Solutions and Services has been supporting New Zealand schools with financial and administration services for over 27 years. Being Xero partners since 2014 and now Xero Platinum partners, they serve more than 400 schools in various ways. Their philosophy is assisting schools with caring, professional support in being as independent as they wish.
98% of their clients are New Zealand state and state integrated schools
Solutions and Services serves schools of all types and sizes, whose numbers of students vary from 8 to about 2,500. Larger schools have more staff and, therefore, more budget holders involved in expenditure approval, budget monitoring and financial reporting.
Challenges schools face in terms of financial controls
Common challenges schools experience regarding financial controls are related to budget management. Budget holders’ teaching commitments don’t leave enough time for administrational work and approvers are often outdoors conducting educational activities, at times even across multiple school sites. However, ensuring tight internal controls in line with the Board of Trustees’ finance policy is indispensable; and efficient approvals are in high demand.
Paper-based invoice approvals – room for improvement
Supplier invoices arrive by post, stuck on packaging, handwritten, or emailed to either a teacher/staff member or the main school administrator – the latter having to be printed out before they can get processed, which is all manually. They get stamped, the account code is noted and then they’re put into folders. Next, they’re sorted into pigeonholes or passed on to budget holders for the first approval. Occasionally, a copy of its purchase order is matched to the invoice and enclosed. But often there’s simply a piece of paper stapled to the document for recording the coding and approver signatures.
The finance administrators wait for the invoices to be returned and enter them into the accounting system, sometimes by scanning and uploading them.
Incoming supplier documents frequently get misplaced, overlooked or stuck; having to chase them, or the responsible approvers, is neither fun nor efficient.
A trusted budget control app stack for schools
These days, more and more schools in New Zealand aim for a paperless accounting environment. To achieve this goal, Solutions and Services recommends the following app stack to existing and new customers. It is pre-integrated with Xero as they decided to support only this online accounting solution for schools.
Xero + Monty + Hubdoc + ApprovalMax
Monty is used for quick and easy budget entries, and allows to add budgets to balance sheet codes. Monty enables grouping for management reporting as well as category mapping for the mandatory New Zealand Ministry of Education reporting.
Once Xero account codes have been mapped, Monty provides quick reporting for management purposes. Emailing reports to budget holders and teachers is almost ‘a click of a button’, saving busy administration staff a lot of time.
Solutions and Services is moving its clients to using Hubdoc for digital data capture, in fact, it’s now part of the Xero implementation training for all new schools. Hubdoc reduces significantly the amount of manual work for school administrators, and also provides powerful filing options and searches.
ApprovalMax was actually requested by a client, Wellington Girls’ College, and this first successful implementation confirmed that ApprovalMax definitely should be part of the app stack Solutions and Services offers schools.
Usually, it is suggested to secondary schools and larger primary schools as they have more budget holders, higher volumes of transactions, and receive more government funding due to their student rolls and other funding criteria. But schools of all sizes do appreciate the benefits.
“We always want to be recognised as professional advisors promoting best practices and solutions that suit the particular school client. ApprovalMax and Hubdoc are the natural partners for Xero and Monty for schools. The ability to sign in with Xero has been another encouraging facet to the app stack this year.”Sandy Dunn, Director of Solutions and Services
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Automated digital end-to-end workflow: how it works when schools implement the app stack
Supplier invoices are either emailed directly into Hubdoc or forwarded to ‘Hubdoc Bills’, a contact set up for the client with a Hubdoc email address. Bills are coded in Hubdoc, set to the Awaiting Approval status and published to Xero.
ApprovalMax picks up all bills waiting for approval and routes them to the designated budget holders as Open Requests – either once a day (that seems to be preferred in schools) or instantly. Teachers and other budget holders find the approval process quick and easy, and there are no more delays in the finance ‘pipeline’.
Bills run through the approval process as defined in the ApprovalMax matrix and, after successful completion, they get published to Xero in the Awaiting Payment status.