Why Julie chose the finance system with the best control

The Bishop of Winchester Academy

Happy Students

Bishop of Winchester Academy in Dorset comprises a secondary school, sixth form and centre for special needs. Located in a deprived area, 25% are pupil premium children, whilst it runs a specialist centre for children with autism.

Julie Tannett is the Director of Finance. A qualified accountant, she told us why she moved to Dimensions for Academies in 2016 and how it's benefited her academy since then.

When a period end close can still open

Julie inherited a finance system she described as "absolutely appalling". Not before long, the deficiencies of this system became her priorities for a new provider.

"The software was terrible. You couldn't even hard close the year. You just ticked a box. And it could easily be unticked. At the time, nobody understood that once the year was closed, you didn't post things backwards. I had to impose very strict period end controls to make sure the figures couldn't change once the management accounts had been produced. It was an absolute nightmare. I don't understand how anyone could call it an accounting system," said Julie.

She told the governors this issue was a huge risk for the academy. The figures couldn't be trusted due to such poor control. Pretty quickly, they all agreed to find a new finance system.

Mirroring an expensive system for less

Julie had previously worked at a local college and loved the finance system there. But it was too expensive for a single school academy. So, her ideal scenario was to find the same level of control, for less.

"I'm a qualified accountant. I like to have the controls and I prepare the accounts myself. So, I wanted a system I could safely rely on.

There had been a very clear month end process on the college system, so I wanted something as close to that as I could find. We looked at PS Financials, Sage for Education and Hoge 100. I was put off PS Financials immediately because it's a unified ledger and they're very poor for exercising control. And Access from Hoge just had much better period end controls than Sage. We could do an initial close and then a final close. But once that first close happened, no more orders or invoices were going into that month. I could safely start work on the management accounts.

"It was the ability to do that hard close on the purchase ledger and the sales ledger separately, and to move the working period forward from the nominal ledger that sold me on Access (and Dimensions for Academies). We do now almost mirror what we used to do at the college."

An incredibly smooth changeover

Transitioning to a new finance system can be challenging. But Julie found with Hoge 100's help, the process was trouble-free.

She explained: "I worked with Liz Collier [at Hoge 100]. She showed me how to set up nominal accounts, how to link them, and how to build the chart of accounts in advance. Once I was happy with everything, they installed the live system and imported what I'd set up.

Then Liz helped me import the opening debtors and creditors and bank reconciliations. And we were away. It was all very straightforward and simple. It was an incredibly smooth process."

"There's nothing about it I'm not happy with."

Three years on, Julie remains very happy with her decision to move providers. In fact, she told us she's often singing Hoge 100's praises on the FD Forum. So, aside from the reassurance of a hard close, we asked what she particularly liked about Dimensions for Academies.

"We've found Finance Portal particularly useful. I've been able to give logins to budget holders, so they can go in and look at their own report and spend against budgets. They can do that at any time. That's one of the big bonuses.

The ability to attach invoices to transactions has been hugely useful too. At year end, it makes such a difference. Instead of constantly having to get the files out and look invoices up, I can just open them, which is brilliant. The direct link to Excel is great too. I always do accounts in Excel so I can keep a clear record of final journals for the auditors. That link to Excel is very useful to me. In fact, there's nothing about it I'm not happy with."

Finance Portal

Proven first-class support

It's not just the software that's impressed Julie. Having previously experienced support that "wasn't great" with her last provider, she can tell the difference with Hoge 100.

"We have been so impressed. The support from Hoge 100 is just incomparable. I mean, it was one of their selling points. But people say they give great support, and then in reality, they don't. But Hoge do. I think they are first-class; I really do."