financial reporting environment where everyone remains on the same page at all times.
Cloud-based accounting solutions even offer users the freedom and remote-access to easily reach these insights at any point and from any device. For example, Sage Intacct for Education is a cloud-based platform that doesn’t require a VPN login or manual installation on a device, unlike the majority of legacy software. This means that if an education provider needs to quickly check numbers or data, they have the freedom to do so from any desktop, tablet, or phone, regardless of whether they are in the office or working remotely.
With cloud-based automation-driven technology, your data remains up to date, easily accessible, and report-ready at all times of the financial year. Real-time insights can be at your fingertips with just the click of a button, and MAT’s can generate accurate user-friendly reports ready for circulation in minutes. Empowering your team with real-time data significantly reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to close, and offers them the freedom to focus their efforts on more purposeful projects.
4. Boost compliance and consistency with prebuilt reports
Streamlining your financial operations and reporting processes can sometimes wreak havoc within your workflows. Taking steps to boost consistency will not only increase your MAT’s compliance levels, but also help make the financial report running process as smooth and seamless as possible.
An easy step to boost both your compliance and consistency is ensuring you have a good dependable protocol in place when it comes to reporting. Utilising prebuilt reporting templates is a worthwhile investment to achieve this.
Consistency is key when it comes to your team’s ability to produce regular high quality data and ensure compliance to mandatory ESFA reports. Accounting software not only cuts the processing time to compile these reports, automation also boosts compliance by removing the need for manual calculations and data entry that often leave room for human errors.
Alongside automated data entry, modern accounting software allows MATs to also automate their financial reports into a visual dashboard or coherent and accurate reports for stakeholders. For example, with Sage Intacct for Education’s dashboards and reporting, education providers can compare performance and operational statistics at any time and take advantage of 150 prebuilt financial report templates. Purpose-built to ensure both compliance and consistency, prebuilt reports utilise SOFA functionality and inbuilt DfE general ledger codes that can be individually configured to the requirements of each school.
Using predefined reports compiled with real-time insights will standardise and streamline the reporting process itself, and make high quality regular reports readily accessible at any time. Taking this one measure will transform your reporting process from frantic, stressful, and time-consuming, into a case of merely clicking a button to run a report and arm your team with the data they need for success.
Streamlining your MAT’s financial reporting processes is an essential and important step in setting up your schools and your team for success. Whilst streamlining may sound like a series of excel headaches, many of the biggest financial bugbears stressing out your team can be resolved in four simple steps:
- Automating time-consuming processes
- Configuring dashboards for better visibility
- Using real-time data to reduce processing time and boost efficiency
- Running prebuilt reports for consistency and compliance time after time
Investing in a cloud-based accounting software with comprehensive automation, dashboard, and reporting tools will ensure that taking each of these steps is as stress-free and seamless as possible while setting up both your team and your institutions for financial success.