School district leaders understand the value of attending EdTech conferences. These conferences offer resources to help school districts meet their overarching strategic goals. Though sometimes costly and time-consuming, these conferences provide insights into cutting-edge technologies and vetted solution providers. Hearing from industry experts and networking with colleagues from other schools inspire administrators to address their district's unique needs with innovation. 

While EdTech conferences can cut into a district leader's time and resources, they're still vital to helping schools reach their goals. That's why administrators need to plan out their EdTech conference attendance

Careful preparation and coordination are necessary to get the most from these events. Data from your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help create the most intuitive plan. An ERP solution allows organizations to combine siloed applications and systems to: 

ERPs can empower district administrators to attend educational conferences with more significant insights. This will ultimately benefit their school and align critical resources with their strategic goals. After all, better data leads to better outcomes.

Introduction to ERP Systems in Education

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have become a vital part of the education sector. They are integrated software solutions designed to manage all administrative tasks of educational institutions, from human resources management to financial management. These systems have revolutionized the way schools, colleges, and universities operate, making them more efficient and effective.

ERP software is used in higher education ERP systems, school administration software, and even in corporate ERP systems. It's an essential tool for managing complex workflows, business processes, and the student life cycle in educational organizations.

Moreover, it can also strengthen financial operations through financial reporting and financial aid management, ensuring that the institution remains financially viable. The ERP system is also a valuable tool for faculty management, ensuring that all staff members are on the same page.

Attend EdTech Conferences With Greater Insights To Benefit Your School

A study by Deloitte revealed that organizations employing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems experienced enhancements in efficiency, decision-making, and scalability. With this in mind, utilizing education ERP software to guide conference attendance can help districts become more efficient and effective in meeting their goals.

EdTech conferences can be overwhelming. Knowing where to focus attention can be tricky with many sessions, speakers, and vendors. School districts likely have specific goals they want to achieve from conference attendance, like addressing teacher burnout or improving student outcomes. Without validating these goals with data, conference attendance becomes scattered and disconnected.

An ERP system helps administrators refine their conference goals with insights into past performance metrics. This information makes spotting areas for improvement much more effortless. Once this happens, administrators can readily analyze data on 

When seeking out viable solutions for their schools, administrators can now prioritize the sessions and vendors that can significantly impact their strategic goals.

ERP Systems Help Strengthen District Strategic Planning And Vision

District leaders often create impactful school-wide initiatives, but they can quickly become "top-down" approaches. When initiatives come from the top, no matter how well-intentioned or evidence-based they are, they can be met with resistance from teachers. Teachers are burnt out and want to feel supported. Educators want a seat at the table regarding decisions directly affecting their autonomy and pedagogy. An ERP system enables administrators to involve key stakeholders in decision-making by providing critical data, building consensus, and delivering positive results.

Here are four ways for districts to use their ERP to build better buy-in and solidify their goals:

1. Re-examine and define strategic goals

Before attending any conferences, define what the district wants to achieve. Schools can use their ERP system to analyze data on performance indicators such as student achievement and teacher performance.

 2. Create a plan for conference attendance

District leaders can develop a plan for attending conferences based on their overarching goals. After generating a report and identifying areas for improvement, match the program's vendors and presentations that best align with these goals. Plan out a specific schedule with questions for available solutions. Identifying sessions and vendors well in advance will ensure you can access insights and resources that best meet your district's needs.

 3. Mine school data to drive decision-making

Before making any purchase decisions, an ERP can help in better understanding resource allocation. An ERP system can determine any overlapping or duplicate resources and current adoption rates amongst staff members. After conferences, school administrators can use their ERP system to analyze the data collection. They can see how well different solution providers match the needs of their schools.

4. Build a community of practice and feedback

The administration can communicate with staff members about their conference attendance beforehand. In doing so, district leaders can receive input on what sessions and vendors would be most valuable to the classroom teachers and building principals. District leaders actively involving teachers and staff in the conference attendance process are more likely to develop a well-rounded and effective plan. Additionally, open communication can reduce resistance and ensure teachers feel supported in decision-making.

Better Data Makes For Better Outcomes. Use Your ERP Solution To Help Your District

School administrators drive change based on the decisions they make. An ERP system helps them make the best decisions for their staff. Attending EdTech conferences is a wise investment for districts looking to improve student achievement and meet their strategic goals. By using an ERP solution to analyze data and make informed decisions, district leaders can maximize the value they receive from these events. This powerful needs-based and cost-saving tool allows administrators to confidently plan their conferences and make informed decisions about implementing new ideas and technology. 


If you're new to Sparkrock 365, dive into our comprehensive guide to learn more about our K-12 optimized solution, built on Microsoft's cloud platform - Business Central. Discover how integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and other key features can empower K-12 institutions to thrive. Explore the possibilities today!

Customer Profile

Providence Child Development Society (Providence) has programs that support Canadian children with learning disabilities and developmental delays in Calgary, AB, Canada. They operate six preschools with kindergarten and offer community-based programs for young children. Combined, those programs serve over 1,600 children. Their mission is to work together with the child, family and community to support the well-being and development of all children.

