29 November 2023

QEGSMAT Intacct Case Study

Our conversation with Valerie Bostock, Head of Finance at the QEGSMAT

Valerie, could you please give us an overview of the QEGSMAT? What are its foundational goals and current challenges?

Originally Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school was the founding school and they became an Academy in 2011 and then in 2017 we became Multi Academy Trust with our first primary school. Two schools joined at that point: Queen Elizabeth and Waterhouses CofE Primary Academy. Now there’s a bit of a misconception about the name, We’re not Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Multi Academy trust we are very much QEGSMAT, that is our name and the abbreviations are Question, Explore, Give, Succeed, which is then the theme that’s rolled out to all of our schools as QEGSMAT.

We’ve now got four primary schools and three secondary schools. Two of the primary schools are rural church schools and two in quite deprived areas. They’re all very different and we’re very spread out across Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

We’ve also got three secondary schools, two quite big schools, which are very similar in their demographic. One is on the edge of Derby and Queen Elizabeth in Ashbourne. And then we’ve got another secondary school which is also in Derby but in a very deprived area. So the demographics of those children are very different to the children of the other two big schools. So we’ve got a lot of variety from small village church schools to very deprived inner City Schools and then the other secondaries, which are partially rural but bigger schools.

What are its core objectives and challenges?

Our objectives and challenges are like every school’s. We’re driving school improvement and our concerns are always around people numbers and funding. But giving all our children the same opportunities and, obviously, the funding and the people numbers, that’s the bit that really concerns me.

Can you walk us through your decision-making process?

The next one is our decision to change to Sage Intacct. We have been looking at things for a while, we had Sage 200 which was the product we had in 2011 when we first became an Academy and it was a good product and we chose it because Sage is a well known market leader as a finance product. It’s well known but it wasn’t specifically designed for education which a lot of the others were, which brought its advantages and disadvantages and it was absolutely fine. And when we became a trust, we had the WAP module which worked well for us. But we’ve always had a bit of an issue when we had it on site with security, making it slower. And it’s been an ongoing issue for quite a long time and, before we joined Dayta, our other business partner was based in Derby.

They always blamed the school. The school always blamed the business partner and we never actually got to the bottom of why we had issues.

The reason we went to Dayta was because you obviously got a bigger education portfolio and met our needs whereas our previous business partner was more for commercial companies and didn’t understand the education side of things. So there was a reason for moving over to Dayta and I can’t say how happy we are. That was the best decision we have ever made. The support is outstanding. We’re very happy and thank you. You understand us, because of the number of education organisations you work with. I can’t emphasise that enough.

We moved onto a remote platform to try and get away from the environmental issues that we’ve previously been having. But instead of improving things, that made matters ten times worse. It was a nightmare, it was a really painful year last year with this. Whereas previously only the central team had issues, the problems extended to our schools and they had issues too. It was the time we spend our life watching a circle go round. That wasn’t good, but Dayta 100% understood our frustration and tried to resolve it. Then Danny said: “Well, why don’t we go on to Intacct?!”. We had a demo and it was like: “Oh my goodness, this is the answer to all our prayers!”

Were there any other solutions that you considered?

I had previously looked at Sage For Education during lockdown and I really like the idea of a web-based product, but our old partner discontinued it before we actually went on it. As it turns out, Intacct was probably a much better product. So I think it’s worked out better. The whole thing was about going web-based and getting away from those environmental issues that we’ve had with either having it on a server or having a remote storage.

Intacct was just an answer to all our prayers. And the other thing that we found is obviously we’re able before our schools just had WAP, so had very limited access. What we can give our schools now is so much better.

The whole package is just exactly what we were looking for and we are so happy. Our previous partner had put us off Intacct quite a lot because they work with commercial companies. They are working more around the sales and the sales add-ons that Sage 200 can have because the majority of their customers, Intacct wouldn’t suit them. They didn’t think it would suit us. The Intacct demo by Dayta had just ticked so many boxes and is web-based.

Describe the implementation process. How was the transition from your old software to Sage Intacct?

