Schools today face financial pressures like never before.
Years of reduced funding have meant that schools, academies, and the trusts that often oversee them, have had to become creative and enterprising in generating extra income to make up the shortfall.
But with these new revenue streams comes a new challenge: effective financial management. Tracking and allocating income manually can quickly become unmanageable even at school level, and for trusts it’s a complete non-starter.
Automation goes some of the way to solving the problem, but there’s another stage which really unlocks efficiency: synchronisation.
From Manual to Multiple?
As a traditional tool for recording and updating financial data, the spreadsheet has severe limitations. It’s too reliant on manual entry, and is therefore prone to human error.
Many schools and trusts are moving away from the use of spreadsheets but the use of them as a familiar and convenient tool persists.
The market for financial management systems is growing, with educational establishments applying business models to their financial administration and how they manage payments. These systems include dedicated platforms such as ParentPay and Wisepay, as well as PS Financials, Xero and Sage.
By solving one set of problems around manual entry, schools and trusts may be laying the groundwork for a whole bunch of new challenges around duplication of effort, involving multiple platforms.
If schools and trusts aren’t synchronising their digital systems, then they could be creating more barriers to efficiency. Using multiple platforms, which aren’t in sync, means duplication of effort. This wastes time, but also can leave automated systems more open to error.
MATs in particular rely on data from a variety of sources and sites for their management accounting.
The Role of Management Accounting
In its guidance to MATs, the government emphasises the importance of good management accounting practices.
It advises that chief financial officers of trusts should automate financial management processes wherever possible. To do this they need easy access to multiple data streams, and data they can trust to be accurate and up to date. Whilst the guidance does not specifically mention other schools, the same advice should be taken on board.
Automation of financial data should enable this, but only if there is proper synchronisation of data that comes from multiple sources.
What are the Challenges of Data Synchronisation?
There are five major challenges when it comes to effective data synchronisation:
In a business management context, synchronisation of data provides assurance that it is accurate, timely and useful.
For both schools and MATs, synchronised data helps centralise financial management and forms the basis for accurate reporting.
A modern, digital solution for synchronisation of data is middleware, providing systems with dashboard reporting capabilities.
How Does Middleware Work?
Middleware is software that provides common capabilities and services to different applications, which exist outside a single operating system.
It connects applications, data, and users.
This is especially useful where you have multiple users, sources and means of processing data, often across different, remotely located sites.
With the growth of numerous cloud-native applications, there is the potential for multiple infrastructures to need to interact with each other.
This is a digital equivalent of the sort of complex, multi-site arrangements that MATs in particular have to manage.
Middleware acts as the glue to join it all together.
At Pebble we recognise the importance of middleware, which is why we created Trac — a solution for transaction integration.
What Does Trac Do?
Trac connects different finance systems, whether these are systems used by schools, MATs, local authorities or businesses.
It works with a range of applications and platforms, including Pebble’s own Tali software and Till Point Of Sale system. Through our partner programme partners can also use our Trac API to connect data securely and safely for 3rd party applications.
This provides an integrated infrastructure, which coordinates automated data from multiple sources and transactions:
It also acts as a vital connecting point and anchor for managing data for various reporting streams:
There are a range of benefits to synchronisation of data, and to applying a software solution that also adds value:
For more information about Trac and how it can help you synchronise your data, please contact the Pebble team today.
Want to know more? Leave your details and we’ll be in touch.
Discover everything you need to know about claiming GIft Aid for your organisation with this free ebook.
See how much Tali can help you to maximise donations…
Gift Aid Eligible
Gift Aid generated
in a year
Discover how Pebble's software tools can help you manage your school’s finances and payments.