The Challenge

Providence has expanded significantly over its 75 years in operation. With that growth comes challenges. One issue was an accounting system that could not keep up with all of their needs. As the central administration discussed possible changes, they asked themselves:

"What would it look like to have a system that can include finance, payroll, and human resources?"

Masarra Smoka
Finance Manager, Providence

Smoka, who has been with the organization for four years, shares some of the problems Providence faced before implementing Sparkrock 365, including:

Selecting Sparkrock 365

After conducting trials and demos of various accounting systems, the organization implemented Sparkrock 365. Sparkrock offered an all-in-one solution that seamlessly integrated payroll, HR, and finance departments.

By selecting Sparkrock 365, Providence knew that there would be:

In addition to improving integration between payroll, HR, and finance, Sparkrock 365 also provided comprehensive and easy-to-understand data, enabling in-depth analysis and better decision-making. Their organization now has access to real-time reports generated by Power BI and powerful visualizations that facilitate deeper insights into their operations.

The Outcome

The transition to Sparkrock 365 has significantly impacted the day-to-day operations at Providence. "Staff are excited to use the system as they were able to increase their learning as more resources are available to them, "Smoka expressed.

Some of the benefits of shifting to Sparkrock 365 have included:

One of the unexpected outcomes of implementing the system has been an increase in employee self-reliance and empowerment. Previously, when employees had questions, they would direct them to a specific department for clarity.

Today, Smoka has noticed that people are more willing to use the resources at their disposal, such as:

"Sparkrock 365 empowers employees and gives them more confidence in their role. It helps us as an organization because everyone is taking responsibility for their role, but they are also able to grow."

Masarra Smoka
Finance Manager, Providence

In addition to professional growth, Sparkrock also offered the flexibility to scale up as the organization grows. They could easily add more user licences and manager review capabilities to accommodate expanding staff. The new system ensured they could remain future-focused and adapt to constantly changing needs.

Additional Benefits

Sparkrock 365 provided unparalleled training to ensure Providence maximizes its outcomes, including comprehensive onboarding procedures and self-paced learning resources.

At the start of implementation, Providence received personalized training sessions with consultants specializing in finance, payroll, and HR. The flexibility and availability of the consultants helped employees grasp the system's functionalities. Additionally, support teams were available post-implementation.

“Having that training was very valuable. Even after we went live, we had the support team that was available to answer any questions.”

Masarra Smoka
Finance Manager, Providence

In addition to the initial implementation training, Sparkrock also provided a diverse array of self-paced learning resources. Providence had access to training materials, including articles and videos. “This helped my overall learning experience in understanding the system because it supplemented the training they already provided,” Smoka stated.

Eager to see how Sparkrock 365 can improve your organization’s workflow and increase productivity?

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What happens when US public education experiences the most seismic shift of funds ever seen?

As school district leaders and administrators face the looming expiration of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds in 2023 and 2024, many are taking a hard look at their bottom line.

School administrators are much more selective regarding educational products and curricula. They want viable tech resources with high adoption and customer retention rates. With the unstable economy, teacher shortages, and expiring funding, districts have pumped the brakes on their heavy-handed pandemic spending. Schools must exercise even more discernment in how they allocate resources moving forward. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution can assist school districts in being more than ready for the drying up of federal funds.

Federal School Funding Sources: A Breakdown and What's to Come.

Congress passed three pieces of legislation due to the pandemic: CARES Act, CRSSA Act, and ARP. Each legislation has its own ESSER fund: ESSER I, II, and III, respectively. These funds must be obligated by September 2022, 2023, and 2024.

ESSER funds provide support to K-12 public schools. Many districts used ESSER funds to purchase technology for remote learning, improve air ventilation and filtration systems, and hire additional staff members. While it's not necessarily a shock to district leaders that these funds have an expiration date, they will need to begin planning now to:

  1. Ensure allocated funds are used effectively before the deadline; and, 
  2. Determine how they'll account for positions paid for by these funding sources.

With a recession, districts must tread carefully in using funds to pay for personnel. According to EdWeek Market Brief, educational consultants advise school districts to spend their funding sources on infrastructure and large, one-time costs instead of ongoing salaries and benefits for staff positions.

The best predictor of what's to come is to examine past funding cliffs in the wake of a cooling economy. This phenomenon has been around for a while, and districts have had to pull at their purse strings to bear the brunt of a funding freeze and recession.

During the Great Recession of 2008, many states experienced significant budget cuts, leading to many funding cliffs. Many schools struggled to maintain programs and services, leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. New York state, for example, was forced to cut education spending, which led to widespread layoffs of teachers and school staff, larger class sizes, and program cuts. In 2009, the Rochester City School District laid off over 200 teachers due to budget cuts. These budget cuts and layoffs didn't end in one year, either. The New York City public school system made significant cuts in the following years, with a proposed dismissal of over 4,000 positions.

So what does this mean for public education in the next five years? Some dark days may be ahead without careful financial planning and school management. Thankfully there are resources to drive better decision-making for schools now. Most districts lacked the proper technology back in 2008; fortunately, that's not the case today.

