The University of Cape Town (UCT) has successfully begun the move to a new, efficient and proudly South African budgeting tool with world-class abilities – and the response has already been “resoundingly positive”.
Ashley Francis, executive director of UCT Finance, said his team started implementing the tool in January 2019, training took place at the end of June 2019, and it was rolled out for user access at the beginning of July 2019.
“With executive reviews coming up, I also became involved with implementation as I needed to understand what the budget numbers were and what the rationale was behind these numbers,” Francis said.
“The teams were able to quickly drill down into systems to get me this data.”
“The teams were able to quickly drill down into systems to get me this data. In the past, [getting] even the most basic data meant collating spread sheets – [it] was very time consuming.”
The UCT project team is headed up by Delfina de Gois (Management Accounting – project manager) with Tony Dollery (Management Accounting), Fatima Abrahams and Lesley Haddow (Finance Systems and Policies), and Stadler Louw, Ruan Bekker, Glenn Hurlow and Pierre Neethling (ICTS).
Streamlined budgeting process
The team said the new budgeting process is streamlined, efficient and timesaving, freeing them up to “analyse results and be more strategic instead of collating a multitude of spreadsheets to get a final view of the numbers”.
“The new system has allowed finance managers to be more strategic. The data analytics afforded by IDU was a big driver for us moving to it.”
Wayne Claassen, director of IDU Software’s Customer Implementation and Support division, was consulting director on the IDU team assisting UCT. He explained that the IDU budgeting tool could take complex features, such as payroll, capex and activities, and simplify them for the users.
“It also goes a step further in providing the users with a point-and-click capability to interrogate actual data against budget or last-year comparative information and the ability to capture variance analysis comments.”
The aim, he said, is to empower and involve management throughout the university with a user-friendly tool that provides real-time budget capture and aggregation across the business.
The tool was originally developed by IDU in Cape Town and has undergone redevelopment and upgrades to keep abreast of technology changes and the ever-changing financial world. The product also has a global footprint “which has generated many new innovations which have all found their way into the core product”.
De Gois said one of the perks of IDU is that it is web-based, which means users are able to access it across any mobile device. This, she said, makes accessibility to the data faster and easier.
“This is a great time saver and makes input and access to data simpler and easier.”
De Gois, Dollery and Abrahams said other positives of the system include downloading to Excel at the click of a button, which gives users access to, and the ability to change, different areas of their budgets using different tabs within one session.
“In our old budgeting tool, users had to have at least four sessions open in order to input their plans,” the team said.
The new system also allows for automation of tedious systems/processes, which in the past necessitated manual input.
A new beginning
UCT used the SAP Controlling (CO) module for planning/budgeting prior to the IDU budgeting tool. It worked well but had outlived its purpose.
“The old system was Excel- and paper-intensive, long-winded and it was difficult to be nimble with data analytics – basically the system was archaic,” said Francis.
De Gois, Dollery and Abrahams were in agreement and said the SAP CO module for budgeting and reporting had “required a great deal of manual intervention”.
“Although effective in achieving the desired end result, systems and processes were cumbersome, hugely labour intensive, time-consuming, inefficient and required a large amount of manual resource interface, as well as dependence on various spreadsheets and off-system files.
“It was also difficult to revise budgets quickly to respond to changes and scenarios, and so lacked the appropriate agility in our operational and strategic context.”
Fast and easy data access
Deans and executive directors have lauded the new system, saying that data access and analytics is now fast and easy. Francis added that the responses from finance managers have also “only been positive”.
Project implementation is ongoing, as the reporting and data analytics functionality is still under development. The next phases in the roll-out are:
The budgeting tool has so far been rolled out to staff involved in the planning and budgeting processes in relation to Council-controlled activities, including finance managers, assistant finance managers and academic administration managers.
Development is under way for further roll-out to non-Council-controlled activities, such as research.
“The implementation exceeded my expectations. The IDU team has been extremely responsive, very knowledgeable and highly professional, and I believe this new budgeting tool will revolutionise the work we are doing,” Francis said.
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