Conquering Data Management in Higher Education Financial Reporting
Data management in higher education financial reporting presents significant challenges for Finance teams to navigate. And while some of these challenges resemble those shared by other types of organizations, higher education Finance teams must contend with many data challenges specific to their domain. More specifically, data management challenges within higher-education institutions arise from various causes, including multiple funding sources, diverse revenue streams and complex regulations.
Sources of Higher Education Financial Reporting Data Complexity
What are some of the complexities in data management that higher education Finance teams face?
One of the primary complexities for financial reporting is that higher education institutions must manage and report on multiple funding sources. Such sources can include government grants, private donations, tuition and fees, and endowment income. For each funding source, Finance teams must then follow a corresponding and unique set of regulations and reporting requirements. That variability makes it difficult for Finance teams to ensure compliance and accurate reporting.
Another complexity in data management is accommodating for diverse revenue streams common in higher education institutions. These streams can include student housing, dining services, bookstore sales and other auxiliary services. Because each revenue stream has its own set of financial transactions and reporting requirements, Finance teams face challenges when aiming to consolidate and report on the overall financial performance of the institution.
In addition to funding and revenue data, higher education financial reporting, budgeting and planning all draw on a variety of other data sources. Some of those sources include human resource data, including staff/faculty salaries and benefits, and facility data such as physical assets.
Additionally, complexities in data management for higher education financial reporting include the following:
Silos: Different departments and systems within the institution may collect and store data separately, leading to a lack of consistency and integration across the institution.
Variety: Most higher education institutions comprise various components with unique data requirements (e.g., the chart of accounts for research facilities vs. a college will significantly differ).
Security: Higher education institutions handle sensitive operational and financial information and must ensure such data is secure and protected.
Accessibility: Data can be stored in a variety of formats and locations, making access to data difficult for Finance teams during the reporting process.
Governance: Without proper governance, Finance teams can struggle to ensure data is accurate, complete and compliant with regulations.
Integration: Integrating data with other systems (e.g., student information systems, financial systems, enterprise resource planning systems, etc.) can be a complex process requiring significant IT resources.
Conquering Data Management for Higher Education Institutions
Many higher education Finance teams struggle with the complexities above and find it difficult to accurately report on the financial performance of the institution and ensure compliance with regulations. Why? The struggles mainly occur because many higher education Finance teams rely on a mix of tools, such as siloed spreadsheets, legacy corporate performance management (CPM) software and BI applications. Doing so means Finance must invest an inordinate amount of time and manual effort to manage data instead of focusing on building decision insights that benefit the institutions.
How can Finance teams overcome these challenges?
Many higher education Finance teams have answered that question with a modern CPM Finance solution. OneStream (see Figure 1), for example, enables Finance teams to conquer data complexity in higher education financial reporting by providing the following capabilities:
Seamless integration to data sources: By directly connecting to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and other data sources, OneStream provides a single source of truth for financial information and complete access to all data sources within the platform with full drill- and drill-through capabilities.
Unified platform: OneStream provides a centralized platform for financial data, making it easy for Finance teams to access and analyze financial information from various sources.
Built-in financial intelligence and governance: OneStream natively understands and manages financial data and provides Finance teams with full audit and governance capabilities. Data within the platform is controlled to ensure all users have access to only the data they are authorized to use.
Extensible dimensionality: This unique capability enables Finance teams to manage data specifically configured for individual operating units while maintaining top-level institutional standards. For example, a research facility and an academic college each have a distinct chart of accounts for budgeting, planning and reporting, but both roll up to an overall institutional version. And they do so within the same solution and user experience.
Data blending: OneStream allows customers to capture and blend detailed transactional, relational and multi-dimensional data in a single platform. This capability allows users to perform detailed driver-based planning, or comprehensive analysis and data visualization with high performance – all within a single application.
Sophisticated reporting and data visualizations: OneStream’s flexible financial reporting and analysis capabilities eliminate the need for Finance teams to waste time manually creating reports.
Want to learn more about how OneStream can empower your higher education Finance team? Download our Higher Education solution brief, or contact us for a demonstration.