According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, more than 90 percent of districts have yet to use even half of their funding. Based on this survey, they predict that:

"Nearly $20 billion in ESSER funds may not be obligated by the deadline because of various factors, including administrative hurdles, limited internal planning capacity, and talent and vendor shortages."

-McKinsey

When making level-headed decisions with limited planning capacity, an ERP solution can help a great deal. ERPs help school districts plan strategically and efficiently by providing comprehensive, real-time data on the following:

This vital data helps school districts make empowered, data-driven decisions that optimize resources and allocate funding where needed most.

ERP Solutions Can Help School Districts Prepare for Funding Cliffs in Several Ways.

Resource Optimization

School districts can save costs and maximize outcomes by identifying areas where resources can be better aligned and used, including staffing, facilities, and supplies. An ERP solution can help school districts identify underutilized resources and optimize them to their fullest potential or help eliminate excess weight.

Financial Planning 

Financial planning becomes more effective with an ERP solution because all financial data integrates into one system. School districts can easily track budget and expenditure data and ensure well-managed finances. In turn, this helps them be better prepared for funding cliffs. Now they can efficiently manage their funds for optimal use. Additionally, with more significant financial insights, districts can plan multi-year budgets in the wake of financial constraints.

Improved Decision-Making

An ERP solution creates an environment where data is readily available and accessible. This data can inform financial decisions and resource allocation and identify cost-saving opportunities. With real-time data, administrators can readily view the financials and inform decision-making on fees, asset acquisition, construction, or other initiatives.

Streamlined Workflows

An ERP solution can automate repetitive administrative tasks such as contractor management, time-sheet management, and excursion approval. Freeing up valuable resources minimizes time-consuming, mundane tasks so administrators can focus on more impactful, strategic projects. The time saved on administrative work allows district leaders to invest in maintaining effective student engagement and educational programming, even during a funding cliff.

Stronger Communication

An ERP solution can enhance communication between schools, districts, and other stakeholders. School districts can use grant money management and communication tools to maintain, engage and communicate with organizations and alternative funding sources. Monetary efforts and goals can also be tracked and managed with these resources.

Build Greater Planning Capacity Now for Greater School Sustainability Later With an ERP

An ERP solution is a valuable tool that can help school districts prepare for funding cliffs. It allows administrators to allocate their resources more thoughtfully and strategically to have the greatest impact on any student's educational experience. Staff can see the real-time status of funding projects as improvements and additions are being managed, and these necessities can be prioritized with complete transparency. With the help of an ERP solution, educators and administrators can plan for successful, sustainable educational programming within their budgets, despite funding cuts.

In addition to these benefits, an ERP solution can also increase data accuracy and transparency, enabling more ethical management practices. This is especially useful in the face of tighter funding-- administrators can learn to do more with less. Employee retention climbs as benefits and features become more tailored to district needs. With dynamic planning, budgeting, and budget projection tools within an ERP solution, district management can make determinations that lead their school to success and sustainability.

Looking Ahead: The Future of ERP in Education

As we look to the future, it's clear that ERP solutions will continue to play a crucial role in the evolution of education. These systems will further enhance in areas like fee payments, student management, facility management, and more.

The focus will likely shift towards developing more intuitive, user-friendly interfaces and incorporating advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. This evolution will allow ERP systems to deliver more personalized, engaging, and effective educational experiences.

In conclusion, ERP solutions offer a comprehensive, efficient, and secure approach to managing the myriad facets of educational institutions. They not only help streamline processes but also provide valuable insights that aid in strategic decision-making. As these systems continue to evolve, they promise to drive significant advancements in the education space.

Whether it's a small school or a large educational organization, the benefits of ERP are undeniable. It's a tool that brings the most value to the table — a tool that is reshaping the future of education.

To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help K-12s thrive.

James Hunter once said that for a business to thrive, it must have healthy relationships with the "CEOS" of the organization - not the Chief Executive Officers, but rather the

While nonprofits differ from businesses, they still require strong relationships to survive. Executive directors (EDs) prioritizing each of these relationships find greater success for their nonprofit.

As the backbone of the organization, executive directors guide its mission, oversee operations, and make critical decisions that can shape the future of the group. Here's why the role of a strong executive director is crucial for the success of a nonprofit.

The Role of an Executive Director

An executive director is constantly asking:

"Is this action, person, or decision serving our organization's greatest good and mission?"

The success of a nonprofit's mission largely rests on its shoulders. Versatility is needed as they must manage many demands and carry out different tasks on any given day. They're in a constant state of securing, maintaining, and improving. EDs are responsible for the following:

Please note, the specific responsibilities can vary depending on the size and type of the organization.

Just like a CEO in a for-profit corporation, an Executive Director sits at the helm of a nonprofit organization, managing its operations, and carrying out its mission according to the strategic direction set by the board of directors.

