By now the dust should have settled after the 2017 Accounts Production, with the Audit, AAR, and the various online accounts submissions now complete. However, for many Academies and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) this will have been an extremely stressful and resource-intensive period, with institutions’ finance teams working hard to produce the reports required to satisfy auditors. Resourcing during this period is further stretched with lengthy offline reviews that are still commonly associated with year-end audit. These process walkthroughs take considerable time for both auditors and finance staff, who must travel between academies to collate data and perform the plethora of sample tests required to achieve the coveted clean audit report.
This is a picture still commonplace throughout the sector, however there is another way to ease the audit period. Continued advancements in Cloud computing and increasingly sophisticated software, means that finance data from multiple academies can be held in one central system, accessible by both finance teams and auditors. Within these systems data can be analysed, presented and exported (at transactional level) to an Excel file without the need for manual adjustments or a ‘meaty’ extended trial balance. A cloud-based, centralised data store eliminates the need to travel between schools and allows all audit work to be completed remotely, including the dreaded purchase order to invoice walkthrough, should a web-based Purchase Order system also be in use. The Finance Department at St Thomas More Roman Catholic Academy has improved its efficiency and streamlined many key processes as a result of adopting a centralised system. Jim Thomson, Director of Finance and Corporate Services said: “Our VAT 126 reporting is a great example of the improved efficiency. With our previous system, to compile a month’s VAT 126 report for each school took weeks, and up to 20 man-hours to identify the duplications, but with PS Financials I have it down to only two hours.”.
With the ever-increasing regulations facing Academies, it is important that they will be able to satisfy both current and future obligations. The dynamic nature of Academies, with focus on growth, efficiency and process, combined with real-term funding cuts means it vital for Academies to have systems in place capable of more advanced reporting. These additional requirements and reports, likely during an Audit and on an ongoing basis for SLT and Governors, are increasing the amount of time spent on analysis and reporting. With all these growing considerations in mind, a versatile, integrated software platform with natural consolidation for MATs is now a necessity. A system like this will save hours, if not days, of consolidation and reporting time, whilst minimising manual adjustments and the potential for subsequent human error.
Reporting was a key requirement for Wakefield College when they were evaluating new systems. “A downside with our previous system was that reports took a lot of time and effort to set up and run. For each report, we had to extract and verify data from numerous spread sheets, taking up days-worth of man hours.”, Julian Andrews at the college commented. Following their implementation of PS Financials’ software, reporting flexibility was a huge attribute for them. The college were able to utilise their unified ledger model, pull in data from across the college and effectively analyse and report on KPI’s from one data source”.
For over 15 years PS Financials (PSF) has been providing market leading Finance Software, specialising in natural consolidation and advanced reporting. This industry experience has been used to create the extensive Academy Reporting Suite which features over 150 pre-set reports. This combined with a custom, user defined query and analysis tools allows our users to create reports on an ad hoc basis and ensure that they can be saved for future use. With over 60% of all MATs using PSF, our software is tried and tested and specifically enhanced to ensure that all our MAT customers continue to drive their financial health and efficiency through the utilisation of the PS Financials Total Education Solution.
Find out more about how our Total Education Solution can help your Academy or MAT, here.