4 ways that higher education can become more financially agile

14 May 2021 | Saska Nel

Financial agility – here are the two magic words that have become the lifeblood of higher education institutions everywhere.


We all know rapid changes are afoot with critical and fast financial decision-making required across the sector. Research recently conducted by Axiom found that for 34% of higher education institutions, the budget cycle was greater than six months. Yet, in today’s environment, a budget is likely to be irrelevant in six weeks, rather than six months – and it’s possible that financial teams will need to produce financial scenarios in six hours rather than six weeks. It’s a figure that’s impossible to achieve without the utilisation of automation and sophisticated financial planning software.

Financial management and planning solutions power financial agility – it’ll mean the difference between being prepared for all uncertainties and leading the way through this crisis by providing improved, far-reaching financial management – or not.

The importance of robust financial data must take a similarly leading role, if your institution is to manage cash carefully, develop forecasts and strategies for future enrolments and sustainability. It’s only by making informed decisions with accurate forecast and budget data, both financial and non-financial, that you’ll be able to align strategies with immediate and long-term objectives, ensuring you can meet both current and future challenges.

Here are our 4 key steps the Higher Education sector can take to become more financially agile:

1. One point of data truth for accurate decision making

Supporting information is required from all areas of the business, from human resources and operations to marketing and revenue from sales. Aggregating data into one single system allows for the capture of both financial and non-financial data that is essential when budgeting, reporting, analysing, forecasting and planning.

2. Automating and speeding up the process

Modern financial technology, such as Axiom software, can successfully shift an institution’s focus from data organisation into analysis. By managing planning assumptions and real-time reporting, financial teams can take advantage of driver-based planning models that enable greater financial agility and better decision-making.

3. Collaboration across the organisation

Covid-19 has clearly demonstrated the requirement for collaboration across organisations. Input from budget owners through to negotiations, trade-offs and approvals, means non-finance users can review and submit requests. This can increase confidence and foster buy-in while also enabling distributed decision-making and increasing financial agility.

4. Focussing on strategic activities

Institutions need to make the right strategic decisions based on sound financial reporting and predictive modelling. By removing time-consuming tasks through automation, the office of finance can be redeployed and better utilised to help steer the institution through the many and unpredictable challenges from Covid-19.

It’s only by employing agile financial management and planning that your institution will be able to adapt and change quickly, planning for lots of different outcomes and making strategic, well-informed decisions confidently, now and for the future.

Axiom’s latest whitepaper, ‘Higher Education: How to Plan and Manage through Financial Uncertainty’, addresses these issues and how university finance teams can innovate the way they operate. Our whitepaper explores:

  • The challenges facing the Higher Education sector
  • How the office of finance can drive change
  • A case study on UCL
  • How to make finance fit for the future

If you’re ready to take the lead with your financial planning in uncertain times, you can download a free copy of the whitepaper here.

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