Knowledge and Best Practices

Effective EDs will be able to work collaboratively with a board of directors and executive committee while also advocating for the organization in the local community and beyond. They need to understand public policy, current trends, and best practices in their sector. These best practices reinforce the power of connectedness, for instance:

The role of an effective ED extends beyond a passion for their work. It involves a deep understanding of all facets of running the organization, including public policy, sector trends, and best practices. It requires a commitment to building relationships, fostering a positive organizational culture, and ensuring financial prudence. All these elements together contribute to creating a successful and impactful organization.

Managing Focus and Organization

An essential skill for an ED is the ability to maintain focus despite constant interruptions. EDs are constantly pulled in different directions, with staff, board members, and donors all vying for their attention. It's easy for them to become consumed by the details of their organization, which can hinder their ability to have a broader perspective and implement innovative ideas.

That's why keeping a high level of organization is crucial in this role. It allows EDs to streamline their daily work while maintaining efficiency, despite the constant demands on their attention. Having a structured system in place can help with:

This ensures that nothing important falls through the cracks and is especially helpful in staying on top of deadlines, which are critical in their fundraising efforts. Missing a grant deadline or failing to follow up with potential donors is costly. So, being organized prevents these kinds of errors.

A Balancing Act in Effective Board Governance

It's challenging to manage competing demands and input from board members, but effective board governance is critical for nonprofit leaders. Board members help maintain:

Many members have full-time jobs outside of an organization, which means that while they may have input during board meetings, they may need help to carry out tasks outside of them.

In Boardsource's Leading With Intent Report, executives should evaluate board expectations and time allocation to ensure adequate board governance. The three areas that need more focus are:

  1. Creating a diverse and inclusive board, 
  2. Understanding organizational context, and 
  3. Building community relationships beyond fundraising. 

The best way for executive directors to navigate their internal hierarchy is to:

If EDs can do this, they'll create strong partnerships and lead their organization to success.

Managing Fundraising Efforts

Fundraising is a crucial skill that nonprofit executive directors must possess. Limited government funding, unstable income, and inaccurate budgeting issues can make it difficult for nonprofits to plan for future growth or maintain current operations. Without a visionary, strategic fundraising strategy, they will struggle to stay afloat and achieve their mission.

Strong fundraising skills help EDs secure resources for the nonprofit's operations. This involves working with donors, developing grant proposals, and creating campaigns to nurture the organization's current and potential supporters. At the core of these initiatives are relationships and visibility. Maintaining healthy relationships fuels the financial health of nonprofits. With accurate financial data to power these relationships, nonprofits can bolster their position. 

With real-time access to their organization's financial health, EDs can create intuitive plans for tracking and achieving their goals.

Maximize Your Impact: How ERP Tools Help Executive Directors To Drive Results

The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution offers an all-in-one solution with multifunctional capabilities that are as cross-functional as an executive director. By efficiently managing various relationships and completing daily tasks, ERPs provide EDs with the organizational oversight they need to succeed. This allows them to increase productivity, fulfill responsibilities, and maximize their time on high-value tasks. According to BDO, executive directors can mitigate risk for their organization by aligning and leveraging technology to enhance stakeholder relationships, a critical best practice in nonprofit management.

Take, for example, The Canadian Museum of History. This nonprofit needed to implement an integrated financial and HR solution. The museum faced inefficient workflows, a lack of integration, and difficulty tracking financial data. But with Sparkrock 365's robust technology, the museum streamlined its financial processes, automated HR functions, and gained real-time visibility into its financial data. With sound financial management, EDs are empowered to find more sustainable opportunities for their organization.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport struggled with manual data entry, lack of automation, and difficulty accessing real-time financial data. With Sparkrock's solution, the center was able to: 

Empowering Non-Profit Leadership: The Role of ERP Solutions and Sparkrock 365

Because non-profit organizations and their executive directors have unique reporting, compliance, fundraising, and other challenges that for-profit businesses do not, they need specialized software solutions to help meet their unique needs. This is where enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, specifically Sparkrock 365, can make a significant difference.

ERP Solutions: Streamlining Business Process Management

ERP solutions serve as a single platform for integrating various functions of an organization, including inventory management, financial planning, customer relationship management (CRM), grant management, fund accounting, human resources, and asset management. By consolidating these functions, an ERP system enhances business process management, leading to increased efficiency and better visibility into operations.

For non-profit organizations, the right ERP software can simplify the management of multiple programs and streamline financial workflows. It can also offer robust reporting tools, enabling executive directors to make informed decisions based on real-time data. Moreover, ERP systems can help manage regulatory requirements, providing assurance that all operations are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Sparkrock 365: A Tailored Solution for Non-Profits

Sparkrock 365 takes the concept of ERP software and tailors it specifically for the non-profit sector. As a cloud-based solution, it offers flexibility and scalability, accommodating the needs of both smaller organizations and global companies.

What sets Sparkrock 365 apart is its focus on the unique needs of nonprofits. It provides specialized modules for grant accounting and grants management, addressing the specific challenges associated with funding allocation in the non-profit sector. Its case management capabilities also allow organizations to track and manage their programs effectively.

