WCBS Product Director, Neil Butcher discusses the success of our latest round of webinars focussing on Cloud Finance.
At the end of last year we announced the latest addition to our product suite: partnering with The Access Group, one of the UK’s unicorn companies, we are offering a cloud-native Finance, Payroll & HR solution.
Since then we have held webinars to demonstrate exactly what this next-generation software can do for independent schools’ financial and employee management.
Three months on, the Marketing Team caught up with WCBS Product Director, Neil Butcher to find out what the response has been from the independent school sector and in particular, what emerged from the webinars as the most important questions.
First of all, we asked what the reasons were for looking at a cloud solution.
Neil: We must not forget we have a great on-premise product, passFINANCE which has been around for over 15 years in its current form and this will be around for years to come. However, as an innovative EdTech business we need to make sure we are working with the latest technology and delivering the best products on the market to our customers.
Some of the key benefits of cloud technology include:
- Capital-expenditure free – Cloud computing cuts out the high cost of hardware. You simply pay as you go and enjoy a subscription-based model that is kind to cash flow with no one-off purchase fees.
- Time Savings – Reduced time spent by your internal IT department managing servers, their time can be spent or costs re-apportioned elsewhere within the school.
- Work from anywhere – Cloud computing will allow you to connect seamlessly from anywhere with an internet connection, unlike on-premise products that sometimes can require complicated solutions to connect.
- Scalable – Cloud-native applications are easily scalable which means performance will never be compromised; if more people log in using more functionality the infrastructure simply expands to cope with the additional traffic.
- Implementations – Shorter implementations are achieved as additional hardware or software installations are not required – access occurs almost “instantaneously” without delays.
- Product Upgrades – The beauty of cloud computing is that updates just happen, so you don’t have to worry about wasting time maintaining the system and there is no downtime as updates happen outside of working hours.
By taking advantage of cloud-native technology we are able to pass these benefits onto our customers.
Q: Is there a roadmap?
Neil: Following our initial launch in November 2019, we have been looking at what further functionality we will be able to offer in the future; here is what we have been looking at:
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – Will allow for the electronic conversion of scanned invoices
- Authorisation of Purchase Ledger Invoices – Automate the process of authorising invoices before updating the purchase and nominal ledgers
- Budgeting – This is more than just holding your budgets; it will allow for budget planning by applying ‘what if’ scenarios
- Recruitment and Screening – Allows you to manage the full employee recruitment process
- Fundraising – Organise and manage donations including gift aid claims
Q: What is the benefit of self-service HR?
Neil: When you give employees the ability to access and update their own data, not only does this save a lot of time and money for the school as it eliminates duplicate data entry, it also increases record-keeping accuracy.
A major headache for schools is tracking information, such as handbooks, processes and policies, has been read by everyone. In the HR system you can publish documents, track who has read them and acknowledge that they have done so. This then means that the HR department can identify those employees who have not read important policies.
For employees who claim expenses, there is no longer a need for Excel spreadsheets or scraps of paper attached with receipts. Self-Service streamlines the process by providing 24/7 access to the approval and reimbursement process, including uploading receipts and managing expenses while traveling.
Administering holiday requests and maintaining accurate attendance information is one of the most important and time-consuming tasks for a school. Self-Service allows you to track absences and pinpoint trends, as well as give employees the ability to submit requests for leave.
Q: What do finance staff think about it so far?
Neil: The response from finance staff has been extremely positive, they are impressed with the intuitive modern look and feel of the product as well as the deep functionality. The thing that really impresses them is the integration with Excel using InXL; this is such a powerful and easy to use tool and blows ODBC out of the water.
From the webinars we collated the many questions fired our way to compile a FAQ sheet, and will make sure the answers are contained in further demos where appropriate. So far, we can see that Cloud Finance is answering all their challenges.
Q: Have you some examples?
Neil: Yes, here are five of the most popular.
- Does Financials have BACS software built in, or is PT-X (or similar) required
Financials has built-in software for you to create payment files which are suitable to use with most UK high street bank software. If the required bank is not supported, this can be developed by The Access Group for an additional charge, after discussion on a case by case basis. The Access Group also provides the file in Format 18, which is a generic file and can also be used by various banks.
- Within Financials, is there an ability to store invoices digitally in a similar way to Scan-2-Pass?
Yes, the invoices can be scanned (or uploaded from email) and linked to an invoice. The authorisation process from requisition through to order and invoice is managed within the software through FinOps/POP/PL.
- How does the Costing module integrate with Fixed Assets?
The Costing module would be used for Projects, Funds and Trips. In terms of Projects, the Costing module monitors expenditure, and once it reaches a certain stage that it is deemed an asset (not a project) the asset would be created by the user in Fixed Assets (note that not every project becomes an asset).
- Can company data be consolidated in Financials?
Yes, you can consolidate either via Excel Reporting or using the Consolidation module within Financials. Your Customer Account Manager will be able to assist you in identifying which option would be best suited to your needs.
- Will I still be able to use ODBC for Excel reporting if I move to Financials
Not via ODBC. However, Financials integrates with Excel via a specially designed Excel Add-On, which is incorporated within the Excel Toolbar.
Q: What stage is the WCBS product suite at now?
Neil: It has been an extremely busy but very exciting 18 months, we have launched two brand new products to the market and we will be launching another in September, whilst continually developing our on-premise products. Here is an overview.
We have made great progress with all our on-premise products, continuously adding new features and keeping up with all the legislative changes. Plus, over the past 12 months we have included a total of 277 enhancements throughout the products.
We launched our first cloud product over 18 months ago. HUBapply is our online admissions solution which professionally manages the entire applicant journey, from enquiry to enrolment, all in one place. A recent school that went live received 47 enquires within the first 24 hours!
We have been busy developing our new cloud-native MIS which has been designed for independent and international schools of all types and sizes, as a fully modular and scalable solution. This will be launched September 2020!
Neil has been with WCBS for 14 years, starting in customer support, and has held a number of positions before being appointed Product Director in 2018, He’s demonstrated over the years a passion for upholding the values WCBS has for delivering products to support independent and international schools, and this fits perfectly with his present role.