According to the independent analyst firm, due to external forces such as shifting enrollment patterns, declines in tuition revenue, and a more competitive environment, the role of the CFO in higher education has evolved to that of a strategic partner and advisor to institutional leadership, driving change with financial insights.
To be successful in this expanded role, the CFO must have in-depth understanding and visibility of the institution's financial performance at any point in time. This puts the pressure on the accounting office to accelerate the close of accounting periods to provide the CFO with accurate and timely financial information that can confidently be used for strategic financial planning and analysis.
Delivering the necessary financial information to the CFO is a challenge, as financial and accounting processes are complex, fragmented, manual, and labor intensive, regardless of the financial operational structure (i.e., decentralized or centralized).
When it comes to closing an accounting period such as the month-end or year-end, each operational structure has issues with the ability to close on time and with accuracy. The ability to complete a close in less time or even reduce errors by 1% can have significant impact on institutional costs and confidence in financial reports.
Gonzaga implemented automation software in its 2017 year-end financial close process in response to concern that the year-end close process caused stress and low morale among its accounting staff.
Based on Ovum’s research, there are clear opportunities for all institutions to enhance the financial close process with automation software or RPA. Automation software has the potential to reduce institutional costs and improve the quality of the financial close. It can simplify complex processes by reducing the need for manual intervention and repetitive and redundant tasks. This improves accuracy by removing the potential for errors and enables faster processing times to complete a close sooner.
Automation software will also reduce labor costs, as mundane tasks are automatically processed, reducing the need for management oversight, and giving accountants more time to focus on important strategic tasks such as modeling, forecasting, and analysis.
In addition, cloud-based automation software can leverage the current investment in existing ERP/finance systems with minimal costs for IT support. Automation will enable CFOs to spend less time on transactional, day-to-day accounting and more time on successfully guiding their institution to achieve its mission and goals with in-depth financial insights.
With BlackLine, the team at Gonzaga soon realized the following benefits:
Hours and costs associated with overtime were reduced
Duplicate effort was eliminated
Processes became more efficient and better controlled
The risk of human error was reduced with automation that eliminated binders and spreadsheets for account reconciliation
Employee morale improved
Staff no longer needed to spend time on mundane processes