How ERP Solutions and Sparkrock 365 Empower Executive Directors

ERP solutions empower executive directors to make informed decisions for their nonprofits. Sparkrock 365 helps manage their focus, relationships, and fundraising efforts by offering a holistic view of their nonprofit operations. Real-time data enable directors to identify areas for improvement and allocate resources effectively. Understanding customer needs and preferences becomes easier through seamless integration with their customer relationship management system. And detailed fundraising reports enable executives to track progress and make targeted decisions for future programs. 

To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help executive directors fulfill their nonprofit's mission.

As the Canadian economy faces the challenges of a downturn, the role of human services becomes vital, particularly for nonprofit organizations. Economic recessions can lead to the following: 

As a result, individuals and communities turn to human services for support. But when large volumes of people need the same help, yet financial support dwindles, strategic approaches and collaborative efforts are needed to ensure the well-being of Canadian citizens.

Why Human Services Are At Risk as Canadian Bank Stocks Plummet

The economic landscape in Canada has seen its share of fluctuations, with recessions affecting diverse sectors and communities alike. Most notably, according to the Financial Post, major Canadian banks' stock prices have dropped due to the worsening economic outlook. Even though human services may not directly receive funding from banks, this financial setback could still indirectly impact them. Let's consider the reasons why.

Recessions often lead to a decrease in available funds. During the Great Recession, total social sector revenue saw a significant decline. Nonprofit organizations might receive funding from foundations, many with assets invested in the financial markets. An economic recession can reduce the value of these investments, resulting in smaller grants from those foundations. Additionally, banks tightening lending standards can make securing loans more difficult for for-profit entities. As a result, an economic recession can create a highly competitive environment for limited resources. 

To make matters worse, a recession typically increases demand for human services. More individuals and families require assistance with basic needs such as food, housing, and healthcare. With reduced funding, it may be even more challenging for organizations to meet the growing service demand. It is essential to recognize this pattern and proactively prepare for the surge in demand by:

These are all crucial strategies for human services to navigate these challenges.

Is Your Human Service Organization Prepared for a Recession? Here Are 3 Strategies that Might Help

1. Strengthen Collaborative Relationships: 

Partnerships with other organizations can be beneficial during a recession. Together, they can share resources, knowledge, and expertise, enabling them to pool their efforts and provide comprehensive support even in challenging economic conditions. Collaborative approaches can also enhance advocacy efforts and increase collective influence.

While the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't the result of a recession, its aftermath in job loss and mental health issues are similar. Many human services partnered with other nonprofit organizations during that time to provide relief. Here are a few collaborative partnerships that helped during this challenging time:

2. Diversify Funding Sources:

Relying on a single funding stream can make human services more vulnerable during a recession. To mitigate this risk, use a variety of different funding sources. Below are some ideas:

Government Agencies

Government agencies at the local, provincial, and national levels often provide grants for human services. Contact Human Services (HHS) or the Canadian Social Development Department for grant opportunities. 

Private Foundations

Private foundations offer grants to support various causes, including human services. Canada.Grant.Watch, or FoundationSearch Canada, provide searchable databases of foundations and their grant opportunities.

Nonprofit Grant Directories

Online grant directories and databases provide comprehensive listings of grants available to organizations. Imagine Canada's Grant Connect allows searching for assistance based on criteria such as focus area, location, or funding amount.

Access to different funding sources can ensure financial stability and reduce reliance on a single funding stream that may be affected by economic downturns.

3. Evaluate For Effectiveness And Allocation:

Organizations need to use their limited resources wisely while proving their effectiveness. By emphasizing outcome measurement, they can prove their value and efficacy to funders and stakeholders.

Also, they need to identify their high-value-impact areas within their assessment. These metrics build a compelling case for continued funding, support, and strategic resource allocation. Additionally, they can yield significant cost savings by reallocating resources from less effective departments.

Final Thoughts

In times of economic uncertainty, human service organizations are crucial in providing support, fostering resilience, and promoting well-being in Canadian society. By recognizing the potential impact of economic downturns and adopting proactive strategies, they can better navigate the challenges and demands of recessionary periods. It is imperative to harness this knowledge, leverage available resources, and encourage collaboration to continue providing essential services to those in need.

Investing in a modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help enable better decision-making, and that's what human service organizations need during challenging times. For one organization, an ERP allowed them to report back to their funders and demonstrate the positive impact that funding had on their outcomes. Read their story here. This proof of efficacy is vital to maintaining continuity in funding for years.

Sparkrock 365: Empowering Human Services Through Challenging Times

As we embrace the challenges and opportunities within the human services sector, our commitment to empowering organizations to weather economic downturns and meet the growing demands of communities across Canada remains steadfast. By fostering collaboration, diversifying funding sources, and prioritizing effectiveness, Sparkrock 365 stands alongside human services organizations, enabling them to deliver essential support and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadian citizens. 

Together, we can navigate the complexities of uncertain times and build a more resilient and compassionate future.

We want to help you prepare for challenging economic times and are happy to share what we've learned about your industry. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Tool can help provide accurate financial insights and help you evaluate your organization's performance with less effort.

