Alight LLC and Ralph Harker Associates formed a strategic partnership to deliver a budgeting, reporting and planning solution customized for higher education. Dr. Andrew Harker, president of Ralph Harker Associates and director of Budget Management at Stanford University, worked with Alight to co-develop best-practice planning models. After working with dozens of small and large institutions of learning, Harker and the Alight team identified tuition planning, endowment modeling, and personnel planning as three key areas that were ripe for standardization and best practice solutions. Higher education finance and budget departments can now leverage the hard work that went into standardizing these models to immediately streamline and improve planning processes.
“Finally, there’s an affordable, driver-based planning template customized for colleges and universities of all sizes on the market. For years I’ve shared best practices developed at Stanford University in Oracle/Hyperion when I address budget officers at higher-education planning conferences. Many attendees are left wondering if they can afford to deploy a best-practice planning solution and clearly large-scale solutions that cost six or seven figures are not an option for smaller schools. However, with Alight on the market, virtually all schools — small or large — now have the opportunity to take advantage of a best practice approach to planning and strategic financial modeling. Alight is my favorite amongst the new generation of planning applications on the market in its price range.” notes Harker, “I started out with Pillar, the first planning solution to successfully replace spreadsheets in higher education. Pillar was widely adopted by many of the Ivy Leagues and was successful in higher education in part due to its Unit-Rate-Amount structures and ease of use. Given the same team that designed the original Pillar created Alight, it is no surprise that I quickly saw the Alight solution as the next generation of Pillar. Alight is now the logical tool to be used for higher education planning for schools not already implementing a large-scale solution such as Oracle/Hyperion Planning. The ROI on this particular tool is low-investment with high potential return. Its power in ‘what-if’, ‘sensitivity analysis’ and ‘goal seek’ modeling is almost unmatched. If you are doing any complex financial modeling in spreadsheets, you owe it to yourself to check out Alight Planning.”
Tom Hartman, who handles Alight’s sales for Higher Education, recently supported Dr. Harker at a conference geared for Higher Education finance professionals. “Higher Education finance teams are embracing Alight as their solution of choice.” Mr Hartman said, “While some are starting with the simple replacement of cumbersome spreadsheets to replace budget development processes, the finance executives I have talked to all see the opportunity to take planning to the next level. As schools look to become more proactive and make better decisions faster, agile planning solutions become increasingly important. At the latest NACUBO Annual Conference in Tampa, I spoke with dozens of finance officers who want to quickly implement a model-driven rolling forecast and use that as the basis for a 5-year strategic plan. They want to answer questions such as ‘How much of a tuition increase per student will we need to fund the strategic spending the Board wants to do?’ and ‘What is the impact on our financial position if we release 5% from the endowment to contribute to operating expenses instead of 6%?’”
Higher education planning models are characterized by custom time periods for academic calendars and may have unusual revenue recognition patterns plus complex activity drivers with modeled interactions across a multiple year planning horizon and across scenarios. The best practice templates focus on annual budgeting and rolling forecasts; however, Alight is also pleased to announce a best-practice capital planning model as well.
Marty Mattes, Director of Facilities and Operations at Bates Technical College, who purchased the Alight solution reflects on his success with Alight, “I had my capital planning model up and running in Alight within weeks. We now have access to both planning and budget tracking – both would have been nearly impossible with spreadsheets. We’re in the process of expanding Alight into operational planning.”
In addition to Bates Technical College, institutions using Alight for Higher Education include: Pennsylvania State University, Tuft’s Medical Center, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Indiana Wesleyan University, and University of California Education Abroad Program.