The changing role of the finance function

28 March 2017

Independent schools are faced with ever increasing financial challenges and demands being placed on their finance departments with pressures emanating both internally and externally.

Only delivering the traditional transactional processing service is no longer sufficient. Now finance departments need to support transformational improvement and deliver faster, more insightful management information and decision support. All this while simultaneously reducing costs in line with the national drive to reduce back office function costs is a struggle. To achieve this objective, efficiency and effectiveness improvements must succeed together.

Approach to transformational improvement

The starting point of transformation improvement commences with a review and assessment of current practices. Achieving this is accomplished by:

  • conducting a time activity analysis of finance resources;
  • surveying internal stakeholders (trustees, executives, budget holders and heads of education) capturing their view on both the ‘as-is’ state and the desired ‘to-be’ state of services delivered by finance;
  • facilitating process and function workshops to fully understand the ‘as-is’ state pain points that exist in the current finance operating model; and
  • creating a 'future state' finance operating model and the associated enhanced processes.

Download the full report which details the six specific areas a finance operating model should cover.

Key considerations - 10 questions to ask yourself

  • Is the cost of the finance function greater than 1 per cent of schools turnover?
  • Does transactional processing account for more than 30 per cent of resource time?
  • Is the IT landscape fragmented, comprising multiple and out of date non-integrated IT systems?
  • Is there heavy reliance on spreadsheets and manual data manipulation?
  • Is there a proliferation of paper based documentation and physical approvals?
  • Are there variations in the ways of working, driving non standardised processes between departments and within teams?
  • Is management information not available until more than 8-10 days after month end?
  • Is management information insightful and forward looking providing clear signposting of decision making actions?
  • Is management information appropriately detailed and flexible to meet user needs both internally and externally?

If the answer to some of these questions is not a positive one, then it's time to update your finance operating model. Once you have started to make the changes, you can really start to create more powerful outputs from the finance team and generate value for money impact for the organisation.

Download the independent schools end of term report.