Let us take you through the benefits of a fully-integrated, single platform for financial management, human resources, scheduling, payroll, and the key features we've built to help human services thrive. Reach out to us here.

School districts have always hinged on crystalline policies and procedures for their staff and students, especially around performance. These directives serve as the backbone for systematic order and strategic planning. While the district establishes some, other policies are mandated by State and Federal law. It is the job of the Board of Education to uphold these policies and procedures, and they often revisit them for timeliness and effectiveness.

In the Golden Age of EdTech, many districts likely felt they were navigating without a compass when acquiring and implementing EdTech resources. An example of this rapid adoption can be seen in the Norwalk Public Schools in Connecticut, where EdTech tools soared during the pandemic. More than 3,000 apps were accessed during the 2021 school year, compared to just 183 in the 2018-2019 academic year. Most of these apps lacked formal district approval, as they were often provided to educators as part of a free trial during remote learning.

However, with an increasing number of administrators now scrutinizing EdTech through a more discerning lens, the moment has arrived for schools to construct a robust blueprint for tech integration. Since district leaders are consistently gauging staff and student performance, it's only fitting for them to create a refined evaluation system for EdTech and not just an Acceptable Use Policy. They must establish specific metrics that define adequate data usage and efficacy for teachers and students. The question is: what are the metrics to measure them?

As administrators look for ways to improve student outcomes, they must also be mindful of the effectiveness of their EdTech investments. School districts can ensure that their EdTech resources are used effectively and efficiently by creating a comprehensive evaluation system.

How To Create Effective Evaluation Tools And Policies For EdTech

The first step in creating an effective evaluation system is establishing clear metrics for measuring success. These metrics should include data on teacher and student usage and efficacy. It's not enough for a tool to be theoretically effective - it should also be widely adopted and used by the intended beneficiaries.

In the initial stages of tech adoption, school administrators need to adopt the mindset of an EdTech investor. After all, administrators are investing in these tools at a hefty cost. A case in point is the Mississippi Department of Education spending millions on a virtual tutoring service. Despite educators singing its praises, the data painted a different picture - it was not a hit among students. This instance highlights the urgency for districts to evaluate not just the theoretical effectiveness of a tool but also its actual deployment. A tool's potential is only realized if it's actively used.

One prominent (and successful) EdTech investor always asks to see the company's customer retention rates. His magic number? 90%. After all, satisfied customers are more likely to continue using the product, and a high retention rate indicates that the EdTech solution is delivering value and meeting the needs of educators and students alike. District leaders should always ask to see the vendors' current data on student and teacher usage and retention rates, and more importantly, they should gather this information from districts similar in size, class composition, and demographics.

Here are 15 questions every school district should ask during the initial planning stages:

  1. What is your current customer retention rate?
  2. How has your customer retention rate changed over the last couple of years?
  3. What strategies do you employ to maintain high customer retention rates?
  4. Can you share case studies or data demonstrating your success in maintaining customer retention?
  5. Do you have any statistics on the average usage of your product by staff and students?
  6. How do you measure user engagement with your product?
  7. Can you provide data on how frequently your product is used by staff and students on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
  8. What is the average user session length for staff and students?
  9. Are any features or aspects of your product used more frequently than others?
  10. How does your company support schools in driving student and staff usage of your product?
  11. How do you handle data privacy and security related to user data?
  12. Can you share any testimonials or case studies from schools with high usage rates among staff and students?
  13. What tools or metrics does your platform offer to help administrators track and improve usage?
  14. Do you provide training or resources to help staff and students get the most out of your product?
  15. How do you handle feedback and requests for improvements in terms of usability and features?

Review this data with your team against the current tools within the district when the vendors provide it. Also, consider adopting an EdTech rubric to evaluate its efficacy within the needs of your school district.

Future considerations should include:

Collecting and analyzing data regularly will help determine whether or not the EdTech resources are meeting the needs of teachers and students. Additionally, data can inform future decisions about which EdTech resources should be adopted or discontinued.

Once clear metrics have been established, school districts must develop a process for collecting and analyzing that data. This process should involve teachers and administrators to ensure that all perspectives are considered when evaluating EdTech resources. When possible, it should include feedback from students about how they perceive the effectiveness of these tools in improving their learning experience.

Guaranteed Higher EdTech ROI With Sound Policies And Procedures

School districts must develop a plan using the data collected from their evaluation system to make informed decisions about which EdTech resources are most effective for their district's needs. This plan should include strategies for using the data to inform future decisions about which technologies should be adopted or discontinued. Additionally, it should guide how best to use existing technologies to maximize their impact on student learning outcomes.

By taking a comprehensive approach to evaluating their EdTech resources, school districts can make informed decisions about which technologies will best meet their needs and help them achieve their educational goals. This approach leads to a more discerning technology investment that increases staff engagement while lessening initiative fatigue. Furthermore, it's fiscally responsible. The process and results provide transparency to the community and Board of Education, increasing support and buy-in.

Lastly, school districts can make wise investments in technology that benefit teachers and students by establishing clear metrics for measuring success and developing a process for collecting and analyzing this data.

