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U Central Florida Medical School Moves to SaaS Budgeting System
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando has gone public about its adoption of a budgeting application implemented at the beginning of 2010. The college is now running Adaptive Planning, a suite of features delivered in a software-as-a-service model.
The college, which opened in 2007, initially used a Microsoft Excel model in its finance department for the annual budgeting process. When Steve Omli, director of finance, joined in the summer of 2008, he wasn't particularly surprised by the use of the spreadsheet program. After all, he noted, "The university as a whole doesn't have a specific application for doing its budget."
But Omli also knew that Excel had its limitations. "When you're trying to do a budget, a lot of times you have several different users, you're creating several different versions, and if you're doing any kind of sophisticated calculations, as your budget grows and changes, you end up having a lot of problems: Who's working on what version? Who has access? Who has the latest version? What folder is it in? I've added this tab, so are all the formulas rolling up correctly?" he explained.
One of the first projects Omli undertook after joining the college was to develop a budget-to-actual comparison. "This was very difficult because the line items did not match the general ledger codes, requiring an enormous amount of manual effort," he said. As a result, he and the finance department began looking for an alternative.
The finance director had used several different products at other medical schools where he'd worked. So he knew that he wanted an application that offered control over budget versions, user access, and structure and that would also allow fairly sophisticated formulas to be part of the model. "I wanted to move the college's budget to something that would mirror the general ledger, but also allow us to have the kind of control where if somebody has a question regarding the budget, we all know where to go and we all know what to look at," he said. "A product that would allow us to create the kinds of reports that would be helpful."
As the evaluation evolved, Omli realized that a SaaS solution would be a practical approach. "It would have been very difficult for me to do any kind of quick implementation if I needed to engage significant resources from our IT department," he noted. The problem there, he added, was that because the college is so new, the IT group is still highly focused on the computing needs of the faculty and students. A new budgeting application is "something that had more of a peripheral priority."
The college chose Adaptive Planning in January 2010 and hired the company's implementation team to do the deployment. Twelve weeks later the system was running.
The new budgeting system includes multiple planning features: personnel, revenue, capital asset, allocation, and expense; as well as balance sheet and cash flow, planning, collaboration, and reporting and analysis.
Soon the college will be opening up a "clinical enterprise." So Omli's department will be purchasing a "second instance" option from Adaptive Planning, which offers the capability for the new initiative to budget independently and still roll up to the College of Medicine's budget.
The finance group will also add an optional transaction-level detail reporting in 2012.
Noting that "every year we learn to use the application better," Omli said the budgeting process now tends to be "more complete, more comprehensive. We're able to do budget to actual reporting very quickly and have some really nice reports come out of the application. People have better access to their own budget. At any time they can log in and see their part of the budget that they're dealing with. Those are some really major impacts."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.