Choosing excellence: do you really want an all-in-one finance system?

This article will address the rise in all-in-one finance solutions emerging on the market and the advantages and disadvantages finance managers should consider when choosing their next system.

The needs of education providers are continuing to evolve in 2024, especially when it comes to managing finances more efficiently. Today, we delve into a crucial consideration for CFOs and finance managers in the education sector — the choice between an all-in-one financial management system and a best-in-class solution. This article will address the rise in all-in-one finance solutions emerging on the market and the advantages and disadvantages finance managers should consider when choosing their next system.  

The All-in-One Temptation: A Jack of All Trades but a Master of None

The recent rise of ‘all-in-one' financial management solutions for education providers has put CFOs and Finance Managers in an interesting predicament. At first glance an all-in-one solution appears to offer education providers a neatly packaged, cost-effective solution to all their needs from finance management, to payroll, parent engagement, and budgeting software. With all their solutions rolled into one, this would eliminate the need for various contracts of differing lengths and centralise their tools into one solution. While there are advantages to an all-in-one system, it’s also crucial to weigh up the downfalls that come alongside it.  

An all-in-one system may seem attractive, but bundling various tools under one umbrella often results in a compromise on the quality of individual solutions. These systems claim to be a one-stop-shop, but in reality, they can be a jumble of products that lack the best-in-class tools necessary to support Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). Opting for an all-in-one approach can inadvertently downgrade your system, sacrificing quality for the sake of convenience. It's wise to invest in the best, ensuring each tool meets the specific needs of your educational institution.

Prioritising Integration over Quantity of Tools

Quantity doesn't always equal quality. While some systems boast numerous tools like payroll, HR, and finance, the real challenge lies in their integration. A top-tier finance system that is purpose-built for the needs of schools and trusts, such as Sage Intacct for Education, is designed to seamlessly integrate with other solutions, ensuring optimal efficiency. The key is to prioritise integration capabilities, enabling you to have the best of both worlds – a best-in-class finance system that collaborates seamlessly with other essential tools. Opting for an all-in-one system might provide you with more tools in one interface, but if the integration between them is poor, it could end up slowing you down, frustrating your team, and limiting efficiency.  

Support and Expertise Matter

Another important consideration to take on board is the level of support you'll receive with an all-in-one system. By combining multiple tools into one package, the support team's expertise is spread thin across various areas. Opting for a dedicated and certified support team, as offered with Sage Intacct for Education, ensures access to expert advice and support specific to your finance needs. Specialisation in a niche area means you get the support required to keep your financial management system running smoothly and propelling you towards your goals.  

The True Cost of Savings and Hidden Expenses

It’s also important to question whether an all-in-one system truly saves money in the long run. Implementing an all-in-one system often means sacrificing access to best-in-class tools that can save thousands annually. Sage Intacct for Education, for instance, allows you to add new schools within seconds internally, a crucial feature for growing MATs. This internal capability eliminates the need to pay external contractors thousands for adding new schools to the system. Advanced cost-saving features like these would not be available with an all-in-one system, potentially leading to substantial external contractor fees for growing trusts.  

Conclusion: Choose Excellence Over Convenience

While the allure of an all-in-one financial management system may initially cut costs and simplify contracts, it often comes at the expense of tool quality and dedicated support. Our recommendation for education providers is clear – prioritise excellence. Rather than downgrading to a lesser system with more tools, invest in a best-in-class system like Sage Intacct that seamlessly integrates with your tools, and ensures superior quality and expert support.

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