How Sparkrock 365 Can Help

Ready to make your next EdTech investment? Sparkrock 365 might be the perfect solution for your school district. We offer an all-in-one finance, HR, payroll, and scheduling solution purpose-built for school boards and districts. Our modern ERP system offers a user-friendly interface and robust features, empowering administrators with powerful data and analytics.

We'd love to share what we've learned and help you plan for your next technology investment. Reach out and speak with one of our education product consultants today! 

If you're not ready to chat, we encourage you to browse our education resources and view our 7-min demo to see if our product might fit your school district. No need to wait to schedule a meeting; sign up and watch on your own time.

Customer Profile

ACCES Employment provides a wide range of job search programs and services throughout the Greater Toronto Area. They assist job seekers from diverse backgrounds who are facing barriers to employment. Through employment services, linking employers to skilled people, and building strong networks with community partners, ACCES helps integrate job seekers into the Canadian job market.

Haykaz Ghazanchyan is a Director of Finance for ACCES Employment.

The Challenge

ACCES has been experiencing significant expansion and, as a result, required a more sophisticated solution to help manage its financial processes effectively. The existing financial system was primarily designed for accounting purposes and lacked the comprehensive, cloud-based capabilities of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

ACCES needed a solution that would streamline the following:

"Our organization wanted to manage financial processes more effectively. By doing everything on one platform, we could increase our data accuracy and efficiency in reporting and analytics."

Haykaz Ghazanchyan
Director of Finance, ACCES Employment

With numerous projects, each with unique financial and non-financial requirements, “You need to make sure you have the data organized if funders or an auditor requests it. We needed something more advanced,” said Ghazanchyan.

Selecting Sparkrock 365

Ghazanchyan had a clear objective - to streamline the organization's financial processes, improve data accuracy, and increase efficiency in reporting and analytics. ACCES Employment required a robust tool for financial reporting and project management that could serve multiple departments and projects.

Sparkrock 365 offered more than just accounting support. It could efficiently manage and simplify financial documentation and workflow approvals digitally. This platform would be implemented across all five organizational departments and projects, optimizing financial and project reporting. With over 30 projects, ACCES required an ERP system capable of organizing both financial and non-financial data in a single, integrated platform.

“We felt Sparkrock 365 would be the right fit for our needs,” asserted Ghazanchyan.

The Outcome

With Sparkrock 365, ACCES Employment achieved a transformational shift in its financial processes. Haykaz Ghazanchyan describes the impact, "With Sparkrock, it's like having 35 different accounts in one big account."

The organization successfully automated numerous manual tasks, reducing errors and improving efficiency. Most notably, Sparkrock 365 streamlined the submission, approval, and storage of documents within the system. It is not limited to finance and includes all departments in the organization.

"This reduces the time spent tracking documents and facilitates communication within the platform to address any issues or challenges promptly."

Haykaz Ghazanchyan
Director of Finance, ACCES Employment

ACCES now boasts more organized and accurate financial information compared to its previous accounting system. Ghazanchyan remarked, "[Sparkrock 365’s ERP] creates confidence across the organization. We are confident that we have all the information and that it’s accurate.”

Additionally, the reporting process has been dramatically improved with data accessible in one centralized platform, allowing for the effective use of tools like Jet Reports and Power BI. ACCES provides project performance reports to all 30-35 project teams, offering insights into their budgets and anticipated progress. The organization also delivers analytic reports to leadership teams and departmental budgets to individual departments.

Optimizing operational efficiency is at the core of ACCES's ERP implementation. There have been improvements to organization and accuracy across the board. Sparkrock 365’s comprehensive solution has enhanced their financial processes and paved the way for improved data-driven decision-making within the organization, benefiting employees and leadership alike.

Additional Benefits

Finance teams aren’t the only ones to benefit from Sparkrock 365’s comprehensiveness. Microsoft tools like Power BI can connect with Sparkrock 365 to create visually engaging and comprehensible financial content for non-financial users.

Currently, the financial team at ACCES provides all financial information and analytic reports to various departments monthly, as those departments lack the tools to monitor their financial standing in real time.

ACCES plans to use Power BI to create easier-to-understand content for their non-financial users.

“With Power BI, we hope to provide all our departments with the tools they need to understand their financial standing at any given moment.”

Haykaz Ghazanchyan
Director of Finance, ACCES Employment

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Customer Profile

Central Okanagan Public School District is located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. It serves a population of 25,000+ students across 47 schools. The district is in a state of growth and welcoming an increasing number of immigrant families and English Language Learners. Central Okanagan Public School’s vision statement is “Together We Learn."

Jon Rever is Assistant Superintendent of Schools at School District 23 (Central Okanagan) and also serves on several technology-related committees for the province.

Jon Rever
Assistant Superintendent of Schools
Central Okanagan Public School District

The Challenge

Central Okanagan used a legacy ERP system that had served their district for over thirty years. Challenges included paper-based, labour-intensive processes that were siloed into separate departments. Many processes were done in detached areas: in the system, on paper, via email, and had to move back and forth between departments. “People did the jobs they had to do [but] didn’t understand the full business processes they were engaged in,” Rever shared.

