Bristol, UK, 7th February 2012 – Symmetry, a specialist financial management systems and services provider to the public sector has just announced the results of an annual survey of over 270 financial directors at FE colleges across the UK. The findings reveal that over half (51%) of the Finance Directors interviewed said that their top goal over the next 12 months would be ‘cost-cutting’ and ‘increasing efficiency’ to cope with budget and funding cuts, and that at least several colleges questioned would be turning to shared services to help address this challenge.
A growing interest in shared services & cloud
Whilst many believe the finances of the college would present a significant challenge in 2012, there is growing interest in how collaborative strategies and cloud-based technology can contribute to lowering costs and increasing efficiencies. 13% of FE institutions were actively looking at shared services, whilst 11% were investigating how cloud-based technologies could be used. In parallel, the latest IT Trends 2012 Report from SOCITM found that the top areas of efficiency programmes for the public sector are shared services and self-service.
Sales and Operations Director at Symmetry, Julian Sayer commented, “As budgets continue to be hit, it comes as no surprise that college FDs are focusing on cost-reduction and getting the most from their resources. Other external factors that appear to be affecting the finance department are the challenges of maintaining or increasing student numbers, particularly in the face of growing competition from other colleges.
“Colleges are looking for solutions to ease the pressures on already stretched finance departments. Embracing shared services can help to bridge budget deficits by introducing greater efficiency in a short space of time. With no large capital investment, cloud-based accounting technology can soon deliver cost-savings through greater functionality, integration and automation, but more excitingly it enables colleges to take advantage of a range of services such as data entry, debt management or monthly reporting. Shared Services isn’t just about technology it is about making life easier for finance teams by shouldering the burden of day-to-day responsibilities and delivering these in a more cost-effective manner.”
Some colleges not aware of what courses are profitable
The survey revealed that there are still areas where system functionality could help with financial control. Whilst almost two thirds of colleges felt that they understood what courses were profitable, a fifth did not have the tools or resources internally to measure the true cost of delivery and the return on investment.
Purchasing needs to be automated
When asked if there was any way in which they would like to automate the finance function, the most popular response was to facilitate purchasing with the likes of on-line payments, automated invoicing, e-purchasing and invoice scanning.
Staff shortages may provide additional challenges
A further 7% admitted that staffing and workload issues as a result of redundancies and smaller headcounts would also present additional challenges.
In particular, Scottish Colleges are faced with proposals for regionalisation which will lead to mergers or more collaborative working between colleges.
Symmetry supports in excess of 15,000 users in over 85 education establishments across the UK. For further information on accounting solutions that support shared services and working in the cloud, please call 0117 9006262 or visit www.symmetry.co.uk
Symmetry helps forward thinking education finance departments stay ahead of the game, achieving cross- campus efficiencies through the use of accounting software and services developed specifically for the education sector.
Symmetry deliver a wide range of finance services based on the company’s intuitive product, Financials, a fully integrated financial and management accounting solution which supports in excess of 15,000 users in over 75 colleges and 13 higher education establishments across the UK. Financials is available either as a cloud service or implemented as a browser based solution on site.
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