In today’s climate, school funding can be tough. Years of reduced funding have meant that schools, academies, and trusts alike have had to become creative and enterprising in generating extra income to make up the shortfall.
Now, with the cost-of-living crisis and economic turmoil continuing, it doesn’t seem likely that the challenges schools face will get any easier in the near future.
Yet by embracing numerous new revenue streams, educational organisations open themselves up to a new challenge - effective financial management.
It’s no secret that financial management can be a complex and time-consuming endeavour at the best of times. Add in multiple new revenue streams to track, and it can quickly become unsustainable at a school level, let alone for central trusts.
At a trust level, centralised finance teams are already responsible for numerous schools, each with their own method of managing their financial records. So much depends on working out, and building into future budgets, the funding cost and its effectiveness, per individual pupil. And this requires an accurate understanding of pupil numbers, results and financial data throughout an entire trust.
No trust can afford to budget blindly, but if financial administrators are having to reconcile data from multiple systems that can’t effectively account for numerous different revenue streams, gaining true clarity and visibility is going to be a tall order.
Add to that the complexity of the ever-pervasive manual processes, and you’re no doubt struggling to keep to deadlines while maintaining accurate reporting, accountability and effective resource management.
So what’s the answer?
For many schools and trusts, automation plays a huge role in alleviating some of the burden. But there’s only so much that automated tasks can accomplish, and these processes are largely dependent on having accurate data already in place - which is where synchronisation comes in.
The first stage to any truly effective financial management system is ditching manual processes. That means no more spreadsheets.
By now, we should all be well aware of the pitfalls of manual solutions like spreadsheets. While they’re often selected as a cheap solution, the truth is they are not nearly sophisticated enough to handle the requirements of a school’s financial team, much less that of a trust.
Spreadsheets are too reliant on manual entry, opening your organisation up to a huge risk of human error. When you’re dealing with financial data and forecasting, the last thing you want or need is to be using erroneous data to guide decision-making.
Fortunately, there are plenty of digital payment and finance options out there, from dedicated platforms such as ParentPay and Wisepay, to market leaders such as Xero and Sage. All offering a suite of reports.
However, schools and trusts need to be careful that, by adopting digital and avoiding the issues of manual process, they don’t fall into the trap of adopting too many different solutions for different sites. Doing so inevitably means you’re laying the groundwork for a whole bunch of new challenges around siloed, disconnected systems.
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.
To make the most of the opportunities that data synchronisation affords, there are 5 key areas to consider:
In a business management context, synchronisation of data provides assurance that it is up-to-date, timely and useful, helping both schools and MATs centralise financial management and form the basis for accurate reporting.
But how do you achieve this? A straightforward and modern digital solution for data synchronisation is middleware.
Middleware is software that provides common capabilities and services to different applications, which exist outside a single operating system and 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.
In essence, middleware acts as the glue to join all your systems and data silos together.
At Pebble we recognise the importance of middleware, which is why we created Trac — a solution for transaction integration.
Trac connects different finance systems to payment systems, whether these are used by schools, MATs, local authorities or businesses.
It works with a range of applications and platforms, including Pebble’s own Tali bookkeeping software and Till cashless catering 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.
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