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In recent years, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into various sectors has transformed operations – improving efficiency, accuracy and decision-making processes.  One area that holds significant promise is AI for higher education Finance.  With the ever-increasing complexities and challenges universities and colleges face, the responsible use of AI presents an opportunity to streamline operations, empower data-driven insights and enhance budgeting and planning.

Finance leaders approach the idea of integrating AI into higher education with a mix of excitement and cautious optimism.  For example, over half of Finance leaders already envision AI becoming a core component of financial processes; a staggering 79% of Finance decision-makers also believe AI will increase productivity by increasing efficiency and improving accuracy in business processes.  These potential benefits in higher education could reshape financial management practices and unlock innovation opportunities.

How Does AI for Higher Education Finance Add Value?

AI in Finance is not about replacing human intelligence but about enhancing it.  As a result of AI automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, Finance teams can focus on more strategic activities.  For instance, AI-powered tools can automate planning, data entry and routine financial reporting – freeing up valuable time for analysis and decision-making.

Let’s dive into three ways that AI for higher education Finance offers significant value:

  1. Streamlining financial operations
  2. Empowering data-driven insights
  3. Enhancing budgeting and planning

1. Streamlining Financial Operations

An increasing concern for many institutions is simplifying processes and reducing costs.  In fact, EDUCAUSE highlights the need for institutions to take significant steps forward to reinvent university operations and greatly lower costs as a top area of focus.  So how can institutions make substantial improvements?

AI is one impactful way to simplify and standardize processes, data and technologies.

Gone are the days of manual data entry, cumbersome consolidation processes and tedious spreadsheet analysis.  Instead, AI’s ability to automate routine financial tasks and process vast amounts of data allows for the identification of patterns and anomalous data points.  This ability facilitates exception handling for Finance processes, such as planning, maintaining data quality and reporting.

As a result, Finance teams can streamline operations and focus on exceptions – rather than sifting through entire datasets.  The approach ultimately saves valuable time and enhances the efficiency of financial processes.

2. Empowering Data-Driven Insights

Another top priority for higher education leaders is improving data-driven insights and analytics throughout the institution.  According to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey, 97% of college administrators believe that higher education needs to better use data and analytics to make strategic decisions.  

Colleges and universities generate vast amounts of information – including Finance, HR and Student data – but struggle to leverage it.  By helping institutions leverage that information, AI empowers Finance teams (see Figure 1).  An AI platform can bring together data and help teams gain new insights into Finance and Student outlooks.

Figure 1:  OneStream AI-Powered Dashboard

AI algorithms can analyze an institution’s data in real time, uncovering valuable insights and trends that inform strategic decision-making.  With predictive analytics that forecast future financial scenarios, Finance teams can proactively plan and allocate resources effectively to create optimized student outcomes.  

Harnessing the power of data-driven insights thus empowers Finance teams to make informed decisions that optimize financial performance and support institutional goals.

3. Enhancing Budgeting and Planning

AI can also provide significant enhancements to the tedious planning processes at universities and colleges.  Traditionally, Finance planning methods often rely on historical data and assumptions, leading to inaccuracies and limited predictive capabilities.

AI instead enables Finance teams to move beyond historical reporting and embrace machine learning (ML).  By leveraging ML algorithms, Finance can analyze historical financial data alongside external factors, such as market trends, student behavior and economic indicators.

These algorithms can identify hidden patterns, uncover non-linear relationships and generate more accurate forecasts.  In essence, those trends then help institutions make informed financial decisions (see Figure 2).

For example, AI can analyze market demand, retention rates, student preferences and academic performance to model recommended tuition and fee pricing adjustments.  Those capabilities maximize revenue while maintaining affordability and competitiveness. As a result, Finance can better support student needs, optimize resource allocation and mitigate financial risks.

Figure 2:  OneStream Higher Education Tuition and Enrollment Dashboard

How Should Higher-Ed Finance Leaders Look to Incorporate AI?

With operational changes on the horizon, higher education leaders must strategically plan their next steps for AI integration.  The successful implementation of AI for higher education Finance requires careful planning and investment in infrastructure and training.  But when Finance employs the right practical AI strategy and commitment to innovation, AI has the potential to revolutionize financial operations in higher education.

Ultimately, the right strategy paves the way for more sustainable, efficient and student-centered financial management processes.


AI represents an exciting shift for higher education Finance teams, offering unparalleled opportunities to streamline operations, unlock insights and enhance strategic decision-making.  By embracing AI technologies, Finance teams can navigate the complexities of financial management with agility, resilience and innovation.

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Today, confidence in data quality is critically important as higher education leaders must respond to various political and economic pressures. Colleges and universities are also under the microscope to ensure fiscal responsibility while best serving students. Now more than ever, higher-ed Finance teams need trusted, accurate and timely data to make the right decisions for each school.

University boards are also asking institutions to provide more transparency and accountability. This request means having a clear strategy for ongoing robust data quality management is more important than ever. Why? Better decisions create better outcomes. And high-quality data gives institutions the confidence in data to get decisions right – which, in turn, fuels better student support, more accurate results and reduced risk.

Why Is Data Quality Important?

Research has shown that data quality matters. According to Ventana, almost nine in 10 organizations (89%) reported data-quality issues as an impactful or very impactful barrier for their organization. The impacts cause a lack of trust in the data and wasted resource time in financial and operational processes.

In fact, many institutions are looking to be more data driven. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 97% of college administrators surveyed believe that higher education needs to better use data and analytics to make strategic decisions.

Better Data, Better Decisions
Figure 1: Garbage In, Garbage Out

As institutions get more complex, the need to focus on data quality grows too. As the adage goes, “garbage in, garbage out,” (see Figure 1) so creating a solid foundation of governed data is imperative for data-driven decision-making. Having one source of trusted data across the institution that can be referenced is imperative to align teams.

What’s Preventing Good Data Quality?

In many cases, institutions are up against the restrictions of disconnected Finance processes, legacy systems and inefficient analytics tools. This red tape has fueled a lack of agility, cumbersome processes and siloed decision-making. Simply put, the solutions in place are not built to work together and thus make data quality management difficult.

Little or no connectivity often exists between the systems, forcing users to manually retrieve data from one system, manually transform the data and then load it into another system leaving no traceability. This lack of robust data quality capabilities creates a multitude of problems. Here are just a few:

The solution to disconnected systems may be as simple as transitioning to newer tools and technology. Why? They have more effective integration and built-in validation and control compared to past solutions, which will save time and remove manual tasks.

What’s the Solution?

