No regrets for Haberdashers' Adams
They implemented their system mid-year
Haberdashers' Adams Federation Trust is made up of two academies: Haberdashers' Adams and Haberdashers' Abraham Darby Academy.
Although the Trust ran the same financial system for each, the problem was that the systems were not consolidating so they needed one that would merge both systems.
The search for a system
The Trust looked at four different packages, including Dimensions for Academies, Hoge 100's finance system, which was suggested by the clerk of the governing board.
Each of the systems were presented to the team which drew up a list of pros and cons for all. The team had criteria for what they needed from an accounting package and scored them all based on these criteria. This then went to the Board. "When we were presented with the Hoge 100 package, it gave us everything we wanted, with a much more personal approach than the others. We are not a normal academy, so we needed something that could adapt to our situation and we felt Hoge was best placed to provide that." Says Joy Tomkinson, Chief Financial Officer for the Trust.
Haberdashers' Adams Federation Trust was encouraged to implement their Dimensions for Academies system mid-academic year. Joy explained that setting up the system mid-year could have been a disaster: "We needed cast iron proof that it would work to do it mid-year. Everybody was saying 'don't do it mid-year'."
Although they were concerned about doing so, they have no regrets about the mid-year set-up. "I was very nervous about migrating mid-year, and indeed in doing it at all, but I would be a strong advocate now as trying to do it at a year-end would be a nightmare."
Despite her fears that the mid-academic year set up could have been disastrous, Joy now recognises that doing it at year-end could have been just as difficult. "Setting up the accounting package as well as the year-end accounts and figures would have been awful and would have meant that the set up would be delayed for months. However, because the set-up of Dimensions for Academies was so straightforward, now I would always recommend it is done mid-year."
"I was very nervous about migrating mid-year, and indeed in doing it at all, but I would be a strong advocate now as trying to do it at a year-end would be a nightmare."
Joy highlights the features that interested Haberdashers' Adams Federation Trust in Dimensions for Academies. "It was web-based, as most are, but we needed the reporting side to link to the academy accounts structure, and for it to draw information from the main school information system. It satisfied these criteria and enabled us to draw out pupil data to create the sales ledger.
Other benefits include being able to link to ParentPay and the ability to accommodate future expansion. It also has the ability to take on a trading company and as we are a boarding school too, we have a large sales ledger."
It was essential for The Trust to keep track of the financial situation. "We wanted one site for all the finance; prior to Dimensions for Academies it was difficult to keep track but now it's really easy to know what's going on. The reporting is so much better; it links into the accounts and the ease of the system and it is very user-friendly."
It was also important for Joy that she could access the information anywhere for remote working and flexibility: "One thing that is a great benefit is that it's available anywhere, I can do it at home; this has massive advantages."
Support is essential
When it comes to an accounting package, support, both during the initial set up and training as well as ongoing support, is essential for getting the most benefit from it. What are Haberdashers' Adams thoughts on the support they received for Dimensions for Academies? "Exceptional. I cannot fault it. Liz worked tirelessly to get it set up and to get things up and running. We had a few issues, of course we did, especially with the training but Hoge sorted it out very quickly and worked with us closely. We're not a straightforward academy, but Liz was brilliant at understanding what we were all about."
What advice would you offer other Academies looking for an accounting system?
"When you're looking at other finance systems, they may look all sophisticated, with bells and whistles and so on, but you need to look behind the scenes, consider what you need from it and make sure it does what you need it to do."