Things like implementation are never going to be 100% smooth, we acknowledge that. In the past we have gone through some very painful upgrades every single time. It’s been an absolute nightmare, which was another advantage of this product as well because we now have automatic upgrades. Twelve months ago we transferred from our Sage partner in Derby to Dayta. So we’d had that transition and moved things on to remote.

We have been through lots of different transitions and different things that we’ve moved to. So we knew there would be work involved. Dayta have helped us every step of the way. They’ve done a lot. Danny is brilliant. What he did with the set up was great. Until you’re actually using the product there are things you don’t know, it is a journey. If you knew it beforehand you’d perhaps do things differently but the set up stage was fine.

The training in the summer was great. The only thing that I would have said with the training, is that it was understandable and we needed it. It was just very focused on a particular area for people who are doing all input. It was great because a lot of it was relevant to them and then part of the training was more advanced, which was more what I should have done. So I just wondered whether it could have been split into two groups instead of everybody doing everything.

But other than that, we had a lovely couple of days with Michael and Sam actually. Then we went live. Both we and Dayta knew that our first half term was going to be quite a journey. And I think the first few weeks we were constantly on to support and constantly tweaking, changing and trying to get things as we like. And we’ve still got things to do. And as Dayta is building we’ve got a meeting this afternoon with Michael to keep developing. But that is something that I want to keep doing and developing, learning and growing.

It’s an extremely busy time of year for us in September. So I was thinking, why did we do this for September? It made complete sense, but we just had the summer break for training.

I’m particularly working in old year in September because I’m doing the accounts. So I was constantly in the old year and then they were asking me questions about the new stuff. And so getting my head in the two places wasn’t the easiest, but I do think we’re coming to the end of that now. But I do think that it has been a challenge doing it from September. I don’t know about other people’s experience when they do it part way through the year and how that works with their accounts because I do know doing it this way will be better for our next year. That has been a challenge, doing it from September with everything else that’s going off at the same time. It will pay off but it’s been hard. Because if it’s everything all at once, it is. It’s very much it has been. Yeah. And so everybody’s got there.

What immediate benefits did you notice after making the switch?

It’s all about all the issues we had before about speed, about environmental issues, about school access, being web-based and everybody being able to have more access. I really like how you can attach documents all over the place and the drill downs, it’s fabulous. I’m still working on reports, just need to get my reports in a format that I’m happy with. But I know that we will be able to do it. We’ll work through it. And again, it’s building my knowledge of how to do things. As for the product itself, there’s absolutely zero regrets. It’s just been an answer to a lot of it. I know we have been in contact with support a lot and I know that will calm down. We’ve got to share that pain together, but that will definitely calm down.

What are your future plans for leveraging Sage Intacct in your operations?

Developing reports, developing our knowledge and developing how we use dashboards. Just changing a bit of our mindset of how we did things in the past to how we would do things in the future. It’s just about building this knowledge. I want to make sure that when release notes come through that we’re making the most of it, that we make the most of the product, and just understanding the things that it does and doesn’t do. I know that one of the releases in the future is about fixed assets, which I’m very keen to move into and get my fixed assets into the product because that’s what we had in Sage 200. So we’re very keen to look at that and do that. It’s just getting the most out of it and just keep training constantly.

I know in the past you’ve had meetings with different clients and I don’t know if we’ll be able to network with them and find out about using Sage Intacct, other schools or others that are similar to us because I know it’s a growing thing, isn’t it?

At the moment we’re in the minority of your customers but I’m assuming you are moving more and more across to Intacct because the benefits are phenomenal and just learning what other people are doing and how they’re using it. If somebody else invents the wheel – I’ll steal it.

Would you recommend Dayta?

I want to recommend Dayta because your support team has been fabulous.

What advice would you give to other decision-makers considering a similar transition?

Previously I would have just spent a day watching the circle go round to just pull reports and I was ready to throw everything out the window. Whereas even though it has been a challenge the last half term because I’ve been in two worlds and it’s so much better because the information is there and it’s instant.

What our customers say

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    School Business Manager | Bentley Heath School
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    Accounting Manager | Community Academies Trust
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    The Woodlands Academy
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