Some believe Pareto’s law – that 20% of data enables 80% of use cases – applies to data quality. Institutions must therefore take three steps before adopting any project to improve financial data quality:

  1. Define quality: Determine what quality means to the college or university, agree on the definition and set metrics to achieve the level with which everyone will feel confident.
  2. Streamline collection of data: Ensure the number of disparate systems is minimized and the integrations use world-class technology with consistency in the data integration processes.
  3. Identify the importance of data: Know which data is the most critical for the organization and start there – with the 20% – moving on only when the organization is ready.

At its core, a fully integrated Finance platform like OneStream with built-in financial data is critical for colleges to drive effective transformation across Finance and different functions and services. What key requirements should be considered? Here are a few key functions:

Why OneStream for Data Quality Management?

OneStream’s unified platform offers market-leading data integration capabilities with seamless connections to multiple sources, including Finance, HR and student systems. Those capabilities provide unparalleled flexibility and visibility into the data loading and integration process.

Figure 2: OneStream Dashboard to View Trusted Data

OneStream’s data quality management is a core part of OneStream’s unified platform (see Figure 2). By providing strict controls to deliver confidence and reliability in the data quality, the platform allows organizations to do the following:


Demands for accuracy, transparency and trust are ever-present in financial and operational reporting, analysis and planning given the detail level needed to guide institutions. Accordingly, universities looking to create a strategy to improve data quality management should consider a CPM software platform with built-in financial data quality to achieve more accurate results and reduce risk.

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Higher education leaders faced with a complex and dynamic environment are looking to streamline Finance processes and get better data-driven insights.  In that regard, institutions can take advantage of modern technology to rid themselves of legacy systems and processes that leverage the new trends prevalent in today’s market.  Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) leaders looking to break the planning and reporting silos should consider not only what risks and opportunities come with different solutions, but also how to maximize business impact.

In the previous blog in our “Higher Ed: Unify Connected Planning or Face the Hidden Costs” blog series, we discussed how the concept of connected planning processes into one seamless, integrated solution is top of mind for Finance leaders to avoid the toolkit chaos widely felt today.

For the second part of the series, we’ll explore the administrative burden teams face when unifying planning and reporting.

The Promise of Connected Planning

Many teams have turned to the concept of connected planning to alleviate institutional pressure and increase agility.  And it’s easy to see why:  Connected planning promises that “connecting” people with data, management reporting and plans allows “connected Finance teams” to move forward with speed and agility.  As a result, the entire university can better establish strategic goals and deliver new transformative value (see Figure 1).

Figure 1:  The Promise of Connected Planning

The Reality of Being “Connected” for Financial Planning & Analysis

Unfortunately, despite the clear benefits above, many institutions still struggle to unify connected planning processes even alongside significant investments in “connected” corporate performance management (CPM) technologies.  But why?

While institutions recognize the importance of integrated CPM data, many fail to break down the silos created from on-premises and cloud modeling toolkits.  Those silos then often result in a disconnected experience for Finance and Operations teams.  Modeling toolkits might look like sensible and economical options for sharing and collaborating on key plans and/or managing processes, but these solutions come with costs (see Figure 2).  Each line in Figure 2 represents integration costs and risk.

Figure 2:  Data Silos – The Reality of Connected Planning

The Hidden Costs of Connect Planning

The potential administrative costs when leveraging modeling toolkits to unify planning processes can emerge for three key reasons.

1. Focusing on Short-Term Gains, While Eroding Organizational Efficiencies

Over the past few years, modeling toolkits have offered a way for higher-ed Finance teams to evolve from manual processes.  Yet large, complex institutions with many diverse planning processes stitched together via modeling toolkits experience short-term gains that typically lead to near-term losses due to lack of scale.

Modeling toolkit solutions are still siloed, however, fragmented systems still exist no matter how much effort is applied to stitch them together into one cohesive ecosystem.  And with no ability to scale, modeling toolkits will only amplify data management costs.  Why?

Connected but non-unified Finance solutions require fragmented cubes, modules and sometimes software to support diverse planning processes and offer limited insights from the core focus of the solutions.  What does that mean?

Tremendous effort is required to connect and validate adding or removing a program to each planning process (e.g., enrollment modeling, position planning, grant management, etc.) and the reporting system being used across the institution.  Ensuring each cube, model or Excel sheet has the information feeding at the right level of detail with enough information to do accurate planning is tedious.  And this grows exponentially with more campuses or schools using separate models.  This data management process and validation is a heavy administrative burden.

2. Forfeiting Effectiveness for Efficiency Gains

Most Finance leaders will agree that effectively achieving financial sustainability while fulfilling the university mission and strategic initiatives is paramount for institutions.

Then why do so many leaders forfeit effectiveness to focus on increasing efficiencies?  The concept of efficiency is more tangible than effectiveness – efficiency produces immediate results.  After all, doing more with less to achieve the same result is ingrained in leaders’ DNA and can be quickly realized via making staff reductions or streamlining established processes.  Yet the resulting efficiency gains still rarely increase effective outputs.  Why?  All that “efficient work” could be pointed at inaccurate data, giving results that have little value to the business.  Such results will ultimately increase costs across the institution as teams track down the correct information.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Non-unified “connected” planning solutions add technical complexity and administrative burdens on the Finance team – such as moving and reconciling data, constantly managing meta-data, monitoring data latency, and managing security between applications AND models.  Collectively, these burdens dilute the ability of strategic Finance teams to focus on driving performance and supporting critical decision-making.

3. Increasing Organizational Risk

Due to the large assortment of services and processes within universities and colleges, Finance teams often struggle to create monthly, quarterly, and annual plans and forecasts.  Why?  Because every department, school, and campus application or model must be connected – adding risk, cost and complexity to an already taxed team.

Most modeling toolkits provide no pre-built financial intelligence.  What does that mean?  It means all the core “financial logic” for monthly financial processes – such as debit/credit account types, hierarchies and dimensionality – must be built completely from scratch.  Doing so exposes the organization to risks and extra costs.  Therefore, these simple breakdowns can lead to costly mistakes for institutions.


Higher education leaders now have the opportunity to leverage modern technology to rid themselves of legacy systems and processes while embracing the new trends prevalent in today’s market.  When looking to unify financial and operational planning, Finance teams must keep in mind the important risks and opportunities:  focusing on long-term scalability, supporting efficiency AND effectiveness, and reducing organizational risk.

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University and college Finance teams are undergoing a transformation, evolving into strategic teams that play a crucial role in helping institutions maximize their business impact.  Maximizing that impact requires access to better financial and operational data to give institutions better insights and facilitate more-informed decision-making.  To address current limitations, Higher Education leaders are looking for solutions that will unleash the power of Finance by connecting planning processes and improving collaboration.

In this three-part blog series, we will highlight the hidden costs institutions must consider as they look to unify Finance and operational planning with Corporate Performance Management (CPM) technology –starting with ‘Toolkit Chaos’ in the first post of the series.

