Carlson Thought Leadership in Finance & Technology

Adaptive Insights and Higher Education: Adding Flexibility and Collaboration to the Budgeting Process

August 10, 2017 / by John McGrath

At Carlson Management Consulting, we have implemented the Adaptive Insights Suite for many higher education institutions, both non-profit and for-profit.  Finance teams in higher education deal with several unique challenges for budgeting, forecasting, and planning.  Revenue and expense lines including enrollment, financial aid, endowments and grants add complexity to financial planning and analysis.  Non-profit institutions track unrestricted, temporary and permanent funds that require alternate reporting to provide multiple views of their financial statements.  Larger institutions with varied offerings may have multiple entitities (traditional and online), several campuses, scores of departments, and hundreds of business units, all with budget and reporting responsibility.  If the university has a decentralized budgeting process, it can be even more difficult to manage and consolidate budgets across the entire institution.  That is why flexible cloud-based solutions like Adaptive Insight that can manage complexity are gaining increased traction in the higher ed space.

One of the common themes we hear from universities and colleges that have a spreadsheet-based budgeting process is that collaboration is difficult as people share spreadsheets via email or on shared drives.  Version control, errors, and other spreadsheet issues hinder the ability of stakeholders to work from a single version of the truth.  With Adaptive Insights, stakeholders access models and reports with a web browser.  Security and permissions are enforced through user roles.  Integration with source systems like ERP, CRM, and HRIS allow relevant information to reside in Adaptive.  Comprehensive data is centralized in a single database rather than residing on desktops scattered throughout the various campuses.  Improved collaboration becomes possible as information flows freely and securely through the institution.

Selecting the right solution is very important, but so is the implementation.  Carlson’s approach to higher ed projects differentiates from many other implementation services firms.  With Carlson, our higher ed clients not only deploy a world-class cloud CPM solution, they also benefit from “best practices” management consulting.  We take this approach because implementing a new solution is an opportunity to take a holistic view of financial and operational processes and re-engineer them to gain efficiencies, improve accuracy, automate tasks and make better decisions. 

With Carlson’s hands-on guidance, many of our higher education clients achieve the following during their implementation:

  • Align the budget with strategic initiatives and plan.
  • Incorporate flexibility in model structure to allow budgeting by school, department, fund, program, project, class, etc.
  • Model personnel in a more flexible manner to allow for position and pooled budgeting, split labor allocations, merit/union pay increases, etc.
  • Improve collaboration and distribute budgeting responsibilities by extending end-user access to the solution.
  • Define workflow procedures that managers follow for budget requests and approvals.
  • Incorporate financial and non-financial KPIs and assumptions to perform ‘what if’ scenario analysis and rolling forecasts.
  • Build enrollment, tuition, grants, endowments and other key areas into the model to accommodate different budget methodologies.
  • Ensure dashboards & reports meet operational needs as well as regulatory requirements.
  • Integrate data from HR, Student, ERP and other systems for unified data (single version of the truth) and more comprehensive insights.

If your institution is interested in learning how Adaptive Insights and Carlson can help transform your budgeting, planning and reporting process, contact us for a personalized demo. 

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