Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board is committed to delivering a vibrant Catholic education. They ensure quality learning experiences through community partnerships that nurture each student in body, mind and spirit and embrace the teachings of Christ, giving witness to Gospel values.
Although Bruce-Grey first partnered with Sparkrock in 2009, reaping efficiency benefits in their finance system such as the ability for more flexible and accurate reporting capabilities, which are crucial for school boards to maintain their funding, their Payroll solution was previously outsourced to a third party vendor. This caused bottlenecks and significant strain on the department, which had to process payroll for over 500 permanent and 300 casual employees.
Before integrating, they would be manually posting a journal entry of 300-400 lines, and have to calculate it and input it manually every pay period.
"We weren’t able to be flexible enough to handle the complexity of some of the deductions and earnings that had to be calculated.”
- Joyce Benninger
Supervisor of Payroll
When the school board realized that they were wasting a large amount of time inputting and calculating payroll manually, they didn’t have to look far to find a solution.
In 2014 they brought Sparkrock back in to implement their HR/Payroll suite, including employee management and advanced scheduling tools. Alecia Lantz, Superintendent of Business and Treasurer, was particularly enthusiastic about the full integration of the HR/Payroll suite with their finance system and being able to have all the modules under one roof and speaking to one another.
“It’s a more streamlined process of getting all our data into the General Ledger, and we can better analyze our accounts by being able to drill down to the minute detail of each transaction, including by location. And we’re really excited that account allocations are so much more accurate. If an individual is working in two different jobs, we can now split that out in our GL.”
- Alecia Lantz
Superintendent of Business and Treasurer
Bruce-Grey also wanted to improve automation to give the schools self-access to end-to-end processes for requisitions, purchase orders and invoicing, and to provide their users with real-time data with which they could use to make better business decisions.
This was achieved by implementing and integrating the Sparkrock Employee Self Serve portal, which gives users real-time access to the data and information they need via an online portal.
The administrative burden of filing was huge for Bruce-Grey CDSB before the new system, so an ‘electronic filing cabinet’ was incorporated into the 2014 project by integrating the document tagging and management tool, Kwiktag, with the Sparkrock HR/Payroll, procurement and finance processes.
The tool allows users to tag documents with unique, retrievable codes; for example, as opposed to having to collate documents by vendor – of which there may only be one in a batch of invoices received – employees can now tag documents with the codes and index them against attributes like ‘vendor.’ Accounts Payable staff can then streamline all data into a single file, and then file by batch.
“Instead of digging manually through files we can now just pull invoices and other documents up on a computer screen – it’s been a huge time saver.”
- Alecia Lantz
Superintendent of Business and Treasurer
The technology also means “we can set our auditors up with a computer, and they’re able to search documents on their own… that has saved us time and money as well.”
HR/Payroll employees have also been freed up from all the time they used to spend searching for information and manually filing so that staff can do higher-priority work such as analysis. “There’s a great deal of analysis that can be conducted with the new technology solutions,” says Lantz. “We now have the ability to break down our analysis by ‘location’ and ‘group’ and drill down to the minute detail of each transaction.”
The new Employee Self-Serve Portal has also improved the school board’s efficiencies. Designated users, such as principals, at each of the 13 schools now have increased budgetary control and smoother procurement processes since rolling out the Employee portal.
About 100 staff use the tool to access their pay stubs and T4s, change their profile information, submit vacation time and more – all online in a secure browser. While all staff are empowered by the self-serve portal, the 300 casual employees in particular love how they can enter and check their hours online.
“They aren’t thinking we’re hiding how many sick days or vacation days they have,” says Benninger. “They’ll be able to see at a glance all their statistics. If they have a name change or an address change, they’ll be able to make that change themselves and control that.”
"Other benefits of the new technology have been an incredible reduction of paper we process and tasks happening more quickly. Overall, we just wish we implemented sooner!”
- Alecia Lantz
Superintendent of Business and Treasure
The Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board has nurtured the development of students and families since 1847, and are fervently committed to high standards for achievement in teaching and learning. They are very proud of the quality of instruction within all schools and their commitment to inclusive learning spaces that provide differentiated opportunities for growth and development.