Feeling the Struggle

Many similar themes emerge from PWC and FSN survey data, but one especially stands out:  Finance is still feeling the struggle.  Most concerning, that struggle has persisted despite the significant gains over the past 20 years of Finance transformation from billions in investment (see Figure 1).

Finance data effort statistics
Figure 1: Finance Self-Assessment1

The surveys revealed the following:

Moving forward to address strategically how Finance can change, however, requires first understanding the root cause of the above challenges.  That understanding is critical to ensuring a successful strategy.

Aligning Finance and Operational Planning:  The Hard Truths

When looking into institutions’ stories, time and time again, we see the same theme emerge:  Fragmented solutions and processes are seen as the major source of pain for Finance teams.  Why?  These point solutions all need to be connected to align Finance with operations (see Figure 2).

Many planning and reporting tools in higher ed
Figure 2: Planning and Reporting Fragmented Processes

Creating that alignment has been hard.  After all, these point solutions have been the source of transformation for the past 20 years. 

But in today’s environment – especially with the complexity, changing student needs, and need for quicker results – those disparate solutions no longer get the job done.  Finance teams cannot be burdened with the technical debt, risk and complexity of stitching these processes together just to do the basics of reporting and planning.  In addition, Finance cannot take steps forward to transform into the agile, partnership-focused institution it needs to be.

Finding the Technology Right

The aspiration of unifying connected plans to enable data-driven decision-making is top of mind for universities.  However, to be set up for long-term success, Finance leaders must think differently to conquer the complexities inherent in fragmented point solutions and disconnected modeling toolkits for true institution-wide planning.

Avoiding the Modeling Kit Chaos

Many CPM modeling and planning toolkits – such as Anaplan, Workday, Board or Oracle Essbase – tout flexibility and speed for departmental planning needs.  Yet these toolkits aren’t designed to unify connected planning processes across an institution.

Why?  Because rather than leveraging a unified, extensible architecture, modeling toolkits rely on a series of individual planning models that must be “connected” together.  And “connected” with actual results residing in other tools and models.  Having disparate models come with a host of issues:

The reality is that far too much time is spent creating and maintaining these models — and they’re often misused.  That misuse ultimately results in even more time spent fixing and compiling data.

Understanding the Potential “Costs”

When evaluating technology investments to unify connected planning, higher education Finance leaders must consider the common attributes and hidden costs of modeling toolkits:

  1. Data hubs are created due to a lack of a unified platform.
  2. Data inconsistencies and constant data validation are required across “connected” data models.
  3. Significant effort and IT expenses are both required when trying to extract / transform / load (ETL) synchronized models and data repositories.

While effective for different college or department needs – such as the School of Medicine, housing and dining, research, etc. – the pervasive use of modeling toolkits across an institution’s planning processes creates hidden costs that must be considered.

Exploring a Use Case

A scenario where an institution is looking to launch a new program offers a good use case example.  This launch requires the Finance team to add the new program to the current Chart of Accounts (COA).

Regardless of complexity, this daunting task will require modeling toolkits – such as Anaplan, Essbase, Oracle Analytics Cloud (OAC), and IBM TM1 cubes – to be either partially or entirely rebuilt.

Doing so requires spending time to define and implement the new program throughout all Finance and operational plans and reports, which can include new data integrations, new COA, new calculations and new reports.  The new program will also need to be accurately connected and accounted for in enrollment modeling, tuition and fee forecasting, position planning, capital planning, etc.

The university may gain some additional insights from implementing a connected planning solution using modeling toolkits, but there would be no reduction in technical debt.  In fact, technical debt is more likely to increase and then get labeled as the cost of doing business.

Unifying Connected Planning

How can institutions get past the toolkit chaos?  The answer is simple:  At OneStream, we call this Intelligent Finance (see Figure 3).

OneStream unified platform for higher education
Figure 3: OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

OneStream’s AI-enabled Intelligent Finance Platform provides the flexibility and control required to unify connected planning and reporting for colleges and universities.  Powered with best-in-class financial intelligence, OneStream’s extensible design is purpose-built to enable FP&A teams to manage central Finance and Line of Business plans.  In the process, the platform provides unparalleled flexibility and operational relevance for planning and modeling across the Operations, HR and Finance functions — all living together in a single solution.


Higher Education leaders can now leverage modern technology to rid themselves of legacy systems and processes while embracing the new trends prevalent in today’s market.  Being informed on the hidden costs will help institutions find the right technology to support operational relevance and provide the flexibility required for Line of Business groups and Finance.  In turn, institutions will be empowered with the controls and the governance required to evolve and scale – to continue the endless journey of unleashing the true value and potential of the Finance team and beyond.

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1 ©Gartner 2018 Inc. and/or its affiliates.   

Data analytics is top of mind for higher education leaders, and they are looking to implement changes to transform the use of data across their institutions.  However, many are struggling to make the shift. Why? They are up against the challenges of disconnected Finance processes and systems, budget constraints and more. To overcome these, colleges must think bigger and look for long-standing solutions that simplify and maximize business impact. A modern Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution offers a way to not only break technology and process barriers but also empower Finance with actionable insights.

The Momentum

Data analytics is gaining momentum in higher education.  While the past several years have seen a focus on data, the recognition that institutions need to prioritize data now more than ever gets clearer every day.  That prioritization can mean supporting data analytics by hiring staff, implementing processes, leveraging new technology and much more.  In doing so, making data a priority is becoming more important amid the challenging and competitive landscape in higher education.

In that landscape, Finance and Operations teams deal with the complexity of evolving student needs, workforce requirements, funding constraints and other factors – combined with the pressure to be agile and move quickly.  And the best way to manage all of that effectively are tools that provide Finance and Operations with timely, trusted and relevant data.

The Chronicle of Higher Education survey1 explored higher education views on the increasing use of data-driven decision-making. According to the survey, most college officials — 97% — strongly agree that institutions need to use data and analytics better to become data-driven institutions (see Figure 1).  

Higher Education Data Needs
Figure 1: College officials agree to better data

Going further, when asked to rate where better data is needed at their institutions, 90% of college officials cited a need for better data in business and financial operations (See Figure 1).  This overwhelming agreement emphasizes the acknowledgment of a real need to get people relevant financial and operational data.

However, making the shift to data-centric analysis and decision-making for Finance teams is easier said than done.  Why?  Universities and colleges must overcome key obstacles to establish changes that will last.

So what’s restricting people from getting the necessary Finance and Operations data?

The Barriers

The survey1 highlighted that culture, tools and processes, and resource constraints represent barriers to progress in data analytics.

According to the survey, the top three barriers to using data are as follows:

  1. Decentralized/siloed data collection
  2. Budget constraints
  3. Trouble turning data into action

Breaking the Barriers

How can Finance teams overcome these barriers with technology?

