Redundancies and silos are some of the biggest threats to financial sustainability in private schools. Redundancy can take many forms, from software redundancy—when different departments are using different software for the same purpose—to the redundancy of efforts among people at the school. Silos are created when people or software work without consideration for other school operations.
Here are five action items to help eliminate redundancies and silos in your school:
Look for software silos.
The two most common mistakes schools make when evaluating software solutions are:
1. Choosing software for one department’s needs
2. Expecting one software solution to do everything a school needs
Why are these mistakes?
The first scenario only helps one department without considering other parts of your school. That software may not fully integrate with other systems and instead of having one source of truth for information, someone will have to manually aggregate reports from siloed systems. This means conflicting data, unnecessary work, and extra expense for redundant tools.
The second scenario is setting your school up for disappointment. Expecting one software solution to do everything and to do it well is unrealistic. Software that touts solving all your school’s problems may excel in one area but be subpar in another.
The way to avoid these scenarios is simple. Find a primary software provider that comes as close to doing it all as possible—one with a robust SIS and LMS plus strong enrollment, tuition, financial aid, fundraising, and financial management systems. In a fully integrated solution, data flows seamlessly to eliminate redundancies, improve efficiency, and provide greater ROI than siloed systems.
Ensure it plays well with others.
When choosing your primary school software provider, ensure they have a secure partner network of secondary providers for complex items like lunch ordering, summer camps, visitor management, and payroll. This type of specialized software excels at providing the functionality to manage a school’s day-to-day operations.
You also want your primary software provider to have an open API, an Application Programming Interface, made publicly available to software developers. This allows other software to securely communicate with your primary solution, giving your school the flexibility to merge data and connect with different providers as needed.
Work towards a single source of truth.
Every business office needs accurate reporting, and disconnected software often provides conflicting data. The goal of any school should be a total school solution that houses what we call the “single source of truth” for families and staff.
A single source of truth means a centralized location for all billing and financials, enabling more timely payments and accurate reporting. A connected system also means college advisors, camp coordinators, development officers, and teachers can easily find reliable information.
Separate systems can also be incredibly frustrating for families. They want one portal that holds assignments, schedules, and grades and enables tuition payments, donations, and communication with teachers.
Here are some example scenarios:
- “I need to apply for financial aid.”
- “I want to adjust my tuition payment plan.”
- “I want to review my child’s assignments.”
- “I want to donate to the school’s music program.”
Providing a single sign-on to access everything they need can enhance the family’s experience, which can increase student retention, boost fundraising, and strengthen the school’s financial sustainability.
Evaluate cross-functional workflows.
When working toward financial sustainability, it is critical to stop and take time to evaluate the cross-functionality of workflows between departments. If admissions has a smooth process, but the business office needs to work harder on contract billing—costing them overtime and causing headaches every year—does your school have a good workflow?
A school is a living organism that requires a lot of care and consideration. A financially sustainable school must continuously evaluate and modify processes for the greater good, even if that means compromising in one area for a larger and better approach impacting multiple departments.
Common threads found in siloed schools:
• School software that isn’t user-friendly
• Contract data that doesn’t flow seamlessly to the business office
• Out-of-date contact information for current families
• Inaccurate donor information in fundraising systems
Schools face many challenges when their systems or people are disconnected. Evaluating each process helps find where small changes can be made to impact the entire school.
Trust the process.
Evaluating redundancies and breaking down silos takes effort. It gets easier every time you do it, and the more often you review processes, the more likely you will discover issues before they become ingrained in school culture. The cost savings and human efficiencies created by your evaluation will become part of the school’s financial health story, increasing stakeholder confidence and setting the school up for years of financial sustainability.
Learn more in Blackbaud’s Cultivating Financial Sustainability eBook.