The concept of "being more efficient" is a challenge for many district offices. With limited funding and staff available for non-instructional purposes, districts are looking for faster, cheaper ways to complete day-to-day HR and finance procedures without sacrificing accuracy.
Two Illinois school districts - Clinton CUSD 15 and Mahomet-Seymour CUSD 3 - know what it's like to be faced with these challenges year-in and year-out. Both experienced the pains associated with running antiquated software that did not include an employee portal or the ability to streamline traditional paper processes such as checks, W2s, time-off requests, and more.
Clinton and Mahomet-Seymour administrators ultimately took the initiative to transition to a new ERP solution - a web-based system that promised to boost efficiencies in their respective district offices and streamline workflows. It was a decision that proved to be the right one for both districts.
"Antiquated technology can be a challenging barrier to school district operations. These districts are glad they looked to a future with Skyward."
Lynn Westhoff, chief school business official at Clinton, and Trent Nuxoll, chief school business official at Mahomet-Seymour, shared some of the struggles their districts faced before adopting a new ERP solution.
Westhoff described Clinton's multiple paper processes, which slowed operations to a crawl. "We were doing all paper requisitions and trying to monitor how much expenditures had been before we actually expended the money," she said. "We were doing paper purchase orders, too, and stuffing paychecks into envelopes."
Nuxoll echoed these sentiments when discussing his district. "Before we implemented Skyward's Business Suite, we were pushing a lot of paper in terms of requests for time off and purchasing requisitions," he said.
In addition, Nuxoll explained that Mahomet-Seymour's previous software did not have a digital approval feature, so hard copy time-off requests and requisitions were being passed around, extending the purchasing process. "This was especially inconvenient when a purchase was urgent."
To make matters worse, customer support left much to be desired with the districts' previous providers. "With our old software, the customer support was lacking. With the time-sensitive processes we deal with on a day-to-day basis, customer support is crucial if we confront an issue in the elventh hour," Nuxoll explained.
"We were doing paper purchase orders...and stuffing paychecks into envelopes."
Clinton and Mahomet-Seymour ultimate selected Skyward's School Business Suite to replace their outdated software. Westhoff and Nuxoll were pleased with how the solution transformed business operations within their respective districts.
"We now have electronic processing of our invoices, requisitions, and purchase orders," Westhoff said. "The main thing I was looking at when we decided to go with the Skyward School Business Suite was to have a more automated process for those items. The transactions are now more transparent."
Nuxoll agreed. "Skyward's School Business Suite has drastically improved efficiency in the review and approval of time-off requests and requisitions because of the digitization of the process."
"[We have] drastically improved efficiency in the review and approval of time-off requests and requisitions because of the digitization of the process."
Streamlined processes and increased efficiencies
Both districts realized some key goals they had for their HR and finance departments. "The main benefit was achieved, and that was to have a lot of these processes automated and streamlined," Westhoff explained. "The bookkeeper and payroll clerk both feel that Skyward is a good system and that it's easier to use than what they had in the past."
Nuxoll added that key functions, including requisitions and time-off requests, were streamlined at Mahomet-Seymour. Doing more with less became possible for both districts when they adopted tools that allowed them to more effectively accomplish day-to-day tasks.
Westhoff and Nuxoll also experienced improved decision-making capabilities. "Budgets are available on time and there's more transparency," Westhoff said. "The decision making is improved for budgets and expenditures."
"Our purchasing staff like the ease of submitted requisitions, especially when using the e-Commerce feature," Nuxoll said. Both districts are able to accurately control costs thanks to a solution that simplifies purchase and budgeting procedures.
Reliable service and support
The importance of timely service and support was a significant factor in each district's decision to move to Skyward. Nuxoll described his experience with Skyward's support team and expanded upon additional elements his district valued.
"The customer support has been exemplary in terms of response time and help provided," Nuxoll said. "It has been clear that Skyward stays at the forefront of upcoming state initiatives and federal requirements, such as the Affordable Care Act. This provides us the peace of mind that, with the use of Skyward, we'll stay in compliance with these requirements."
Westhoff and Nuxoll agreed that their districts have realized time and monetary savings since transitioning to Skyward. "You're definitely cutting back on paper processing time," Westhoff said. She explained that because Clinton uses the Student Management Suite and the School Business Suite in conjunction, the integration eliminates redundant data entry and decreases the potential for error - all while saving the district more time.
Time and money savings
"There is no doubt that we're saving money in paper costs, personnel costs in our courier's time spent traveling requests between buildings, and personnel costs in time spent handling and signing hard copies," Nuxoll added. "With regards to state reporting, we're now able to upload our budget into the required state format, which saves a significant amount of time."
Administrators at Clinton and Mahomet-Seymour realized many benefits after a successful transition to Skyward's School Business Suite. "Overall, we were pleased," Westhoff said. To districts nervous about making the switch to a new solution, her word of encouragement is this: "You'll be happy with the results from Skyward."
Nuxoll agreed with Westhoff's remarks. "I would absolutely recommend Skyward," he said. "I've had other school districts call to ask about our experiences with Skyward as they look to make the same switch. I can easily run through the advantages we've realized in our 2 ½ years in the system."
All in all, these Illinois districts are happy with the return on investment they've achieved from an ERP solution designed specifically to help school districts improve outcomes and reduce costs.
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