About the organization
A Michigan school district wanted to make a number of improvements in operations and efficiencies, especially in relation to grant and budget management. The district serves about 10,000 students and has 11 total schools, providing education to students from pre-kindergarten programs through 12th grade. Specifically, the educational organization has nine elementary schools, which serve students through sixth grade, and two secondary schools that include junior high and high school. 

The situation
The school district wanted better control over the purchasing process. In many ways, the school system’s issue was similar to that of many other educational organizations that have approached The TM Group with the idea of integrating an ERP solution into their operations. There was no automated approval system in place for purchasing, and all tasks and workflows were paper based. That meant too much labor going toward the busywork associated with manual, paper-based processes. There were also issues booking costs to the right accounts, which negatively affected accuracy of reporting. Dynamics GP includes encumbrances, which earmark funds for use out of a particular account, track spending and prevent the use of expended funds in planning.

The school system’s CFO (an outside consultant) reached out to The TM Group with the intent of determining whether Microsoft Dynamics GP would be a good solution for this Michigan public school system. The district’s CFO-level consultant had a previous relationship with The TM Group through work with other organizations in the past, which made initial discussions about the project easier and more familiar. As a power user of Dynamics GP in the district, the consultant is driving much of the success in the ERP solution’s use.

The changes and benefits
After a discussion confirming Dynamics GP provided the needed support in terms of general ledger account number format – with concerns specifically related to segments in account format and character numbers addressed – an implementation plan was developed. The school district purchased Microsoft Dynamics GP starter suite with five users as well as ReQlogic Requisition Management, eOne SmartConnect for integrations and Mekorma MICR. For the project, The TM Group guided the district in the implementation of GL, AR, AP, Bank Rec, as well as other modules.

For financial reporting, the district uses Management Reporter with Unit Accounts, which can be used to record numbers along with financial information for greater operational insight. The Unit Account allows calculation of a variety of different statistics to indicate performance, current situations as compared to ideal projections and other considerations. With Dynamics GP now in place, the CFO can reliably export necessary financial information from the ERP solution and have confidence that all data is accurate.

Another benefit of the completed implementation is the ongoing integration built with SmartConnect to both bring data into Dynamics GP and send it out of the ERP solution. The school system has federal Financial Information Database reports it needs to fill out for receiving grants and other funding. The forms used needed to match a specific format to comply with FID reporting. There are also some instances where the school system’s staff are developing their own integrations for SmartConnect.

With more than 20 locations, often referred to as buildings, the end user training was intensive in terms of learning ReQlogic requisitions and setting up approval paths. ReQlogic allows the district to conduct internet-based requisitions for purchase orders. After setup by The TM Group, the school system trained staff at each location to put in purchase requisitions, which are then reviewed by the district accounting office.

The purchase approval process also includes a top-level administrator at each location to approve the account number and the financial information for requisitions. That data then goes on to the head of the district. Dynamics GP and ReQlogic allow the district to streamline that process and make it more manageable. ReQlogic also sets the timeframe of grants, allowing the school system to span multiple financial years when dealing with multiyear grants – something that was exceptionally difficult to deal with in the past. ReQlogic lets staff know if money is available and allows for review by the grant manager before a purchase order is prepared.

The results
Paper-based processes and the lack of a central system to reliably hold and manage data are major issues for any organization. Lack of efficient management, laborious processes, paper-based process dependancies and the many limitations of disconnected spreadsheets and pencil-and-paper accounting all drag an organization down and create ongoing problems. With Microsoft Dynamics GP, this school district has made many different accounting and operational processes far easier, reaping the benefits of increased efficiency and transparency.