Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation (SASC) operates 14 schools that together provide education for more than 10,000 students. By running the schools’ day-to-day finances from a central office, SASC allows teachers and principals to focus on education. The Corporation wanted to replace its specialist student and financial administration package, which caused too much unscheduled downtime, was based on outdated technology and had limited reporting capabilities. Taking a best-of-breed approach, SASC and Microsoft Certified Partner Acumen Alliance implemented Microsoft® Dynamics™ GP for its finances and integrated the system with a new student administration package. The new system is reliable, robust, scalable and easy to use, helping reduce total cost of ownership. It provides powerful reporting capabilities and allows SASC to add new functionality as needed.
The Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation (SASC) was founded by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in 1947 as a body to establish and operate Anglican schools that offer high-quality, financially accessible secular and religious education. It currently runs 14 schools and provides education for more than 10,000 students. SASC’s 18 accounts staff maintain the payroll, banking, creditors and financial reports for each school, allowing school principals to focus on educational issues. SASC had been using a specialist school administration software package, which was produced locally and tailored to the requirements of each customer. It provided a broad structure to handle school finances and student administration – everything from basic contact details to academic reports and attendance records. However, schools found the application difficult to use and, as a result, maintained a variety of decentralized databases, spreadsheets and paper files. “The old school administration system was based on 20-year-old technology with an MS- DOS® look and feel,” says Greg Bridge, Chief Financial Officer at SASC. “It was very inflexible and not very robust. It had limited reporting capabilities and it was hard to extract the data we needed. Just getting financial statements was a time-consuming process. “Whenever we needed to do anything out of the ordinary, we had to commission the vendor to amend the program. This support was costing us a lot of money.” After a thorough selection process, SASC chose a new student administration application that lacked a financial component. “We actually saw this as a good thing,” says Bridge. “After our experience with the previous system, we were hesitant to put all our eggs in one basket. Installing best-of-breed solutions from two vendors would allow us to spread our risk.” With its student administration package in place, the search was on for a new financial management system. “In my previous job, I worked as a liquidator and I wound up a lot of companies that were developing accounting packages,” says Bridge. “I very much wanted to invest in a product that was going to be around for a long time. We also needed a partner with experience in the education sector to help us find an appropriate application.” After considering products from a number of vendors, SASC decided on a financial management solution from Acumen Alliance, a Microsoft Certified Partner with extensive experience in education and financial software. “SASC needed a system that had very strong reporting capabilities, for individual schools and consolidated across its whole portfolio,” says Winton Gibson, Director of Microsoft Business at Acumen Alliance. “Although the administration is centralized, SASC still needs to maintain separate sets of accounts for each school.” With three new schools in the planning stages, the Corporation was also seeking a system that could scale to meet future needs and was flexible enough to expand into other areas, such as procurement, if required.
Acumen Alliance recommended a financial management solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP, a comprehensive business-management solution built on the highly scalable and affordable platform of Microsoft technologies. This cost-effective solution helps organizations around the world manage and integrate finances, e-commerce, supply chain, manufacturing, project accounting, field service, customer relationships and human resources. Acumen started implementing the new system based on Microsoft Dynamics GP in October 2003 and had it ready for the start of the new school year in February 2004. “Acumen was very committed to completing the project within the time frames and action plan they developed, despite whatever hiccups happened along the way,” says Bridge. The first phase of the implementation involved designing the system based on feedback from a series of interviews and workshops with relevant people in SASC and the schools. Acumen then built the basic system and started customizing it to integrate with the new student administration system and meet the design it had developed. “Migrating the data from the old system into the new was a significant component of the exercise because SASC needed to retain its full transaction history and general ledger payables and receivables for the last seven years,” says Gibson. “We had to work through some data inconsistencies from the old application, but it was worthwhile because it gave SASC a complete view of trends and budget history.” Acumen and SASC have continued to develop the system and extend its capabilities since the initial implementation. They have built a Web portal using Microsoft® SharePoint® Services that allows relevant staff working at each school to access financial reports and data. “We are currently implementing a Web-based procurement requisitioning, approvals and purchasing system,” says Gibson. “We can easily extend the capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics GP and the portal in this and many other ways.”
