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Business Intelligence: Now More Than Ever, Data Matters

By Net Assets posted 11-02-2020 11:16 AM


Financial Management |

When facing difficult decisions, a better understanding of peer school financial and operational behavior can help immensely.

Article by Elizabeth Dabney

From the November/December 2020 Net Assets magazine

“Is your school considering a higher than normal endowment draw to help support your budget?”

“We’re rethinking the structure of our business office. How many FTEs are in your business office?”

“What increase in awarded financial aid can we expect as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic?”

These and other questions have been swirling in the independent school community since the spring, when COVID-19 changed how we operate. While trying to predict the future — or even next week — has been impossible, a strong foundation in data can give business officers more confidence in answering questions and making difficult decisions.

No one understands the power of data like an independent school business officer. That’s why NBOA’s signature data collection platform, Business Intelligence for Independent Schools (BIIS), was developed by business officers for business officers. BIIS focuses on the financial and operational indicators you need to be a good steward of your school’s resources. In these uncertain times, being able to track indicators like net tuition revenue, operating margin, total tuition discount, and net assets per student over time is invaluable. And putting your school’s data into context using BIIS reporting tools, like the NBOA Financial Dashboard, helps you understand how your school compares to your peers.

“BIIS allows me for the first time to compare standardized, audited financial data points with peer groups. In other words, it’s a true ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”

David Wright
University School

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what David Wright, finance director at University School in Ohio, has to say about the value of BIIS: “I really appreciate the flexibility in the platform. It allows me to take a deep dive into specific data sets I might be researching. And it also allows me to quickly get a 50,000-foot view of a few high-level data points that show the strengths and weaknesses of my school. The most exciting thing for me about the BIIS platform relates to audited financial data points. With other platforms, many data points are subject to how each school may define it. BIIS allows me for the first time to compare standardized, audited financial data points with peer groups. In other words, it’s a true ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”

Here’s what’s new with BIIS this year:

  • Revised timeline, in response to member feedback, to better align with the receipt of completed financial audits.
  • Streamlined compensation data collection focused on the head of school, chief business officer, controller, director of human resources, director of facilities and director of information technology.
  • Incorporation of the Commonfund Benchmarks Study® of Independent Schools (CSIS) data collection on school endowments to reduce the number of data collection requests and to bring additional endowment data into BIIS reporting tools.

Log into BIIS to complete your school’s FY20 data entry and populate reporting tools and dashboards to help you understand and communicate your school’s financial health.

Elizabeth Dabney is NBOA’s director, research and data analysis.
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