University Finance teams have answered this question with a modern CPM solution.  Let’s dive into the top three barriers and discuss how having the right technology can mitigate the financial and operational data challenges institutions face today.

Barrier #1: Decentralized/Siloed Data Collection

Colleges and universities are complex not only because they provide different services but also because institutions use a number of systems and fragmented processes.  For example, considerable time and effort are required to pull together the annual budget across the different services at an institution.  Considerations include consolidating position and operating expenses, funding available, planned commitment spend, capital project information, tuition, enrollment data and more.  Does this web feel familiar?  (See Figure 2)

Finance Processes and Systems are Often Fragmented
Figure 2: Modeling toolkit chaos

That web of chaos gets even more complicated with the applications, shadow systems and spreadsheets being used for financial reporting and planning.  Plus, as more funding sources, programs and services are added, the web only continues to expand!

In the modeling toolkit web of chaos shown in Figure 2, each line represents not only a risk and cost, but also data latency and redundancy.  Even if that web includes all good products, they’re all developed on different technologies and don’t naturally work together, yet must somehow be connected.

A modern CPM solution improves the toolkit chaos.  Having an intelligent platform that will simplify and unify Finance processes will remove the silos.  How?  A truly unified platform breaks the silo barriers and brings together data, analytics, plans, reporting and decision-making in a single solution.  This unification allows users to have one source of truth for data that can be leveraged for planning and reporting.

Barrier #2: Budget Constraints

The second largest barrier to improving data analytics is the budget.  Establishing data analytics requires having the right people, processes and tools in place takes time, effort and cost to implement.  Having all those pieces in place is tough, especially for budget-strapped institutions.

So how can institutions break the barrier of budget constraints?  By establishing a long-term strategic vision of a cost-effective approach to improving data analytics.

A CPM platform offers exactly that.  A modern CPM platform unifies financial and operational processes to provide a practical, long-standing approach that will help mitigate costs incurred and provide future benefits.  How?  Here are just a few of the ways:

Ultimately, institutions can gain a great ROI by having a single platform that extends the use of the software to address evolving business needs.

Barrier #3: Trouble Turning Data into Action

CPM software is designed to help Finance turn data into action.

A CPM platform can help institutions overcome trouble in turning data into action by unifying financial and operational data into a governed, flexible platform.  Users can leverage this data across the platform’s analytics tools via standard reports, self-service reporting, visualizations and ad-hoc analysis tools.  A modern CPM platform can provide data at the right level of detail for both Finance and non-Finance to empower them to make more data driven decisions.


With the shift to more data-driven analytics, institutions are feeling the challenges of data silos, budget constraints and trouble turning data into action.  But those challenges aren’t insurmountable.  A modern CPM platform helps Finance leaders overcome these hurdles and enable more data-centric analysis and decision-making.

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At OneStream, we understand the complexities, frustrations and challenges of managing disconnected information.  And that understanding is exactly why we are so focused on helping higher education teams unleash data analytics to enable confident decision-making. 

At OneStream, we call this intelligent finance. 

Want to learn more about how OneStream can empower your higher education Finance team? View our Higher Education website, or contact us for a demonstration.

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1 Anft, Michael (2023), Sponsored by AWS.Becoming a Data-Driven Institution: College Leaders Assess the Value and Challenges of Using Data to Make Strategic Decisions, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.

Higher education Finance teams today are tasked with managing a complex and challenging business landscape – one that requires balancing evolving student needs, increasing people and infrastructure costs, resource constraints and more.  The ability to quickly problem-solve and steer the university through these challenges while maintaining financial sustainability is daunting.  But what if universities could not only navigate this complexity but also thrive?  Corporate Performance Management (CPM) makes both possible.  Designed to help maximize business impact, CPM empowers higher ed Finance teams to ensure their institutions keep up with the pace of change, uncertainty and organizational complexity.

The value of modern Finance lies not in eliminating complexity but in effectively navigating it.

Now more than ever, higher ed Finance teams face a diverse set of pressures and challenges, including the following financial constraints, external forces, internal complexities and operational obstacles:

The ability to adapt to the above pressures and changing landscape while ensuring financial sustainability is complex with the tools and processes colleges and universities are using today.  To be more agile, Finance leaders are looking for ways to simplify and scale processes to keep pace with rapid change and plan effectively.

Traditional Higher Education Planning Practices

Traditionally, higher education institutions have used disconnected Finance processes and systems for planning and reporting.  Those efforts have primarily focused on the cumbersome, time-intensive annual budget process.  While the annual budget is important for funding allocations, control and accountability of spend, and communication with stakeholders, it relies on the assumption of operating in a stable and predictable business environment.  Today’s rapidly changing and uncertain business landscape shatters that assumption because the budget can quickly become outdated and difficult to revise.

To address these limitations, colleges and universities must evolve to more agile processes that emphasize trust, collaboration, innovation and risk management. 

CPM enables that evolution

By design, CPM helps higher education Finance teams bring together an institution’s data, analytics, plans and reporting – all in one place – to conquer complexity and enable confident decision-making.

What Is CPM?

CPM is an overarching term used to describe the methodologies, metrics, and systems used to monitor and manage the business performance of an organization.

CPM encompasses the core Finance processes of planning, reporting and analytics, with the goal of optimizing performance by aligning strategic initiatives with resources, activities and results.  Accordingly, CPM provides business leaders with a framework focused on key performance indicators (KPIs) and the metrics to measure “success.”

That success may look different for each institution because of varying educational missions, communities served, programs offered, and so on.  Fundamentally, Finance leaders can define ‘success’ as the ability of an institution to achieve financial sustainability while effectively fulfilling the university mission and strategic initiatives (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Corporate Performance Management Processes

Shifting the institution’s financial processes to include CPM to track strategic priorities, goals and initiatives is imperative for long-term financial sustainability.

CPM gives Finance leaders peace of mind by giving them the tools to navigate the complexity and best serve their institution’s mission and students.  How?  By enabling more trust in data, better collaboration with stakeholders and more agility in decision-making.

Trust in Numbers

CPM tools combine financial and operational data from various sources to provide a clear view of institutional performance.  This view allows Finance to use one source of truth to monitor performance in real-time across various activities, including auxiliaries, academics, research and more. 

Such transparency empowers Finance to have a comprehensive view of data and be more confident decision-makers.

For example, as resource constraints continue to expand and change, Finance must understand the current state of funding resources.  Are they tied up in commitments?  Are they being used for future capital initiatives?  The answers to these questions and others provide transparency on how funding is being used to help identify where resources are being underutilized or what areas need additional funding.  Recognizing programs with excess funds creates an opportunity to instead invest them effectively in infrastructure, facilities, teaching and other areas in need of additional funding.  Finance can look at how to best support each area by asking questions to maximize the impact.  

