Time to Focus on the Big Picture:
Automating Financial Statements for
School District 83
|Organization:||School District 83|
|Solution:||Workiva Wdata & Wdesk|
The finance team at School District 83 (Okanagan-Shuswap, British Columbia) was looking to save time and money; reduce errors; and improve its reporting reliability, repeatability, and standardization; by automating its financial statements. When we met the team, their data preparation stage was heavily dependent on complex spreadsheets—requiring too much keying and leaving little time for analytics.
“We utilized Excel, as well as other Office products— [like] Word for our financial notes and our financials, even discussion analysis. So, it was a very fractured overall process when we...look back on it,” said Jeremy Hunt, Finance Director for the district.
The team was accustomed to finalizing, formatting, and preparing statements manually—a time-consuming and frustrating process. Additionally, they were required to complete Local Government Data Entry (LGDE) forms, which meant replicating the information from their annual report and manually keying it into the ministry’s template for online submission.
Jeremy explained that in previous years, the team's work was paper-heavy. "We have binders. Nine-inch or 12-inch binders. I know they’re massive for year-end. And the [backs of those…are] all printed and messy,” he said.
What’s more, the finance team frequently had difficulty finding original hard-copy source documents to back up their data. Jeremy looked forward to updating their process, so they “wouldn’t have to find a paper copy every year…that validates a number.”
The district’s team also wished to collaborate simultaneously without risk of overwriting crucial information. “We wanted something that allowed access to the individual that was required to do that work, but locked down areas where we didn't want [them working],” said Dale Culler, Secretary–Treasurer/CFO.
They were also interested in a multi-functional tool. “The biggest limitation that we have in our department...is staffing resources to move forward with any initiative...and when we consider the end product, we wanted to move towards something that would allow us to potentially consolidate...future reporting requirements,” said Jeremy.
FHB met with the district’s team to evaluate their existing processes and develop a customized solution to meet their needs. Initially, the conversation included using Caseware. “The Caseware discussion was because that's what we...were familiar with. But we also wanted to be open, to hear [about] advancements in the industry, where it's going...Caseware requires a very specific knowledge. We wanted something [with the] structure, the rows and columns [that people are] familiar [with],” said Dale.
In the end, FHB recommended Workiva. As a cloud-based platform, Workiva offers a collaborative database (Wdata) as a single source for data entry/management and an advanced report writer (Wdesk) for instant and automatic preparation of consistent, formatted reports—mitigating risk of data-entry and calculation errors and improving overall report accuracy.
"It was concerning that it would be difficult to learn a new piece of software. But once we got into it and started to see the back end of it and how it really worked, and became more familiar with it, it was very Excel-based. That took away a lot of the reservations that I had, and I believe Dale had as well, [about] us being able to understand and use it in a logical manner that would follow [what] we're used to,” said Jeremy.
“[Christine] was on top of it. She kept us on the tracks…I can’t say enough about what she did for us. She’s very helpful.” –School District 83 Finance Director Jeremy Hunt
Throughout the project, the School District 83 staff was highly impressed with the responsiveness of the FHB team. [FHB Principal Consultant Christine Gilbert, CPA, CA] did a great job…she would answer questions whenever I would throw them over, and…usually it was within like an hour,” said Jeremy. “It was a great experience.”
“It's definitely appreciated that [Christine] had some experience in PSAB that we could draw support from,” he added.
When asked to rate [FHB’s] general knowledge of Workiva and reporting standards on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being “the greatest ever,” Jeremy responded, “It’s a nine or a 10.” He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend FHB to peers and colleagues.
“They were patient when we were struggling to keep up…they were accessible
and worked with us on issues that we had…I would definitely recommend that
[FHB] would be a good partner to implement any accounting-related software.”
So far, the greatest benefit of the Workiva implementation has been time savings. “It's just going to reduce the amount of…data entry that we have historically relied on. We [were using] reports from our [old] clunky system that doesn't provide great reporting…mapping was not the greatest previously. So, it's...going to speed up that manual entry time. It will help us validate data as well,” said Jeremy.
Jeremy added that Workiva has far exceeded his expectations. “User friendliness has been amazing...it didn't take much training, to be honest, to understand how to use this product...on top of that, I can see how it links everything together and can easily produce something that is better than what we have previously done [over] many hours—in just an hour,” he said.
Dale agreed, adding, “[Workiva] provides one place... [in which] to do review...and because it's very consistent with the way that we've been trained to look for things when...creating working papers, it'll be much quicker to do that." Before Workiva, "when things [were] disjointed...I’d have to interrupt...Jeremy...stop his workflow, so that he [could] show me where things [were]. In the new platform, I can just [look] at the progress of the review as it is...I don't have to wait for [it] to be finished; I can look at it live,” he said.
In light of this project’s success, District 83 has decided to move forward with two additional projects.
“So … the bigger one is going to be the budget … we want to integrate our budgeting into Workiva,” said Jeremy. “We’re thinking next year, maybe toward the end of 2023, into 2024.”“...After this audit season—we’ll look at financial reporting quarterly…at some point maybe move into monthly statements,” said Jeremy. “Quarterly reporting is probably the next logical step...before we even do the budget,” said Dale.
With all of the time they’ve saved, Jeremy looks forward to taking on higher-level tasks. “I'm fairly production-based right now in my job as a director, whereas I need to be more [focused on] oversight and [the] bigger picture,” he said.
The District 83 team is pleased with how far they’ve come, and optimistic about the future.
“We’re just scratching the surface of what Workiva can do for us,” said Jeremy.