The backbone of your school community, efficient financial management is essential to the ongoing success of your school. In light of this, you’ll need to make sure that the financial management software you choose to support your Bursary is flexible enough to mould to your current processes and effective enough to help inform key decision-making and advance your school’s strategic direction.

But, with so many platforms available in today’s market, how do you know which finance system is the right one for you?

Well, look no further. We’ve devised a checklist of just 6 questions you need to ask when thinking about choosing a financial management system for your school.

1. Is it cloud-based?

15 years ago, we released the first school management information system (MIS) that’s entirely cloud-based. Since then, there’s been a rise in the popularity of cloud-based solutions for schools and there’s no reason that expectation shouldn’t transfer into technology that supports you with your finances. The value of being able to access key school financial information 24/7, without having to be onsite and logged into a school computer, can’t be underestimated – particularly when the modern working environment often means that hours extend beyond the 9 to 5, and in case you face potential temporary school closures. In providing your Finance Team with fully remote access, you can ensure they can continue to operate as normal through any circumstance.

2. Does it integrate with your management information system?

Having two systems that don’t integrate with one another increases the administrative time involved with completing your finances, having to input the same data twice into two separate systems. This, in turn, increases the risk of human error when duplicating this information. If you ensure that your finance system syncs data seamlessly with your MIS in real-time, you can ensure that you’ll only be accessing the most accurate financial insights and will reduce the workload involved in keeping them updated.

3. Does it offer flexible payments and fee billing?

One of the most stand-out elements a school needs to be incorporated into their finance system is the option for flexible payments and fee billing.

As one of the most significant aspects of an accounting system that differs from those used in the business sphere, something custom-built for the Education sector, like our Fee Billing module and iFinance system, is made to support you with these specific billing and invoicing requirements.

We would advise looking for functionality that enables your Bursary to generate bills and add charges in several different ways for specific applicants, current students and alumni. A truly rounded accounting system will also offer you split fee billing features, enabling different parents and/or legal guardians to pay a percentage of the school fees for an individual student.

It would also be beneficial to have a system that allows you to amend and share invoices with parents and suppliers easily. One such example, the iFinance accounting system links with our Parent Portal, so parents can make payments and view their invoice history and statements in one secure online location.

4. Does it include substantial reporting functionality?

Another hugely significant aspect of any accounting system is its ability to generate top-level and more granular reports to share with key stakeholders across your school.

A system that offers real-time reporting and interactive dashboards that you can share with your Senior Leadership Team would be a distinct bonus, as they will then be able to explore these reports at their own convenience, drilling down into the information they most need to know about to help support them with strategic decision-making.

Something else that’s worth bearing in mind is how long it takes to generate a series of accounting, consolidation and business intelligence reports from scratch each month, term and/or year. So, a financial management system that provides you with in-built reports that can be customised depending on their audience and are adaptable depending on the data you want to include, could be an important time-saving solution.

This is one of the reasons we’ve ensured that iFinance comes with over 250 in-built reports and dashboards which can be predefined and customised, profiled by user. These can then be exported to Word, PDF or Excel to enhance the shareability with key stakeholders.

5. Will it support with financial auditing?

Every school needs to meet a series of financial auditing requirements and, to make your lives easier, it would help if you had a system behind you that could not only support you with these but help provide demonstrable evidence that you meet each of these requirements.

To do this, we’d recommend looking for a system that not only houses purchase invoices and sales invoice documents on the Sales and Purchase ledgers but also pushes them into the nominal ledger. This will save analysis time and stop auditors asking for physical copies of invoices.

This is where having a cloud-based fee billing solution will be another advantage. It means that auditors can access read-only versions of your accounts, reports and documents without being onsite.

This affords key personnel the flexibility to work from home, keeping your finances ticking over and fully audited through any scenario.

6. What system support is on offer?

As much as we’d love everything to work flawlessly all the time, sadly this is never the case. That’s why it’s so important to have an MIS and Finance System provider who is transparent whenever any issues arrive and have the capacity to address them quickly and effectively.

You can look for this by checking if they have a dedicated Help Desk team, a Customer Account Manager who will look after your school, or other support functions in place to make sure you feel fully supported.

We hope this will help you find the right financial management system for you, but if you have any questions then please get in touch.