By having a sole source of truth for financial and operational data, higher education Finance leaders can trust the numbers and maximize the impact on the institution.

Improved Collaboration

Getting stakeholder alignment across the institution is tough, but having clear strategic goals and priorities aligned with resources, activities and results helps focus collaboration efforts.  When everyone is working toward achieving the same metrics and KPIs, Finance can better partner with departments and programs.

For example, an institution may have an initiative to increase academic program returns by expanding a current program.  Having core KPIs, such as administrative costs per student or net tuition revenue per student, helps create direction on how to set up a new initiative for financial success.  For such efforts, focused communication and collaboration are essential.

And with CPM, discussions between Finance and stakeholders can be better focused on specific items. Here are a few examples:

In other words, the different departments and programs can maintain their independence and innovative thinking while working in unison with Finance to achieve strategic priorities with financial sustainability. 

Increased Agility

CPM tools also enable Finance teams to leverage real-time data and scenario modeling capabilities to support agile decision-making.  By having one source of truth for financial and operational data, institutions can see the current state of the business and model alternative futures based on different assumptions (e.g., enrollment shifts, interest rate changes, government funding modifications, etc.). 

Figure 2: OneStream Higher Ed Analytics Dashboard

These capabilities allow stakeholders to understand the potential impact of different scenarios and more quickly respond to changes in the budget, forecast or strategic plan (see Figure 2).  In turn, the university or college can take advantage of new opportunities and/or minimize risk.  And in the current volatile times, the resulting increased agility offers a true competitive advantage.

Confident Decision-Making

Overall, incorporating CPM in your institution will bring more confidence in the financial success of your college or university.  Why?  Because CPM supports long-term sustainability in the following ways:


In sum, CPM helps Finance overcome the diverse set of pressures and challenges in the current higher educational landscape.  How?  By enabling more trust in numbers, better collaboration, increased agility and more confident decision-making.  Through those benefits, CPM facilitates actionable insights that will empower and improve strategic decision-making and long-term financial sustainability.

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Want to learn more about how OneStream can empower your higher education Finance team?  Download our Higher Education solution brief, or contact us for a demonstration.

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Data management in higher education financial reporting presents significant challenges for Finance teams to navigate.  And while some of these challenges resemble those shared by other types of organizations, higher education Finance teams must contend with many data challenges specific to their domain.  More specifically, data management challenges within higher-education institutions arise from various causes, including multiple funding sources, diverse revenue streams and complex regulations.

Sources of Higher Education Financial Reporting Data Complexity

What are some of the complexities in data management that higher education Finance teams face?

One of the primary complexities for financial reporting is that higher education institutions must manage and report on multiple funding sources.  Such sources can include government grants, private donations, tuition and fees, and endowment income.  For each funding source, Finance teams must then follow a corresponding and unique set of regulations and reporting requirements.  That variability makes it difficult for Finance teams to ensure compliance and accurate reporting.

Another complexity in data management is accommodating for diverse revenue streams common in higher education institutions.  These streams can include student housing, dining services, bookstore sales and other auxiliary services.  Because each revenue stream has its own set of financial transactions and reporting requirements, Finance teams face challenges when aiming to consolidate and report on the overall financial performance of the institution.

In addition to funding and revenue data, higher education financial reporting, budgeting and planning all draw on a variety of other data sources.  Some of those sources include human resource data, including staff/faculty salaries and benefits, and facility data such as physical assets.

Additionally, complexities in data management for higher education financial reporting include the following:

Conquering Data Management for Higher Education Institutions

Many higher education Finance teams struggle with the complexities above and find it difficult to accurately report on the financial performance of the institution and ensure compliance with regulations.  Why?  The struggles mainly occur because many higher education Finance teams rely on a mix of tools, such as siloed spreadsheets, legacy corporate performance management (CPM) software and BI applications.  Doing so means Finance must invest an inordinate amount of time and manual effort to manage data instead of focusing on building decision insights that benefit the institutions.

How can Finance teams overcome these challenges?

Many higher education Finance teams have answered that question with a modern CPM Finance solution.  OneStream (see Figure 1), for example, enables Finance teams to conquer data complexity in higher education financial reporting by providing the following capabilities:

OneStream Intelligent Finance Platform
Figure 1.  OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

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Want to learn more about how OneStream can empower your higher education Finance team?  Download our Higher Education solution brief, or contact us for a demonstration.

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Finance teams in most organizations often interact with non-Finance groups and individuals when planning, budgeting and forecasting.  At higher education institutions, these interactions typically include multiple rounds of input from department heads, research leaders and medical administrators. Unique higher-ed planning requirements – such as position planning, program profitability, tuition planning and grant planning – further complicate the processes.  Under those conditions, many institutions struggle to achieve adequate collaboration using outdated tools, such as disparate spreadsheets.

Why is using spreadsheets a problem?  Well, using them for planning, budgeting and forecasting places a heavy burden on higher education Finance teams.  Instead of investing time in valuable analysis and sharing insights, teams must devote hours to data wrangling and managing manual processes.  That means wasting a ton of time on non-productive tasks, such as keeping track of individual spreadsheets, managing divergent versions, correcting errors and keeping track of each end-user’s progress.

Excel® Spreadsheets: A Comfortable and Familiar Tool – But at What Cost?

Since most users are familiar with using Excel® to manage data, many higher education Finance teams rely on spreadsheets as the path of least resistance for planning, budgeting and forecasting processes.  Why?  By working within Excel® – in which users already know how to build formulas, apply formatting and interact with data – non-Finance users can quickly complete relevant tasks while staying focused on their respective roles.

In short, end users don’t want to learn a new tool for a simple reason.  Doing so will take time away from users’ daily responsibilities.

But here’s the conundrum:  Non-Finance groups require an intuitive interface that allows for accomplishing tasks without distracting from core responsibilities.  At the same time, Finance teams need a unified solution that provides them with governance, control, and, most importantly, time for developing high-value analysis and strategic insights.

Engage All Users with a Modern Higher Education Finance Solution

Many higher education institutions have found a best-of-both-worlds solution to the above challenges with the OneStream Intelligent Finance platform.  With OneStream, these institutions empower BOTH Finance and non-Finance users with a solution that streamlines processes and reduces learning curves.  How are these benefits achieved?  By providing users with engagement options, including OneStream’s accessible interface, embedded spreadsheets and OneStream’s Excel® Add-In.

The Excel® Add-In provides users with the capability to perform all their planning, budgeting and forecasting tasks directly within the familiar Excel® environment.  In addition, since these spreadsheets are unified with the OneStream platform, users can enter and update data, view interactive reports, perform data analysis, and more.  Users can also access OneStream Cube Views and Data Grids across dimensions while leveraging the complete analysis capabilities of Excel®.