Huron-Perth Catholic DSB first became a Sparkrock client in 2007, implementing our Manage – Finance & Accounting and Manage – HR/Payroll solutions.
“We evaluated the leading competitors in the K12 school board business application market, but what impressed us most about the Sparkrock product was its flexibility. With Sparkrock we have the flexibility we need to respond to changing Ministry of Education reporting requirements. In addition, we feel confident that with the dedication of Sparkrock to the education market we’re purchasing a product that will continue to be well supported in years to come.”
- Kevin Kale
Manager of Business Services at HPCDSB
Recently, Huron-Perth Catholic DSB went through a substantial upgrade to bring their solution to the most current version available.
Sparkrock supported Huron-Perth through the transition by constantly reassuring them with meetings and phone calls that they were on track with their implementation. Because the school board was 9 versions behind, they were very nervous about the transition, and particularly nervous about their data transferring accurately.
“Sparkrock really guided us and left no questions unanswered. They were there all the time, they really held our hands.”
- Lisa Regier
Accounts Payable at HPCDSB
Sparkrock also sent Application Consultants on site to help their team navigate the new software and the particular intricacies it holds for school boards. During the upgrade, the Sparkrock Customer Success team made numerous recommendations.
Mary-Ellen Ducharme, Manager of Finance, notes that “if your client success team recommends something, they know the product inside and out, listen to them because we found that 6 months down the road we wished we had acted upon the recommendations at the start.”
In the end, HPCDSB went back and made the recommended changes and have experienced a smooth-running solution since then.
With their upgraded finance and HR/payroll solution, Huron-Perth is now able to do dimension validation at the time of posting, which has been an incredible time-saver for them. Using dimension combination validation allows them to check accounts before loading. If one is missing, they can quickly upload it and maintain their data integrity when they have to do reporting for Schedule 10.
Because their previous version was so old, they didn’t have the option to do validation prior to posting, so when it came time to do reporting for their schedules they would have to do numerous reallocating journal entries and it took a lot of time and energy to go back into their records and determine where things should have been properly posted in the first place. Now using dimension combination validation right in their GL prior to posting they can rest assured that they have accurate records the first time around and trust the integrity of the data being pulled into their Ministry reports.
Mary-Ellen Ducharme notes that, “The solution is great because any time that can be saved between me and my team means that we have more time to provide support out in the schools to our portal users, to our department heads, and to our office assistants.”
“We believe it’s important to stay current because change is constant, we want to be up to date. We are a school board, so our teachers and students are always on the cutting-edge of technology, so we certainly want to be on the same level as them. We want to have the best that’s out there, and to us, that’s Sparkrock.”
- Mary-Ellen Ducharme
Manager of Finance at HPCDSB
Waterloo Catholic District School Board began as a one-room schoolhouse in 1836 and has grown to be the 8th largest Catholic school system in Ontario. Their mission is that as disciples of Christ, they will educate and nurture hope in all learners to realize their full potential to transform God’s world.
Waterloo Catholic DSB began their journey with Sparkrock over 10 years ago. They were faced with increasingly complex financial reporting requirements, and the school board struggled with its aging ERP software, which its staff found difficult to use.
As a public sector organization, Waterloo Catholic DSB makes transparency and accountability a high priority. As a result, the organization’s demand for financial reports was and is high. Its reporting needs were also becoming more complex due to changing accounting standards and new legislation aiming to promote accountability. Technology tools had played an important role in helping the school board meet these needs, but the aging BAS technology it was leveraging began creating challenges for the board as it grew.
“We were using technology implemented in 1983. It was functional, but we continually had users complaining about how difficult it was to use. Our users also had difficulty reading the data that was generated by the system. As our reporting needs grew, we found ourselves up against the wall in terms of what our old system could provide. Clearly something had to give.”
- Shesh Maharaj
CFO/Superintendent of Corporate Services and Treasurer
The school board was also concerned about security issues around its existing solution. The product had been slated for an upgrade for six years and as the upgrade was yet to materialize, they felt the DOS-based solution was not providing the level of security Waterloo Catholic required for its confidential information. With these needs in mind, the organization decided to seek out a business application solution that would be easy to use, cost effective, and could meet its complex reporting requirements efficiently and securely.
