Business officers at independent schools have many responsibilities. As schools grow larger, budgets get tighter, and your time gets stretched thin. Each decision you make has to be made with not only a focus on the bottom line of the school, but also with an undying focus on enriching the lives of the students that your school serve.
This is where your job can become more complex. Managing an independent school requires you to rely on more than just tuition payments, but also on donations, events, fundraisers, and grants so that your school can provide a superior education to the students.
This is why, as a business officer, you can’t afford to use entry-level software that isn’t tailored to your needs. However, your options are limited and as a result many independent schools turn to Blackbaud’s The Financial Edge, one of most common school accounting software in the market.
Just like the parents of your students who selected your school based upon their needs and priorities, you should select an accounting system that addresses your current needs and priorities. One such alternative solution is Intacct.
School Accounting Software: Intacct vs. Blackbaud’s The Financial Edge
Intacct and The Financial Edge are more robust solutions than QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, and other entry-level software. However, there are significant differences between Intacct and The Financial Edge in their product development history, reporting and integration capabilities, and total cost of ownership. We’d like to walk you through common comparisons between the two, so that you can make an informed decision based on your needs and priorities, not peer pressure.
Blackbaud was founded in the early 1980s as Blackbaud Microsystems and they provided student billing software for private schools. The company subsequently developed The Raiser’s Edge, its flagship product (which represented 28% of total revenues in 2013) and grew through a series of acquisitions. Blackbaud sells several different products, including solutions for: fundraising and constituent management, financial management, school management, events management and general admission management. Blackbaud’s public filings indicate that the company makes substantial annual investments in research and development but they do not say how the spending is allocated across the product portfolio or how much is being spent on The Financial Edge.
Intacct was founded in 1999 to provide an online alternative to on premise and desktop accounting solutions. Intacct serves over 8,500 customers through a combination of internal sales, support, and development professionals and value-added resellers who focus on specific industry implementations and support. Because Intacct only offers financial management software, the company’s entire research and development team is focused on improving the capabilities of Intacct.
Accounting Software Feature Comparison
Both Intacct and The Financial Edge provide scalable functionality for schools of all sizes. The features of each solution differ ever so slightly but there are major differences when it comes to reporting and ease of integration with other solutions.
The Financial Edge uses Crystal Reports as the primary report writer and the system includes many standard, pre-formatted reports. If any of these reports need to be modified or customized, end-users need to either: obtain specialized Crystal Reports training, hire an outside consultant to develop the reports, purchase an add-on solution such as F9, or prepare the reports in Excel. This can be time consuming and cumbersome.
Intacct on the other hand uses a unique multi-dimensional general ledger architecture which enables users to “tag” transactions as well as operational data with multiple dimension values. This makes it easier to get fast answers to questions about revenues and expenses by fund, program, entity, and/or activity, etc. With Intacct’s easy-to-use financial report writer, reports can be created with drop-down lists so that end-user can filter, group and organize the data by the appropriate dimension. In addition to the financial report writer, Intacct also has an easy to use custom report writer which can be used without any specialized training or programming skills.
The Financial Edge and Intacct have application programming interfaces (APIs) but they approach integrations differently. Blackbaud approaches the market as an integrated suite of solutions and they have pre-built integrations with its various solutions. That works great if you use the Blackbaud suite. However, if you need to integrate with a non-Blackbaud solution you will need to build an integration yourself using Blackbaud’s API which may also require additional fees.
Intacct uses a best-in-class strategy so you can take advantage of multiple best-in-class solution providers in the Intacct ecosystem. That provides your organization with the freedom to choose the application that best fits your operational needs and your budget. Intacct is not a suite solution, so they make it easy to integrate with other solutions through a straightforward open API. In fact, most of Intacct’s customers integrate with at least two other applications.
Cloud-Born vs. Adapted for the Cloud
Currently The Financial Edge is only available as an on premise/hosted software license. In October 2014, Blackbaud announced that it will be releasing in mid-2015 Financial Edge NXT, a cloud-based version of The Financial Edge. This announcement generated a lot of publicity, but until the product is released later this year it is uncertain if independent schools will adopt this new platform and if the new platform includes all the needed functionality. Intacct, on the other hand, was developed as a cloud-based accounting system from its inception and has proven that it can scale to support customer and transaction volume growth. Organizations such as Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, the Mozilla Foundation, Women’s World Banking, and the Great Books Foundation all have all turned to Intacct in order to streamline their financial processes, increase accuracy and provide better visibility into their finances.
When comparing different accounting software it is important to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the solutions. The initial software license cost for an on premise/hosted software often appears to be less costly than the annual subscription fee of a cloud solution; however, on premise/hosted solutions typically have higher ongoing costs for software/hardware upgrades, manual workarounds, integrations and IT support. We’ve found that over a 3-5 year timeframe, a cloud solution like Intacct usually has a lower total cost of ownership than on premise/hosted solutions. If you don’t believe us, run the numbers yourself (but make sure you include all the costs, including the costs for manual workarounds).
Superior Financial Management for Superior Independent Schools
No matter the size of your school, you need scalable cloud-based solutions now. With implementation time as little as six weeks, a transparent pricing model, and specific features built to suit your school, Intacct can help you automate your accounting processed and achieve true visibility into your school’s finances, now and in the future.
As a value-added reseller of Intacct Cloud Financial Management software, our team has helped independent schools not only implement, but integrate Intacct with your choice of tuition payment, fundraising and donor management, and student management systems through our SchoolConnect product.
Contact us today to learn more about SchoolConnect and Intacct for your independent school.