He added, “We were seeing the level of risk to the organization. Cybersecurity challenges were becoming more frequent and complex. We were worried about the infrastructure. We got to a place where the tolerance of risk to the organization had exceeded a threshold, knowing if something were to break, fail, or be attacked…we wouldn’t have been doing our due diligence to manage and mitigate that risk.”

In addition to these challenges, the district was also grappling with the increased complexity of both educational and business operations.

“How do we respond to the complexity we see in our classrooms, our schools, and spread across the district? As complexity increases and growth continues, we are bumping against significant budget pressures.” 

Jon Rever
Assistant Superintendent of Schools

They began discussing a new solution when Central Okanagan was advised that their ERP software would no longer be supported. The new solution would need to improve:

“There’s an underlying effort to leverage the technology to achieve efficiencies, to digitize workflows, and recapture some of those labour-intensive dollars. We don’t have a challenge; we have multiple challenges. My role is to find ways to leverage the environment to make things more efficient and deliver better service,” stated Rever.

Selecting Sparkrock 365

The decision to adopt Sparkrock 365 was made based on several key considerations. These included improving workflows, enhancing processes, and fortifying the cybersecurity of the organization.

Sparkrock 365 is powered by the world’s most trusted education ERP platform – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. “[This] was a huge decision point for us,” Rever said. “The fact that we could integrate our ERP into our Microsoft ecosystem and see efficiencies from that move by itself was significant. People are used to it, so they aren’t identifying it as a unique change because they’ve been working in this environment already.” 

Another key factor was affordability. “We had multi-million dollar submissions, and we couldn’t touch them,” maintained Rever. “Some of these ERPs are just not affordable for school districts because of how we are funded.” Sparkrock 365 emerged as the affordable ERP solution that also served as a strategic response to the challenges Central Okanagan faced.

“The investment over time is really important to us because ERPs are not short-term endeavours. They are long-term relationships. We’ll be using Sparkrock well beyond my time in this organization.” 

Jon Rever
Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Reach out to a Sparkrock Expert today

The Outcome

The implementation of Sparkrock 365 yielded transformative outcomes:

Regarding security, Rever explained, “One of the things that Sparkrock allows us to do is distribute workload across the organization, so we are asking people to engage in processes that they’ve never done before....the digitization of paper-based workflows actually increases our level of security. We can foresee and envision these processes, whether they are happening right now or whether they could happen in the future.” The reinforced security measures implemented by Sparkrock 365 lay the groundwork for a seamless transition into improved workflow efficiencies.

After implementing Sparkrock 365, Central Okanagan Public School District experienced significant shifts. The school ERP addressed immediate challenges like security and efficiency. It fostered more collaboration and accountability between departments. “Sparkrock forced us to come together and understand all our business processes. In Sparkrock, everyone understands that they share the data and are responsible for it. If you don’t do your bit properly, you will affect downstream processes. It helped us get solid on our change management, framework, and strategy,” elaborated Rever. “We went live in Finance last May, and I’m starting to hear people say things like, ‘It’s more efficient, it’s more user-friendly. We like it.’ They are adapting to the change, and they are getting used to it.” 

To further illustrate the improved workflows, Rever shared an anecdote about their current purchasing card process, which used to be incredibly labour-intensive, with paper going all over the place. “By implementing Sparkrock 365,” he said, “What happens now is the transactions from over 450 purchasing cards come in and get uploaded and assigned to the users in the system. The users are notified and go into mySparkrock. They upload their receipts, attach them to the accounts, and then hit submit. That goes to accounts payable, where it’s verified and processed. It’s the same for expense claims and purchase orders. There’s no paper anymore. People are still notified, and there are still approvals, but it’s all digital.”

Sparkrock also positioned the district for ongoing success by leveraging technology to expand reporting and analytics capability. In discussing future goals for their school district, Rever remarked, “The real investment is around PowerBI and using it to generate customized reports for people they can interact with in different ways and filter data easily to distribute those reports out. That’s the future. In our 47 schools, we will build PowerBI dashboards for our Principals. They will be able to see their financial information, accounts, staff, attendance, absenteeism, all in one dashboard so they can easily access important information in one spot.”

As they continue to embrace Sparkrock 365, the commitment to long-term success is evident:
Rever stated, “I’m very much looking forward to the next several months. We’re very close to having our payroll system encompass all our employees, and that’s another process that will save massive amounts of labour.” 

Additional Benefits

Sparkrock 365 provides incomparable customer service to its clients. In addition to training and implementation support, Sparkrock provides a Customer Success Center where users can:

“We have very positive relationships with the Sparkrock team, project managers, and consultants, and that’s how we need to work. Whenever we get into a complex project, the vendor isn’t just the vendor. The vendor is part of the team, and we need to function as a team."

Jon Rever
Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Rever believes the Sparkrock team has worked hard to build the capacity of their consultants and support services. “They’re listening to their customers. They’re invested in the future. I think there are so many good things to come,” he concluded.

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