Data. It influences almost every process and decision made in school districts today. But what about the non-tax supported organizations like education service centers that support school districts? As the Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas (ESSDACK) can tell you, data is essential if organizations are to provide the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to support schools and learners for the future.
Located north of Wichita, ESSDACK considers itself the ‘right arm of the district offices’ and offers tailored solutions based on a district’s needs. On any given day, the center’s consultants are assisting districts with professional learning, leadership development, dropout recovery services, back-end office services, community poverty resolutions, and much more.
Prior to adopting Skyward, ESSDACK’s employees didn’t have access to the necessary financial data to assist districts with their wide range of needs due to the limitations of its previous ERP solution. Making matters worse, the old solution wasn’t designed for fund-based accounting or a time-card system, and it had a complex process for building reports. “This led to a lack of data transparency by default, not design,” explained Deb Haneke, ESSDACK’s chief financial officer.
With inaccessible data hampering the center’s ability to make real-time decisions, ESSDACK turned to Skyward’s School Business Suite. By making the switch to a more powerful ERP solution, consultants can now enjoy accessible, accurate data. As a result, ESSDACK is able to make more timely decisions, which keeps the service center funded and running efficiently.
What Gets Measured Gets Done
According to Forrester, 74%
of businesses want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% believe they are good at turning their numbers into action. That disconnect exists due to a lack of transparency within organizations like ESSDACK, where data is often limited to the business office.
“Anyone outside of our business office would either wait until monthly reports were prepared or they would have to interrupt business office activities and ask for the data they needed,” explained Haneke.
That changed when ESSDACK partnered with Skyward. While initial buy-in grew slowly, the center’s leadership encouraged staff to use Skyward’s ERP system for their data needs. Before long, consultants were leveraging the data associated with their projects and accessing personnel data anytime, anywhere. With Skyward, data accessibility is becoming the new norm at ESSDACK.
“Thanks to Skyward, we have empowered people in the organization with the data they need to do their jobs and it’s now available on an as-needed basis,” said Haneke. “Before Skyward, the data would be provided to them, but they didn’t have access to get it on their own and when they needed it most.
"THANKS TO SKYWARD, WE HAVE EMPOWERED PEOPLE IN THE ORGANIZATION WITH THE DATA THEY NEED TO DO THEIR JOBS."
Accuracy is Everything
Accessible data is useless without accuracy, especially for an education service center where data-driven decisions influence the center’s funding. By relying on Skyward, ESSDACK’s employees and leaders have grown confident that any changes they make will be self-supporting and backed up by accurate data.
“It is critical to evaluate the impact of decisions throughout the year,” explained Haneke. “When we are speculating that we need to add a new service or make it more robust in some way— the data within Skyward tells us the story in the end.”
Accurate and accessible data does more than provide reassurance for ESSDACK. It has helped employees become more data literate and create conversations around the services they provide to districts. In the process, ESSDACK’s culture has shifted to a more transparent environment.
“One unexpected benefit has been the questions raised and sometimes the depth of dialogue that happens around our data now,” explained Haneke. “Skyward has really improved our data-driven decision making.”
"DATA-BASED DECISION MAKING IS AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO."
Turning Data into Dollars
When it’s all said and done, education service centers like ESSDACK need financial stability to function at a high level for the districts they serve. “Unlike schools, service agencies in Kansas need to generate income to cover expenses. That’s why data-based decision making is at the heart of everything we do,” stated Haneke.
While it’s easy to connect the ways in which project-related data helps ESSDACK stay funded, Haneke notes that the internal savings are just as important as the earnings. The center no longer prints paystubs or W-2s and has stopped running reports for individual consultants. Even better, payroll is paid through automated clearing house and many of ESSDACK’s vendors are now paid electronically. Additionally, ESSDACK saves time and money by scheduling reports overnight so they are waiting in employee inboxes during the morning.
“It’s important to have an ERP system like Skyward that helps us be more efficient and informed,” explained Haneke. “If we can use the data associated with projects and individuals to improve our services, that helps keep our doors open at the end of the day.”
Looking back, the leaders at ESSDACK did exactly what they set out to do when they partnered with Skyward.
“Not too surprisingly, the challenges we faced when we started looking around for a new solution were all addressed. Every one of the challenges we outlined have been markedly improved with our move to Skyward,” stated Haneke.
While the road to a better data experience was a long one for ESSDACK, the center isn’t done improving just yet. In the coming years, Haneke looks forward to implementing Skyward’s Qmlativ platform. “I see a lot of potential and flexibility that will expand the possibilities for our center in the future,” stated Haneke.
If ESSDACK’s newfound commitment to accessibility and accuracy is any indication, the center will only continue to improve its services for surrounding districts. That’s the result of a more efficient, empowered, and data-driven culture.
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