With the education sector facing increasing pressure, Anwen Robinson, UK Operating Officer at TechnologyOne explains how cloud technology can streamline financial operations.

Over the last few years the education sector has seen some drastic changes, many of which have left colleges and universities coming up against challenges such as increasing regulations and even tighter budget restrictions. All the while trying to efficiency run operations, without compromising on the quality of education

With shrinking budgets, aging facilities and rising costs, many institutions of education are adopting cloud as a way to cope with the variety of challenges being thrown at them. Similar to today’s businesses, colleges and universities have limited funds, so cloud offers a more cost-effective and efficient way to deploy IT services – without the required maintenance and upgrade costs.

It’s not uncommon for colleges and universities up and down the country to still be relying on old systems and paper-based process. As an alternative the Cloud provides a way to cut infrastructure costs and introduce a new model which has the potential to transform the way universities operate. With cloud providers maintaining and automatically updating software, it allows colleges and universities to focus on their core business rather than supporting complex IT infrastructure.

Streamlining operations

With education institutions under pressure to gain efficiencies and improve services, cloud can help to increase financial transparency, streamline reporting and amalgamate information. By capturing financial data across all departments, colleges and universities can efficiently respond to trends and requests as they develop.

For instance, spikes in course demand, tracking changes in enrolment, fundraising efforts and approval of research grants can allow organisations to make data-informed decisions that support the organisation.

Monitoring active research project progress against set milestones assists universities in their resource and management efforts and highlights project revenue opportunities related to specific proposals.

Simplifying the capture and retrieval of financial information enhances decision making and allows universities to remain nimble and agile, all the while reinforcing the benefits of instant access to easily understood, real-time information.

More and more finance departments are playing a larger role in centralising business information and supporting decision making. Now more than ever, it’s important for the finance function to have access to real-time data. SaaS offers many benefits to universities looking to streamline their workflows and harness real-time information.

The technology offers much greater mobility than traditional software offerings, and applications can be used across any compatible device in any location. This provides a powerful tool for real-time decision making and empowers the finance function to support the strategic aims of the organisation – whilst safe-guarding the bottom line.

Enhancing productivity and collaboration

As well as simplifying workflows and operations, financial and accounting SaaS can also help colleges and universities to improve their overall organisational performance and reduce back-office costs. As many SaaS applications are accessed through browsers, the learning curve for users is not so steep. This means that staff can be productive almost straight away, with little or no need for training.

Increasingly colleges and universities are turning to enterprise SaaS because it offers a wide variety of functions in a simpler, faster and more flexible solution, with improved layers of security and support.

In fact, renowned universities such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have adopted SaaS as a way to standardise and automate business processes, consolidate legacy systems and integrate mobile device compatibility for processes such as online expenses and authorisations. This increased level of mobility affords LSE and other education institutions with the opportunity to work in various locations, and facilitates the access of financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. This increases levels of business agility, empowers university staff and raises productivity.

This level of flexibility can give universities using SaaS a real advantage, as well as the opportunity to scale services to fit their needs. Ultimately, the reliability, flexibility and cost of financial SaaS technology makes it a successful solution for increasing the efficiency of the university finance function.

Looking ahead, FE and HE organisations that invest in this technology and lead the paperless charge will pull ahead of the competition, in terms of productivity, revenue and reputation. Implementing a robust, end-to-end solution will be a key component in remaining agile.

As a result, enterprise SaaS solutions will be at the heart of the education finance function – harnessing real-time data and supporting business decisions.

Anwen Robinson, Operating Officer, TechnologyOne

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