Replacing its old financial management system with Microsoft Dynamics GP has given SASC a number of operational and strategic benefits including improved reporting, a robust and scalable application, a reliable vendor with a long-term roadmap and a lower total cost of ownership.
Powerful Reporting Capabilities
The flexible Microsoft Dynamics GP framework allowed Acumen Alliance to build customized reports which staff can access through a Web browser using the business portal. Each school can view its debtors and creditors and general ledger status as well as a number of school-specific reports. Having historical data in the system allows SASC to view and analyze trends in order to make better decisions when budgeting and forecasting for the coming years. “It’s vital for SASC to get its budgeting right from a cash flow point of view because it is planning and building new schools,” says Gibson. “SASC has a lot of capital expenditure and it needs to make sure its operational expenditure and income is consistent with forecasts. With the reports and historical data, SASC can make more informed decisions.” The reporting capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics GP have improved the accuracy and timeliness of financial information and made it easier to distribute to stakeholders.
Reliable Vendor and Extensible Framework
Working with Microsoft Dynamics GP gives SASC confidence in the long-term viability of the package and Microsoft’s commitment to continue developing industry-leading capabilities. “With our previous system, development only happened when we requested it,” says Bridge. “With Microsoft, we can see continuous development and improvement. In the three years we have been using Microsoft Dynamics GP, the product has been through two upgrades. It is being improved and scrutinized constantly by thousands of people in hundreds of different industries. I found that very attractive.” Microsoft Dynamics GP gave SASC a robust framework around which to build the functionality it required to handle the specific needs of the primary and secondary education sector. “There are a range of issues in K–12 education that off-the-shelf packages just can’t handle, but our experience with the previous system convinced me specialist applications are not a better option,” says Bridge. “With Microsoft Dynamics GP, we can use customization and third-party modules to get exactly the functionality we want.”
Robust Technology Base
The reliable technology behind Microsoft Dynamics GP, such as the Microsoft® SQL Server database, ensures maximum uptime and reliability of SASC’s financial systems. “The system is robust, it stays up all the time,” says Bridge. “In percentage terms, it’s not a huge difference from the old system, but the previous application always seemed to go down at the most inopportune moments.” Unlike the previous system, Microsoft Dynamics GP constantly updates data and totals, ensuring report figures are accurate and timely. Its strong integration capabilities allow it to draw up-to-date figures from other internal systems as required. “Each time I generate a report, it recalculates all the numbers so I know I’m looking at the latest figures,” says Bridge. “With the old system, in the end, I doubted the quality of the data. Now, reports run quickly and are easy to generate, read and distribute around the organization.”
Reduced Total Cost of Ownership
By switching from a specialized application to the broadly used and supported Microsoft Dynamics GP, SASC has reduced its technology support costs significantly. The Corporation can now proactively develop new capabilities rather than paying for reactive support and maintenance to keep the system running. “We have eliminated a lot of the inefficiencies of the old system and have a much lower total cost of ownership with Microsoft Dynamics GP,” says Bridge. Microsoft Dynamics GP works with and like other well-known Microsoft products, allowing SASC staff to use skills and products they already know such as Web browsers, Microsoft Office System products and Microsoft SQL Server to access and work with the information in the system. “What I noticed in hindsight is our accountants used to spend all their time getting data into the system,” says Bridge. “Now staff have much more time to concentrate on analyzing our finances and planning for the future. This is a huge shift and one that gives us far more confidence in our ability to control finances and meet future needs.”
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it works easily with the systems that your company has implemented already. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success. For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to: www.microsoft.com/dynamics
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com For more information about Acumen Alliance products and services, call (612) 8216 1000 or visit the Web site at: www.acumen.com.au For more information about Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation products and services, call (612) 9579 5663 or visit the Web site at: www.sasc.nsw.edu.au
© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, the Microsoft logo, Microsoft Dynamics, the Microsoft Dynamics logo, MS-DOS, SharePoint and SQL Server are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Document published November 2006