Making Better Financial Decisions in Education
Due to the organizational complexity at many higher education institutions, finance management can be daunting. With a goal of more efficiently managing its finances, a prestigious private university sought a single integrated solution that could streamline and standardize the budgeting and planning process for its various units, from academic departments and professional schools to housing and museums. In addition, its finance team wanted quick and easy access to the data to manage its budgeting and forecasting.
After considering multiple enterprise solutions in the market, the university implemented Kaufman Hall’s Axiom Software—an intuitive, flexible, and powerful budgeting and planning platform—to meet its requirements. Axiom streamlined the university’s budgeting process with highly automated workflow capabilities that eliminated the pitfalls and chaos of stand-alone spreadsheets. Also, the software offered configurable, Excel-based models that could easily be adapted to a specific department’s needs, along with powerful drill-down and drill-through capabilities, enabling ad-hoc analysis for end users. Today, the many diverse programs and operating units of the university are integrated onto one system for a complete overall financial picture. “Our business is concentrated on helping colleges and universities make better financial decisions during a time when the business model of higher education is facing unprecedented challenges,” says Kermit S. Randa, CEO of Kaufman Hall—a leading provider of financially centered software tools for companies across industries.
Due to the shared governance model in higher education, finance professionals today need to be able to present clear, concise information about the current financial state as well as better analytics for new proposed alternative courses of action. Focusing on this niche spectrum of education, Kaufman Hall helps the higher education industry improve financial sustainability. Its Axiom Higher Education Suite provides budgeting and financial planning solutions that streamline the budgeting process, making it faster and more efficient across departments, functions, and schools. Data aggregation being one of its key benefits, the software enables institutions to compile data from multiple sources (GL, HR, and Student Information Systems) into the budget, saving time and providing them with a 360-degree view of finance data. End users can quickly and easily write ad-hoc reports and drill through to transactional levels of detail. Additionally, it enables higher education institutions to ditch disjointed, siloed Excel spreadsheets and shorten their budget cycles.
For instance, when University College London’s (UCL) budgeting and forecasting processes became extremely time-consuming, Axiom shortened its budgeting cycle by decreasing the amount of time spent on data aggregation and manual reporting. According to Julian Carter, former Senior Systems Accountant, UCL, “Axiom has allowed us to really improve our budgeting and reporting processes. The turnaround time between submission, consolidation and review of budgets and forecasts is now immediate, enabling refinement to happen quicker and the end results to be available earlier—crucial, as internal deadlines are always very tight.”
Along with compiling data from disparate sources, Axiom Tuition Planning, a module in the Axiom Higher Education Suite, enables institutions to better predict tuition and fee revenue by modeling an unlimited number of tuition rates and fees. Colleges and universities can then connect tuition planning with operational budgets and long-range plans.
To facilitate future development, Kaufman Hall plans to invest in its higher education solutions. “Today, we help our clients to engage in true enterprise planning with robust workflows, role-based security, and automated report production that can support centralized and decentralized models,” notes Randa. Going forward, “we want to focus on the user experience and leveraging the latest cloud technologies available to us, including scalable data models, predictive analytics, and machine learning. Taking it further, we are also interested in applying robotic process automation to the many manual processes in use today in higher education finance,” he ends.
Apart from the Axiom Higher Education Suite, Kaufman Hall also provides management consulting services like financial process design; planning and analytics; mergers, acquisitions and partnerships; and treasury and capital markets.