Using data to bridge the gap between attainment and good financial control

There is a lot of performance data available, from RAISE Online and OFSTED inspection data, through to data that schools manage within their own systems, and it’s becoming more important than ever to be able to draw insight from that data with speed and ease. Schools will have many questions from a range of stakeholders - How are pupils progressing?  What is our financial position?  How are attainment gaps being reduced?  What intervention strategies need to be put in place, and when?  We’re all too aware that there are only a finite number of hours in the day, and that teachers are under pressure to make the best use of the time available to improve outcomes for their students. So the question becomes: how can we input, format and analyse raw data to make it meaningful, and get these questions answered?

Modern Business Intelligence (BI) solutions provide the opportunity to link multiple and varied sources of data to help head teachers, educators and financial managers make better decisions in a more efficient way. PS Financials and a range of Microsoft applications work together in consolidating financial, MIS and timetable data in order to gain terrific insight into the effect of investment vs. return when compared to outcomes, attainment levels and other areas of interest.

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Used effectively, BI can help schools start to do some really interesting things. For example, you may wish to make comparisons between different departments or perhaps between two Academies in a single multi-academy trust (MAT) - or even a comparison between similar geographic regions. Easy to use features let you examine the data the way you want to see it so that you can gain insight, and make decisions in a proactive way rather than perhaps looking at historical trends in financial data or pupil attainment.

The example of combining the timetable data with the financial data might be foreign to many – perhaps because they have historically been the responsibility of two separate stakeholders within a school – a head teacher typically looking after the timetable, and a bursar or finance director typically looking after the finances. Additionally, other users in the school will often be using different features, depending on their roles and achieving any commonality between the systems especially when combined with MIS data has been very challenging.

Everyone is using systems differently; few are using them effectively.

Technically, schools have been faced with the prospect of managing large volumes of data on local servers which has meant that users from all locations can’t access the same data that they need. Increasingly, with the advent of the Cloud and modern BI solutions we can now start to address these challenges that our education customers are facing.

Working in partnership with PS Financials and their customers, Creative Education Academies Trust (CEAT) and Greenwood Academies Trust (GAT), we are starting to show how you can overcome the challenges faced in bridging the gap between attainment and financial control. Using cloud based presentation tools, such as Power BI, head teachers, governors, financial managers and a number of other stakeholders, will all be able to access the same data from anywhere, at any time.

Power BI

Power BI is a standalone Microsoft application which allows you to use familiar tools such as Excel to combine multiple data sources and provides easier visualisation by presenting them on a dashboard, making it easy to get answers and make better decisions, faster. Long gone are the days of going to the head teacher for academic performance, the business manager for financial input and teachers for attendance; Power BI collates this for you and therefore provides greater operational efficiency for schools, colleges and universities alike.

You don’t have to learn a new interface or be a business intelligence expert to get the most out of these tools. The familiarity that many people already have using applications like Excel will mean that that access to this data, and the insights that we’re describing here will make it simple for all users.

And the best bit? Power BI is available at no cost as part of an Office 365 for Education implementation, meaning that every school, college and university can take advantage of all the scenarios we have discussed in this blog post.

On 25th November 2015, PS Financials will be in Birmingham at the Academies Show, sponsoring the Financial Management Zone, demonstrating how their award winning Financial Management Software can help you gain control of the finances in your Academy or Multi Academy Trust. Together with Microsoft, PSF will also be demonstrating how this can be complemented by Power BI, a familiar tool at no cost which can ask exploratory questions and help you make better decisions. To find out more or register for this event, go to the Academies Show website.

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