In 2004 Waterloo Catholic began working with Sparkrock (then Altus Dynamics) on implementing a business application solution.
Nicola Dickinson, one of Sparkrock’s founding partners, commented that, “As is the case with many education organizations, Waterloo Catholic had strict budgetary parameters for its new solution. This only reinforced for us the fit of the Microsoft Dynamics technology to their needs, as the solution is very economical.”
Sparkrock then began to work with Waterloo Catholic to ensure the solution fit precisely with the school board’s needs. The seamless integration between Sparkrock and Waterloo Catholic’s other IT systems also helped ensure that financial information was easy to access any time. Drill-down functionality and on-the-fly filters in the Sparkrock solution helped Waterloo Catholic transform budget tracking documents from passive summaries to practical instruments that offer precise statements with fully updated information.
The school board now has complete financial insight across the organization so it can make timely and informed decisions—with data from both the current fiscal year and previous years. But the feature of the solution that made the it stand out furthest above competitive products was that it works like other familiar Microsoft products, helping reduce the time required to learn how to use the software and fuel Waterloo Catholic’s productivity.
Waterloo Catholic immediately felt the benefit of their new solution in 2004. “With the help of Microsoft Dynamics we have revamped our budgeting process. Tasks that used to take days to complete now take only hours,” said Maharaj. “The difference is truly amazing. We got our weekends back!”
Budget management was simplified for Waterloo Catholic with the help of Sparkrock’s Finance solution and the cash management features. The solution automates bank account management tasks, as well as the entire check-writing process. The school board now also has more visibility into its budgetary processes with bank reconciliation tools and bank account statistics reports.
With the ability to import cleared cheques into the business management system automatically, tracking of budget spending has become easier for the organization while data entry requirements have significantly decreased.
Waterloo Catholic also became able to email purchase orders, which allowed them to eliminate the need for a dedicated fax line, a modem, and software which was used to manage the faxing process under their old system. Simplifying the process has helped the school board to realize both cost and time savings as administrative staff can now focus on more strategic tasks.
The ease of use of the new solution provided the school board’s staff with the ability to not only generate more reports in a significantly streamlined and quicker way, but it also helped them make sense of the results. Where previously staff members looking for specific types of information would have needed the assistance of an experienced report writer to generate a more complex report, today they are comfortable performing such tasks on their own.
“The user-friendly interface is the biggest immediate benefit we’ve seen. With our new system, transactional data is easy to read, budgets are easier to monitor, and users’ understanding of financial data is increasing across the organization. Our staff are now comfortable generating reports on their own to find the data they need—it’s a huge step for us.”
- Shesh Maharaj
CFO/Superintendent of Corporate Services and Treasurer
Waterloo Catholic DSB has not looked back since their original purchase from Sparkrock back in 2004. Over 10 years later, Waterloo Catholic still believes Microsoft Dynamics provided by Sparkrock is still the right choice for a sound financial and accounting management system for their board and the 55 schools they service.
Committed to meeting the increasing demand for school space and growth while maintaining the focus on success and achievement that keeps York Region students performing consistently above the provincial average.
Many of their processes with their system were painfully time consuming and labour intensive. From a purchasing perspective, the board had virtually nothing to go off of for reporting and there was little visibility into the process itself.
Implemented K12 Finance Solution. The YRDSB finance team operates more strategically and proactively with faster access to data and leveraging robust reporting tools. For bank reconciliations, they used to all be done externally from their system, but now with the integration of the General Ledger, it can all be done within the solutions.
Since implementing Sparkrock, the YRDSB finance team operates more strategically and proactively with faster access to data and leveraging robust reporting tools. The increased visibility of real-time data has been extremely useful for purchasing
"These areas where time and effort is saved benefit all members of the school board, although getting all school users on board for a new system can be tough. It is a big change, but ultimately once users learn the new system they truly enjoy it.”
A few of the ways the board got the user level enticed by the potential of the solution is with functionalities such as reporting. These new reports are being delivered to them every month, showing them more and more data that pertains to them, which allows them to become excited about how the solution can improve their work. By demonstrating what the solution can do for them, it combats the uncertainty of having to learn something new.