The Excel® Add-In provides the following benefits:

Cube Views, a central component of the OneStream platform, can be used for reports, data entry templates and the monitoring of Finance processes.  Within the Excel® Add-In, data is pulled directly from OneStream rather than a simple data dump that requires a pivot table or formulas to retrieve the information.

The unification of spreadsheets with OneStream means they are fully bi-directional in their data flow.  For in-depth ad-hoc analysis, users can drill all the way down to transaction-level details.  To enable data entry and updates, users can also work within Excel® forms that help guide users and streamline their tasks.  Users also have full access to the formatting and reporting capabilities of Excel®, including charts and graphs (see Figure 1).

OneStream Excel Add In Reporting
Figure 1: OneStream Excel® Add-In Reporting

Because the Add-In is unified with OneStream, users are entering their data directly into the platform when updating spreadsheets.  What does that mean for Finance teams?  It means all those late nights spent keeping track of divergent spreadsheets and manually transferring information become bad memories of the past.

Enable Unified Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting with OneStream

Beyond the benefits highlighted above, Finance teams gain greater process insight and control.  Whether users are using the OneStream interface or Excel®, Finance maintains complete control of data and can designate what information each user can view and update.  OneStream also maintains complete audit trails, platform security and user-defined access levels no matter which interface is used.  Plus, the solution provides Finance teams with deep insight into the human side of the process via the ability to plan process steps, assign task owners and track dependencies – all while maintaining real-time visibility into process progression and gaining insight into process bottlenecks.

The Excel® Add-In is one of several capabilities OneStream provides to enable higher education institution Finance teams to effectively collaborate across their organizations and optimize planning, budgeting and forecasting processes.

At OneStream, we call this Intelligent Finance.

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Want to learn more about how the OneStream Intelligent Finance platform and the Excel® Add-In can empower your higher education institution?  Download our Excel® Add-In Solution brief, or contact us for a demonstration.

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In higher education institutions, Budget and Finance leaders have a key responsibility: reporting of financial, operational and compliance numbers. Producing an accurate book of record, income statement and balance sheet to represent an institution’s financial position is critical to that reporting. It’s equally important to empower decision-makers with insights from ad-hoc and periodic reports. Those insights support faster and more informed decision-making for financial planning, forecasting, and operational decisions.

Beyond the internal aspects, higher education institutions also have significant financial reporting requirements to external stakeholders. A few examples are regulatory agencies, boards of trustees/governors, grant providers, and lenders in support of debt covenants.

Errors, inconsistencies, or omissions in any reports, internal or external, can have wide-reaching, negative effects on the health of the institution and strategic decisions. In today’s dynamic economic climate, accurate reporting is more critical than ever, but many higher education institutions are still hampered by a lack of confidence in their own reporting.

Higher Education Challenges in Operational and Financial Reporting

Why are so many institutions struggling to meet stakeholder financial reporting needs with full confidence? The primary reason is the complexity of building a single source of truth from multiple data sources across the institution. Institutional entities – such as different schools, research centers, athletics, and housing – each have different purposes, funding sources, and operational requirements. Typically, each of these entities maintains their financial and operational data in separate systems using a variety of solutions and siloed spreadsheets, a process that’s drowning in complexity. Plus, Finance teams often waste tremendous time simply managing and moving data instead of focusing on what really matters:  providing insightful reporting and strategic decision guidance. What’s the result?

Unfortunately, Finance teams all too often simply lose trust and confidence in their own financial reporting and planning processes. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Addressing the Challenges and Unique Requirements of Higher Education Financial Reporting

To answer the challenges in financial reporting, Finance leaders at higher education institutions need to have good reporting capabilities while addressing a variety of stakeholder reporting needs. And at the heart of those capabilities, Finance leaders must have confidence in the timeliness and accuracy of their data.

The key to this confidence is 100% visibility from reports to sources. All financial and operational data must be clearly visible and easily accessible through a single interface with full integration to all source systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools and other systems.

Achieving this requires a modern Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution – one with financial data quality at its core. That data then gracefully integrates with a myriad of source systems while providing powerful, yet easy-to-use reporting and financial planning & analysis capabilities.

Conquering Complexity in Higher Education Financial Reporting with OneStream

OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform
Figure 1: OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

OneStream’s Intelligent Finance platform (see Figure 1) integrates with any open GL/ERP system, including those dedicated to higher education. As part of OneStream’s unified solution for financial consolidation, budgeting, planning, forecasting, reporting, analytics, and financial data quality, the built-in advanced reporting and analytic capabilities in the platform empower higher education institutions.

OneStream provides both a user-friendly interface and the option for users to accomplish data entry, analysis, and reporting all entirely through an Excel® interface. In addition to Excel®, the platform tightly integrates with Microsoft Word® and PowerPoint® to enable the creation of accessible pixel-perfect reports, ready right out of the box.

OneStream Dashboard 
Figure 2: OneStream Dashboard

Here are some other key reporting and analytics capabilities for higher-ed teams:

Interactive Dashboards:  Finance and other users are empowered by self-service, interactive dashboards (see Figure 2) that combine tables, charts, graphs, and other visualizations to provide unparalleled, immediate access to current financial and operational insights

Figure 3: Built-In Financial Data Quality Management in OneStream

Built-In Financial Data Quality:  Financial data quality (see Figure 3) is a core part of the platform and provides direct integrations to source data, financial intelligence, and strict controls to deliver confidence and reliability in data quality.

Guided Reporting:  Both Finance and end-users are empowered to create and manage their own powerful analytic reports with the ability to drill down on any dimension in graphs, charts, reports, and grids to get answers quickly. This capability includes a built-in report library of pre-formatted row or column sets and can instantly export reports to Excel, PDF, or any other standard format.

Excel® Integration:  Users are enabled to enter and update data, quickly create reports, and conduct powerful ad-hoc analysis entirely within the Excel® interface they already know. For end, users who prefer the agility of using spreadsheets across the financial close, planning, reporting, and analysis processes OneStream’s Excel® Integration maximizes ease of use and control.

Production Reporting:  Financial and operational data are unified from across the institution into a governed, flexible solution – without copying information between fragmented sources and tools. The platform also delivers key insights with detailed and pixel-perfect reports for financial, statutory, and management reporting at speed to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate risk. Users can even access 50+ pre-built web reports.

Microsoft Office Blend:  OneStream’s integration with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel enables users to combine content with OneStream reports, charts, and data content to deliver rich, visually stunning reports. Users can also automate board book and executive report creation and streamline updates with immediate data refresh capabilities for required analysis without re-work.


It is critical for Finance teams at higher education institutions to strengthen their ability to provide strategic guidance and insightful reporting. However, they must build trust in their data to succeed in this effort.  By unifying data sources across planning and reporting processes, Finance leaders can finally move beyond manual spreadsheets and processes while setting a new foundation for collaboration and confidence in the data analyltics required to support the institution’s mission for years to come.


