Staying Ahead in the Future of Accounting for College Athletic Departments

As collegiate athletic departments grow and evolve, it’s important they stay ahead of the curve regarding technology and best business practices. Advancements in process automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are making remarkable strides. Athletic departments must keep up with (and take advantage) of these tools to improve their financial reporting and operations.

Integration of AI and Process Automation

With budget constraints and fewer human resources available, athletic departments are facing pressure to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. This has led to an increased focus on finding innovative solutions to streamline processes.

The growth of big data and the use of advanced analytics tools is transforming the accounting landscape. Colleges and universities are using data analytics to better understand their financial performance, identify trends and make informed decisions.

Adopting new technology and automation processes can bring significant benefits. Real-time data insights and predictive analysis provide more context to make more informed decisions and allocate resources more effectively. This in turn leads to improved financial reporting and decision-making. Automating routine tasks, such as data processing, can also reduce errors and free up resources for more mission-critical activities.

Think you’re ready to get started? Consider the following strategies:

  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of existing processes, and identify areas that can be automated.
  • Think about positions that have recently (or will soon face) attrition and reimagine how your department can be structured.
  • Invest in training and development for staff to ensure they’re equipped with the necessary skills to work with new technologies.
  • Develop a phased implementation plan to ease the transition to automation.

Collegiate athletics programs can use automation in a number of ways.

Budgeting and forecasting. Automating budgeting and forecasting tools can help departments project future expenses and revenue and make informed decisions about resource allocation.

Financial reporting. Automated financial reporting tools can streamline the process of generating financial statements and reports, reducing the time and effort required.

Revenue reconciliations. Automating the reconciliation process for reconciling revenue ledgers (like your ticketing platform) to the general ledger and bank deposits saves time, minimizes manual errors and provides more real-time revenue generation data.

Accounts payable. Automating the processing of invoices and vendor payments can improve efficiency and reduce manual errors.

Travel expense reports. Automating the submission, review and approval of expense reports can improve accuracy and efficiency. It also allows for payment of travel cards in a timelier manner, reducing financing charges.

Cash management. Automated cash management tools helps departments monitor and manage their cash balances, reducing the risk of overdrafts and other errors.

These are just a few of the many process automation tools and technologies available to athletic department business offices. Departments can take advantage of them to improve their financial reporting and operations, allocate resources more effectively, and focus their efforts on higher level activities.

Data Privacy and Security

Protecting sensitive information is critical in any organization, and collegiate athletic departments are no exception. Adopting secure data management practices and complying with privacy regulations and laws can help maintain the public trust and reputation of your department. And by reducing the risk of financial and reputational harm from data breaches, you can ensure you’re using their resources effectively and efficiently.

You should take these steps to help ensure data privacy and security.

  • Conduct regular assessments and audits of data management practices.
  • Educate employees on safe and secure practices for handling sensitive information, using technology, and recognizing potential cyber threats is critical.
  • Implement strong passwords and access controls to sensitive information.
  • Be careful in your management of third-party vendors, and assess their security protocols regularly.

Investing in robust cybersecurity measures protects your department’s financial assets. It also provides peace of mind to the student-athletes, administrators and other stakeholders who rely on the department to keep their information secure.

Cybersecurity insurance is another tool to protect your department. These insurance policies provide coverage for financial losses resulting from a cyberattack or data breach. Their terms can vary, when it comes to reimbursement losses due to data breaches, costs associated with responding to a breach, and business interruption. They also have exclusions and limits on coverage. So it’s crucial to understand your policy well and bring any questions to your insurer.

Increased Focus on Transparency and Accountability

With the rise of social media and other digital platforms, universities are under greater scrutiny than ever. The public demands greater transparency and accountability in how athletic departments operate and manage their finances. Students, faculty, boosters and other stakeholders also have higher expectations in this regard.

This has led to a growing focus on financial reporting, performance management, and improved financial management and ethical business practices. Investing in automation and security tools related to these functions helps your department earn the trust today’s audience requires.

Proactively and accurately telling your financial story demonstrates transparency and accountability, which in turn enhances your department’s reputation and demonstrates commitment to good governance. The benefits are notable; for starters, it helps attract talent and secure partnerships. It also allows you to improve communication and collaboration within your department and across university silos—aligning goals, improving performance and driving innovation.

By staying ahead of these emerging trends, athletic departments can improve their financial performance, reduce costs and ensure they remain financially competitive and sustainable in the long run.


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