Creating Internal Controls, Reducing Risk of Fraud
A department within a local medical college performs ongoing research projects that need to be billed to constituents both within and outside of their institution. Their process was previously completely managed in word processing documents and spreadsheets. These systems provided them no internal control and exposed them to potential fraud. It also made it difficult to manage and collect outstanding payments.
Our solution centered on implementing an automated billing system integrated with an accounts receivable system. This new system established necessary internal controls. Secured access was then granted only to those individuals having the authority to generate billing activities for the department. Additionally, an automated integration process was created allowing billing activities to be transmitted to the institution’s master system, eliminating the need to re-enter data.
Together, these solutions solved their challenges by creating internal controls, reducing the risk of fraud and even eliminated hours spent with manual data entry.
Simple Solutions Solving Reporting Complexities
Higher education institutions controlled by state governments generally need to report their financial activities on a cash basis. As a small business operating within the confines of a learning institution, we find our clients often would prefer to analyze their business on an accrual accounting basis, recognizing revenue and expenses when they are booked rather than waiting for payment to occur.
Often the institution’s financial reporting system does not support this scenario instead these departments use tools such as spreadsheets. They manually manipulate their financial data in order to provide the desired financial reports they need to make their department run.
We have solved this problem for several departments within higher education institutions by working with them to implement a standalone general ledger solution. What makes this solution work is the flexibility to emulate the higher education institution’s chart of account structure while providing seamless integration with the institution’s master system. The integration populates their standalone system with financial data generated by the institution (such as payroll and accounts payable activities).
Now our clients have the best of both worlds! They are able to continue reporting in a manner meeting the institution’s fiscal reporting requirements while having the information needed to effectively manage their business run.
Streamlining Labor Intensive Budget Processes – Reducing Errors
Higher education institutions are budget-driven and the budgeting process is oftentimes complicated. A variety of individuals within a given department all have responsibility for their portion of the overall department’s budget. Somewhere along the line, someone (generally in the finance department) needs to take all of the various inputs received and collate them into a comprehensive budget document.
In nearly every case, budgets are managed using a series of spreadsheets, with data manually re-entered into a department-wide budget document. This budget data is often touched numerous times, with initial budgets being revamped as cuts are implemented and dollars re-allocated. The manual process is labor-intensive, time-consuming and prone to error.
Our solution was simple. We recommended our clients implement a web-based collaborative budgeting tool, no matter who was involved in the budgeting process; everyone entered their data in the same system. Security controls were put in place to screen user access and provide only the budget numbers they should see.
The user interface is easy for non-financial people to navigate and understand. Innumerable hours are saved by the finance team as they no longer need to consolidate budget inputs from a variety of sources and are easily able to roll-down budget adjustments.
Costs and expenditures managed through secure data mart
A higher education institution needed a better way to manage cost and expenditures. With over 100 departments, each department chair needed to be able to not only see the actual revenue and expenses attributed to their department, but also the commitments made and how those expenditures compare to budget. The ability for users to answer their own questions by drilling into the detail, as well as providing dynamic security were also key drivers in the project.
Our professionals were able to address these issues by designing a data mart capturing key information from their ERP system and putting it together in a way that made the information useable and actionable. Using SQL Server Integration Services to transform the data and SQL Server Analysis Services to manage the dynamic security; each person can see the data relating to their department(s), and nothing else. The information was delivered through drillable reports developed in SQL Server Reporting Services, further leveraging the investment they already made in SQL Server.