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Interested in learning more about how OneStream unleashes higher education Finance teams and enables trust in data and confidence in financial reporting? Download our Higher Education solution brief, or solution brief for a demonstration.

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Making the right financial decisions in higher education begins with trust.  Why trust?  Because success in higher education is a team effort.  Plus, too many things are simply out of your individual control since today’s environment is one of constant change.  Politics, public health, revenue disruptions, and workforce challenges all play a part in your daily operations.  As a leader in a complex organization who wants to get things done, you must have confidence in your team’s character and ability.  That confidence is the very definition of trust.  And it’s also why financial forecasting software is mission critical – it gives you trust in your numbers.

The Benefits of Trust

The benefits of trust can be easily seen in how your team is affected:

Yet all those benefits don’t automatically transfer to other areas.  Trusting your team is one thing – but what if you don’t trust your numbers?

Relevance Has a Need for Speed

Accuracy in your numbers is necessary, but relevance is what shapes future financial decisions.  Your team spends a lot of time and effort pulling and combining data to produce financial plans, budgets, reports, and presentations that communicate where you are and where you’re going.  But financial documents delivered on a set schedule are no longer good enough.  Those documents must also be relevant.

One of the hurdles to effective planning and budgeting, and the biggest obstacle to numeric relevance, is ensuring that today’s challenges are considered as you move forward through the rest of the year and into long-range plans.  Is your information stale by the time it reaches the board/committee?  After all, it’s hard to charge forward when you’re always waiting.  And if you spend too much time looking backward, it may be time to look at how budgeting and forecasting software can push you forward.

What’s the bug in this system?  Well, it’s time.  Keeping your numbers relevant simply takes too much time.

How, then, do you add relevance to the equation?  How do you ensure you’re tying current activity to future plans?  Rolling forecasts are the perfect solution.  Agile, iterative, and consistent forecasting is the cornerstone for building a foundation of relevance and trust in your numbers within financial forecasting software.

As Situations Change, So Should Your Actions

Static budgets built within legacy financial forecasting software aren’t flexible enough to react to what’s happening in real-time.  Meanwhile, rolling forecasts are designed to change and adapt throughout the year, providing more value if large and/or sudden changes negatively affect your institution.

Rolling forecasts (see Figure 1) are dynamic, just like your daily operations, and continually adapt and update your planning processes against actual performance and trends.  How?  Rolling forecasts allow for more accurate and multifaceted forecasting by re-calibrating the forecast based on changes in both internal variables (e.g., mergers and tuition changes) and external factors (e.g., changing state contributions, public health, and demographic changes).

Rolling Forecast Example
Figure 1: Rolling Forecast Example

Rolling forecasts are a management tool that enables institutions to continuously plan (i.e., forecast) over a set time horizon vs. a calendar or fiscal year.  For example, in a 12-month forecast period, as each month ends, another month will be added.  In other words, you’re always forecasting 12 months into the future.

Best practice is to ensure rolling forecasts can extend (e.g., roll) beyond the current calendar or fiscal year-end.  Most commonly, rolling forecasts contain a minimum of 12 forecast periods but can also include 18, 24, or more periods depending on the needs and complexity of the organization.

Why Rolling Forecasts Are Important for Higher Education

The ability to quickly make decisions and implement them with financial forecasting software in near real-time is critical for any institution to survive and thrive into the future.  As discussed above, accuracy and relevancy, as it relates to the context of time, are both important.  And rolling forecasts enhance both.  You’ll see improvements in accuracy, and you’ll deliver faster – improving relevancy.

Need some proof?  Figure 2, a chart from Aberdeen’s “You Can’t Afford to be Static: Rolling with the Punches in Forecasting” report is full of some pretty amazing results.  Here are the 3 that stand out the most:

  1. 14% increase in forecast accuracy
  2. 33% decrease in preparation time
  3. 300% improvement in productivity
Rolling Forecast
Figure 2: Realizing Potential with a Rolling Forecast

OneStream Unifies Rolling Forecasts with Actuals Across the Enterprise

So how do you do it?  How do you get started or move faster toward the adoption of effective rolling forecasts?  How do you unify the past while looking to the future?  Well, the multi-level approach that lets you do all of that is exactly what OneStream was designed to do.

Our Intelligent Finance Platform consolidates and pre-populates rolling forecasts with actuals the moment that the actuals have been certified.  And there you go – you’ve now got a simultaneous view of the past that’s in the moment while looking to the future.  OneStream even dynamically updates standard reports using the most current forecast.  This functionality drastically cuts down the time and energy that your FP&A team will need to spend generating reports, making it much easier to iteratively forecast.

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As your team begins its rolling forecast journey toward organizational agility, data relevance, and trust, download our Unify Connected Planning Whitepaper to learn more.  And if you’re ready to make the leap from static planning to agile forecasting, contact OneStream today!

Download the White Paper

The health of any multifaceted organization depends on multiple teams working in unison, with several sources of data in real-time. In this post, we’ll take a quick look at how the right technology can boost your team’s ability to collaborate quickly and accurately – all through the lens of higher ed budgeting and planning software.

There’s nothing simple about budgeting and planning in higher education. It’s a matrix. How, exactly? Well, simply put, there are just too many moving parts, too many external variables, and too many stakeholders for these two foundational activities to be linear. As today’s increasing pace of change places ever more pressure on Finance teams, many are taking steps to modernize their static budgeting and planning cycles.

Successful Planning and Budgeting Depends on Massive Collaboration

You’d be hard-pressed to find a regent, president, provost, dean, or any other higher-ed leader who didn’t list collaboration as a core value. Educational institutions have an inherent interdependence and must have all their organizational units in sync, working together, to accomplish large goals (see Figure 1). For that reason, access to and collaboration with quality data is imperative at every level of the organization.

Gartner Cloud FC MQ

Figure 1: The Importance of Data Sharing and Collaboration Source: HBR Analytic Services, 2020

The collaboration gap in budgeting and planning often begins and ends with the segregated nature of internal systems and, more importantly, how those systems share data and edits. Any team emailing around versions of spreadsheets and documents with edits and notes knows this pain all too well.

If those teams are printing hard copies and editing with sticky notes – a practice that’s still surprisingly common – then that pain may even be worse. Essentially, working separately and consolidating along the way creates openings for errors and destroys any hope for a quick, accurate turnaround.

Manual Processes Producing Static Budgets and Plans Don’t Work Anymore

Spreadsheets aren’t equipped to handle the multiple layers of work happening within the flurry of activity known as budgeting and planning in higher ed.

