The public education sector is becoming increasingly aligned to the private sector, with schools required to report on financials in ways that businesses do. This shift in approach has brought out new structures and new roles for the sector, with many schools choosing to form part of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) to access new funding and consolidate their resources for more efficient working.
With more complex accounting requirements, more schools and MATs are choosing to adopt accounting software to help optimise their financial processes. Sage is one of the leading providers of financial software with multiple products within their suite each suitable for different business types, but which is the most suitable for MATs? Here we evaluate the two leading education finance software solutions from Sage: Sage 200 Education and Sage Intacct for Education.
WHAT IS SAGE 200 FOR EDUCATION?
Sage 200 for Education is a modified version of Sage’s existing 200 software with features designed for the education sector. It includes a range of features for schools and academies to monitor budgets, control databases, and generate financial reports.
A step forward for schools managing their financials through spreadsheets, Sage 200 Education has a reporting suite with dashboards that presents financial data in a visual format.
Sage 200 Education is what is known as a hybrid desktop-cloud solution, meaning that it is desktop-based software solution with some cloud functionality. Unlike a true cloud solution, users of Sage 200 Education can not access remotely or access real-time data.
WHAT IS SAGE INTACCT FOR EDUCATION?
Sage Intacct for Education is a cloud accounting solution designed specifically for schools and MATs. Configured to support the changing school landscape, the cloud accounting software enables schools to budget effectively, automate processes, work across multiple locations, increase visibility, and easily report to trust stakeholders.
As a true cloud system, data is available in real-time, enabling remote teams to work collaboratively on the same data and system, regardless of their location.
Ideal for MATs or education institutions with multiple entities, Sage Intacct for Education simplifies consolidation of accounts, with the ability to manage multiple school finance’s on one system.
HOW DO THE FEATURES OF SAGE 200 EDUCATION & SAGE INTACCT FOR EDUCATION COMPARE?
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SAGE 200 AND SAGE INTACCT FOR EDUCATION
Consolidation and the Creation of Trust Accounts
Ideal for Multi-Academy Trusts, Sage Intacct for Education enables you to manage all your schools’ financials on one platform. With the consolidation of all your schools in just a few clicks, average close times are reduced by more than 70%. In comparison, Sage 200 Education is limited when it comes to consolidation, requiring manual processing to create consolidated accounts which depending on the size of the trust, can take several weeks.
When looking to add new schools or entities into the trust, finance and IT teams are often faced with a major headache. As Sage 200 Education is not cloud, it is a complex process to manually configure the new school into the trust structure. But with Sage Intacct for Education, you can easily add new schools into the trust and grow up to 400% without adding finance headcount.
Management and Control of School Budgets
Budgeting is a major problem for many schools, with both software solutions offering features to help improve the visibility of budgets. Sage 200 Education includes a range of standardised reports that allow schools to monitor budgets, but as the software is not cloud based, this is static data and can mean that people are viewing data and making decisions on data that is now outdated.
Conversely, Sage Intacct for Education offers advanced budget management, inclusive of the new intelligent spend insights feature. A fully cloud-based solution, all data is available in real-time, with the spend insights feature giving purchasers visibility of their purchases against the remaining budget to make informed purchase decisions. Designed to improve budget visibility and accountability, Sage Intacct for Education is helping MATs to better manage budgets and minimise budget deficits.
Reporting Capabilities for SOFA, DfE and ESFA Reports
With schools required to submit regular financial reports to the DfE and ESFA, both Sage 200 education and Sage Intacct for Education have reporting features that help finance teams create these reports quickly.
Sage 200 Education has reports pre-configured to enable finance teams to create standardised reports quickly. To do this, they must take a ‘snapshot’ of data and run the report on that dataset. This does not allow for real-time reporting but is usually sufficient for most finance teams. The downside of the standardised reports is that if changes are made to reporting requirements, the system must be manually reconfigured or reports manually built.
Sage Intacct also comes with pre-built reports to enable teams to run reports quickly and because the system runs data in real-time, reports are always created on the live view. Unlike Sage 200 Education, Sage Intacct for Education can be automatically updated if any changes to reporting occur. This helps gives teams peace of mind that all reports are always fully compliant and conform to the DfE Accounts Directive.
Cloud Accounting Capabilities
Both Sage 200 Education and Sage Intacct for Education are described as having cloud based features, but only Sage Intacct for Education is a true cloud accounting system.
A desktop based product, with some cloud based features, Sage 200 Education gives teams more flexibility for data access than a complete desktop product. However, it still faces several drawbacks. Switching between desktop and cloud features is manual, and data is often extracted to be manipulated. This leads to problems with data corruption, manual errors, and even data security.
For MATs that are based in multiple locations or have remote working requirements, Sage 200 Education limits the ability to be mobile and flexible. This is due to the software being desktop accessible, bound by software updates, and reliant on a server which is often expensive and difficult to maintain.
As a true cloud product, Sage Intacct for Education solves all of these problems. Delivering real-time data secured in the cloud; remote teams can work collaboratively on one system. Accessible at any time and in any location through a browser, the MAT board and LGB have instant access to critical data on the go, allowing them to always make informed decisions based on the real-time data picture.
SAGE 200 EDUCATION & SAGE INTACCT FOR EDUCATION SUMMARY
Both Sage 200 Education and Sage Intacct for Education have been equipped with tools to help schools better manage their financials.
A long standing solution for the education sector, Sage 200 Education has been used by schools across the education sector, but in more recent years has struggled to keep pace with the growing demand for schools and particularly large MATs.
Sage Intacct for Education is a new customised solution from ION, that has been designed for the evolving landscape of schools and MATs. Inclusive of a range of powerful features, Sage Intacct for Education helps MATs improve efficiency, automate workflows, and create a scalable system to allow the trust to grow.
ION is a long-standing Sage partner supporting businesses in the education sector with our specialist Sage Intacct for Education solution. For more information about our proprietary Sage Intacct for Education solution, watch our free 20-minute demo: https://marketing.ionhq.co.uk/sage-intacct-for-education-video-v2