Better Decision Making Powered by Operational ForecastingPosted on Aug 23, 2017, 1:32:12 PM
Planning is essential to the success of a school district. Administrators, school boards, teachers and staff spend a lot of time defining goals for how they will measure the performance of students, schools and the district as a whole.
Before joining Forecast5, I spent more than 30 years as the chief financial officer/treasurer for a school district in suburban Chicago. I know from experience that even the best plans can’t anticipate everything that can pop up during the year. The true test of a school district’s finance team is its ability to adapt as needed to make good decisions for the unplanned.
Introducing 5Cast™ Plus
That’s why I’m so excited about the new 5Cast Plus module for our 5Cast™ solution. Now in addition to long-term financial forecasting capabilities, 5Cast Plus enables school districts to better manage their current year budgets by accessing data from their financial system, then easily get an in-depth picture of what’s happening every month.
Instead of just reviewing line items, finance managers can do what we like to call "operational forecasting" to make well-informed decisions based on historical and current data.
Short term plans, long range goals
Solid decision-making needs to address current needs while also considering the impact of choices on your goals three to five years out. It requires accurate information that encompasses the past, current and foreseeable future.
Financial systems geared for school districts are great for recording transactions but are not well equipped to support analysis of current and historical data. Producing reports to help finance directors, administrators and school boards to make good decisions is a time-consuming manual process.
Simplify the process
With 5Cast Plus, the process is automated. You easily upload monthly transactions from your financial system to 5Cast Plus. The module crunches all the numbers for you and produces an immediate analysis of historical trends, short-term projections and a view of your current financial health.
You are now armed with the information you need to easily evaluate what’s happening at the end of each month, compare to the previous month or year, and project the budget to the end of the fiscal year. It’s all done in a matter of minutes versus the hours it takes to create manual reports.
Operational forecasting in action
Let’s take a look at how operational forecasting is useful when the unexpected happens:
The surprise — Bam! The status of a boiler at one of your schools just went from creaking along to croaked. A quick check of your budget’s line item for capital repairs reveals you’ve already committed all the funds. Now what?
The 5Cast Plus fix — With the ability to roll up your budget and look at it from an aggregate level, you’re able to more easily identify where there is room in the capital expenditures budget to cover the repair of the boiler. The funds just need to be moved to a different line item.
The surprise — The introduction of Chromebooks for every student at the high school has unexpectedly overloaded the wireless network. The superintendent pops into your office asking if there’s room in the budget so purchase new wireless routers to boost the signal so students can access learning materials. Can the district afford it?
The 5Cast Plus fix — You know the additional wireless routers and installation services run about $50k. The 5Cast Plus solution reveals that in September, the school district received $75k more in revenue than is typically based on trends identified from historical data. You can also see the sources of the monies. Armed with this analysis, you're now able to give your superintendent the backing he needs to take to the school board to approve the purchase, which in the long run support the goal of the district to transition to online learning materials.
The surprise — Revenue from the state is delayed while the general assembly squabbles over a funding formula, but building principals want approval to move forward with their specific line items for needed supplies. What do you tell them?
The 5Cast Plus fix — Better visibility into the month-to-month and yearlong projects of the delayed revenue from the state puts you in a better position to communicate effectively with the building principals. Even if a spending stoppage is required, you're able to clearly explain why and prepare the principals to share the news with their staff in a way that supports the goals of the district.
Extract more meaning from your data
School district budgets are big and complicated. Unplanned changes to expected revenues and expenses are a normal part of managing the yearly budget. With visibility at an aggregate level of monthly performance and trends provided by 5Cast Plus, you’re able to make better decisions and thoughtfully guide the management of your funds to help the school district achieve its performance goals.
David joined Forecast5 Analytics in 2014 and is responsible for the product management, development, and outreach of Forecast5’ s quantitative analysis and financial projection engine – 5Cast. He also assists with the management of 5Cast client relationships. Prior to joining Forecast5 Analytics, he worked as a Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer for over 30 years at Township High School District 211, in Palatine, Illinois. During his extensive experience as a CFO, he successfully engaged in the development of several strategic planning projects and long-term capital improvement programs. David received his BA in Business Economics, and has a MA and certification in school business management.