Gartner Cloud FC MQ

Figure 2: Problems Caused by Spreadsheet Collaboration Reach Far and Wide Source: MarketWatch, “88% of spreadsheets have errors

In fact, budgeting and planning teams are expected to turn edits, integrate new data and structures, keep up to date, and communicate more clearly than ever before. Here are just a few of the top challenges that bog down budgeting and planning efforts when they’re rooted in manual updates through spreadsheets:

  1. No Version Control. Have you ever been working on a big project where your teammates sent you multiple emails with an attachment that had the same name? Did you know which one you were supposed to use, without wasting time looking back through the entire chain of exchanges?
  2. No Audit Trail. When you’re exchanging files, how do you remember who changed what? Do you remember when they changed it?
  3. Too Many Errors. Have you been tasked with preparing the final output? While you were re-typing edits from the separate notes and spreadsheets into the final output (was that really the “final”… or “final2″…), did you accidentally mistype a number? We’ve all been there, and we’ve all spent hours scouring the source sheets to find the correct entry. Worse yet, what if you missed the error altogether, and the final output is incorrect when it’s delivered to leadership?
  4. Slow Turnaround. Everyone hates deadlines, but speed is important when you’re making strategic decisions. Have you ever pushed to deliver on time, finished your work, and only later learned that leadership was disappointed that the output you delivered was out of date compared to the information they just heard on the news or read about in a legislative update? If your knowledge and data can’t update in real-time to your outputs, how can you be sure you’re making good decisions?

The hidden costs of spreadsheets are created by duplication of effort, errors, and rework. All this wasted time moves your team’s focus away from the true value of analysis and communication that supports strong decision-making across the institution and keeps everyone stuck in busywork.

As the pace of change continues to increase, higher ed Finance teams need to shift focus away from data gathering, reconciling, and managing key integration points and into collaborating with decision-makers and providing better, faster insights.

Moving Forward with Confidence

At OneStream, we understand that complexity is the inevitable by-product of change, especially in higher ed. Accordingly, we believe that your success will not be realized by eliminating complexity but will instead be achieved by effectively steering your institution through it.

How do we do it? Our unified Intelligent Finance platform (see Figure 3) allows us to deliver our many capabilities within a single, extensible, cloud-based application built to scale along with your organization. That’s why hundreds of organizations, including many higher ed institutions, have chosen OneStream – and they’ve never looked back.

OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform
Figure 3: OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

Why is unification important? Well, it eliminates openings for errors created by manual work and separate, connected financial reporting tools. If you re-type data or are dependent on technical connection points for updates, you have opened the door for potential problems.

What can a platform approach do for you and your team? Here are a few of the key benefits you get with OneStream’s budgeting and planning software:

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Need some proof? How about a great example from one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities? This case study details how OneStream has helped reduce the time needed to complete budgets and has detailed ROIs, including how a regular existing 3.5 hour-process was reduced to just 5 minutes.

Want to continue the discussion? Have any questions? Contact us, and one of our experts will reach out to you ASAP.

Download the Case Study

Budgeting, Accounting, and Finance teams in higher education, just like in other fields, must adapt and thrive in the face of rapid change.  In this blog series, we’ll uncover the key value drivers that modern budgeting and planning software has to offer higher-ed leaders.  We’ll also map out how these leaders can begin or accelerate the journey to conquering complexity and empowering their teams to lead at speed.

Speed and Agility Are More Important Than Ever

While accuracy, transparency, and consistency are the backbone of accounting and financial operations, adding speed and agility is what ultimately separates the institutions that deliver consistent value from those that struggle.

And as the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic flies by, speed and agility have never been more important for leaders in higher education.

These leaders have been repeatedly forced to adjust daily operations.  But they now face another obstacle: reconciling visions, plans, and budgets with a historic disruption that has created dips in enrollment, leading to a critical loss in revenue (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: YOY Enrollment Changes by Institution Type

Chart: Natalie Schwartz/Higher Ed Drive, Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

Those revenue losses naturally put pressure on the Finance team.  And while pressure is nothing new to financial leaders in higher ed, COVID-19 and its complexities have undermined many institutions to the point where they’re no longer trying to balance budgets through cuts and efficiencies.  Instead, schools must rethink and restructure their business models.

Board members, presidents, and deans – all of whom carry huge responsibilities – are thus demanding more consistent and timely data inform their decisions.

Accounting and Finance teams must therefore modernize to streamline processes, unify outputs and empower leadership with the information needed to not only make key decisions but also pivot when necessary.  After all, the total economic and operational impacts of the pandemic are not yet known, but one thing is certain: complexity and the rapid pace of change are the new normal.

What’s on the Way in This Blog Series

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be laying out why higher-ed leaders need a modern, platform-based approach to planning, budgeting, and forecasting. We’ll also cover how to speed reporting and analysis cycles – and we’ll lay out the roadmap to show you how to make that a reality.

Below is a breakdown of the topics and related challenges we’ll cover along the way:

  1. Budgeting- Does your annual budget process take too long due to manual data integration with core systems and an over-reliance on spreadsheets for modeling?  Even after all that effort, do you lack visibility into the funding sources across the organization?  If you’re relying on outdated systems and processes, it makes aligning financial plans to strategic goals difficult.  Why?  Well, focusing on institutional priorities requires precision – and precision is a key benefit that enterprise performance management software brings to the table.
  2. Long Range Planning/Forecasting Does your long-range planning process produce stagnant documents that are often out of date before the end of the first quarter? With so many moving pieces, state funding sources, research, endowments, ever-rising costs, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep your plan and your forecasts relevant. Predictive analytics and forecasting solve that dilemma.
  3. Reporting/Analysis (Signaling)– Traditionally, reporting has been used to monitor and communicate progress toward the goals and priorities outlined in plans and budgets – so reporting has historically only looked backward.  Moving forward, we want to enhance the reporting function.  To empower leaders to receive and quickly understand financial and operational positions.  To give leaders the data and insights needed to pivot when and where it’s necessary to course correct or take advantage of opportunities.  Financial signaling makes it all happen.

The Better Alternative – A Unified Platform

OneStream has empowered hundreds of organizations (including dozens in the public sector) to unleash the power of Accounting and Finance by unifying planning, budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and analytics through a single, extensible solution (see Figure 2).  This solution is delivered via a  cloud platform designed to evolve and scale with your institution.

Why should you care?  Well, here are just a few of the key benefits you get with OneStream’s budgeting and planning software:

Figure 2: OneStream’s Unified Intelligent Finance Platform

Let’s Connect and Continue the Discussion

While you may not yet be a customer, we appreciate your work in the public sector and value your opinion – and we’d love to explore opportunities where we can move forward together.  At OneStream, our mission is simple: “Every customer is a reference, one success at a time.”

For more information, download the Higher Education Solution Brief.  Want to continue the discussion?  Have any questions? Contact us, and one of our experts will reach out to you ASAP.

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