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A Guide to Automating the NCAA & EADA Reporting Process

The NCAA and EADA reporting processes are critical for universities to maintain healthy athletics programs. Effective, accurate reporting can support revenue, bolster the program’s reputation, instill confidence in potential donors and even benefit recruitment.

But these reporting requirements can be a significant burden, especially for larger institutions with robust athletics departments. Universities often face a range of challenges, from the loss of institutional knowledge due to staff turnover to difficulties accessing and validating the necessary data spread across disparate systems.

Automating the NCAA and EADA reporting process can help address these pain points while also improving efficiency, data integrity and strategic focus.

This guide will explore the common obstacles universities face in NCAA and EADA reporting, along with the key advantages of implementing an automation solution.

By understanding the reporting challenges and the transformative impact of automation, university leaders can make informed decisions about optimizing their compliance workflows and positioning their athletics programs for long-term success.

Frequent Obstacles in NCAA and EADA Reporting

The NCAA and EADA reporting processes can be a laborious undertaking for universities. And the bigger and more successful your athletics department becomes, the more critical (and time consuming) this process becomes.

Implemented effectively, automation can improve the NCAA and EADA reporting workflow, support data integrity and free up valuable organizational resources.

Here are four of the biggest obstacles university athletics departments often face when compiling their NCAA and EADA reports — and how automation can help.

Learn even more in our article, Challenges and Risks in the NCAA and EADA Reporting Processes.

Obstacle 1: Loss of Institutional Knowledge

NCAA and EADA reporting can become more difficult due to employee attrition, which triggers the loss of valuable institutional knowledge. Universities face high turnover rates in non-faculty roles across the board. But things are far worse in collegiate athletics departments than in institutions as a whole.

Collegiate Athletics Job Turnover Statistics Infographic

So, how does turnover impact the NCAA and EADA reporting process?

In many cases, universities compile and validate reporting data manually. This often involves synthesizing data from multiple sources, often formatted and categorized in different ways. As a result, the internal process hinges on institutional knowledge of where and how to source the correct data for each report.

If experienced personnel move on — whether through retirement or by finding a new role somewhere else — it can be difficult for new staff members to quickly learn this process, introducing delays to an already time-consuming project.

Automation can alleviate many of the reporting difficulties related to staff turnover because it reduces the need for institutional knowledge regarding data sources. Once the system is established and refined, the team will not have to manually source and reconcile financial data. This makes it easier to train new staff on fine-tuning the automated report.

Obstacle 2: Difficulty Accessing Data

Many universities lack centralized data management and instead track and manage their finances on a departmental level. So they often differ in how they categorize and record each transaction, making it even more difficult to find and consolidate relevant information. Come reporting season, athletics departments might need to gather data from all kinds of different sources: foundations, booster clubs, financial aid and more.

This process can be further complicated by employee attrition. With manual processes and disparate data sources, many teams rely on institutional knowledge to access their data. So when key employees move on, the remaining team may have difficulty finding the right data.

Automation makes this significantly easier by reducing the need for employees to manually access and reconcile data. With an automated system doing the heavy lifting, teams can instead focus on ensuring the data is reliable and correctly recorded.

Obstacle 3: Data Translation and Validation

NCAA and EADA reporting requires dealing with high volumes of data. While it’s no surprise that this data must be consistent and reliable, the actual validation process can be overwhelming, especially for resource-strapped teams.

For example, if you source data from three different departments — each of which records and categorizes transactions differently — you’d first need to translate it all into an NCAA or EADA-acceptable format. Once the presentation is consistent, you’d still need to cross-reference and verify its accuracy before determining which data actually needs to be included in the report.

Common sources of confusion in this area include payroll classification and budget adjustments.

The automation process can help you clarify some of these issues by standardizing categorization and ensuring consistent data recording across departments. This not only reduces the risk of human error but also streamlines the validation process.

Obstacle 4: Evaluating the Feasibility of Automation

While NCAA and EADA require significant time and resources, some universities might struggle to determine whether automation is worth the effort and expense. Unless your department is familiar with the automation process, it can be difficult to quantify the expected savings and, therefore, build a business case for investing in automation technologies.

Generally, the potential value of automation can be determined by weighing the implementation costs against the potential benefits (such as time and resources saved).

We’ll explore this question in more detail in the next section.

Benefits of Automating NCAA and EADA Reporting Processes

While automating NCAA and EADA reporting does require initial effort, the potential benefits of automation continue to pay off in the years to come, especially in large-scale or complex reporting environments.

These benefits are largely why many universities invest in tailored automation solutions like the ones offered by James Moore. Overall, the time and resource savings allow athletics programs to invest their efforts and money into strategic initiatives that support growth in a more direct way.

Here are four common benefits experienced by universities after they automate their reporting:

Benefit 1: Improved Accuracy and Consistency

Automation dramatically reduces the risk of human error in the reporting process. When data is collected, translated and validated manually, there’s a higher likelihood of mistakes introduced, such as transposing numbers, overlooking transactions or incorrectly categorizing information.

For example, a staff member may accidentally mistype a player's scholarship amount or fail to include a certain budget adjustment in the EADA report. These types of errors can significantly impact the accuracy and reliability of the final report.

Because automation uses predefined rules and validation checks, data is consistently formatted, categorized and checked for anomalies before being included in the final NCAA or EADA report. In addition to improving accuracy and saving time, this results in more consistent reporting quality year over year.

Benefit 2: Freeing Up Resources for Strategic Initiatives

Once an automation solution is in place, fewer resources are required each year to create in-depth and accurate NCAA and EADA reports. As a result, universities may instead put those resources toward more strategic initiatives and higher-level analysis.

In a manual reporting process, for example, a university's athletics finance team may spend weeks compiling data from various sources, translating it into the required format, and validating the information to ensure accuracy. This leaves little time for the team to actually analyze the data, identify trends and make informed decisions to improve the overall performance and operations of the athletics program.

However, with an automated solution in place, the time-consuming aspects of the reporting process are handled by the system. This frees up the university staff to shift their attention to priorities like:

  • Analyzing the reported data to uncover insights and trends that can inform budgeting, recruitment and other high-level decisions
  • Identifying areas for improvement within the athletics program and developing data-driven strategies to address them
  • Collaborating with other departments to align the athletics program's goals and initiatives with the overall university objectives
  • Exploring new opportunities for revenue generation, cost savings or program expansion based on the enhanced visibility provided by the automated reporting

This shift in focus allows the team to be more proactive and strategic, ultimately improving outcomes for the university and its student-athletes.

Benefit 3: Continuous Process Improvement

Once an athletics department adopts an NCAA and EADA reporting automation solution, it can expect its reporting processes to grow stronger each year. These improvements will impact not just your NCAA and EADA reporting but also the general quality of your athletic department’s processes.

When a university first implements an automation solution, the team will likely address a significant number of data-related issues right away. Then in subsequent years, the automation technologies will become more refined, with the system automatically catching and correcting these problems.

The cumulative effect of this continuous improvement is that the reporting process becomes more efficient, accurate and transparent with each passing year. The university staff no longer has to spend time manually combing through data and troubleshooting issues; automation handles these tasks.

This frees up the team to focus on leveraging the data findings to grow and improve the program, further enhancing the value of the automated reporting process.

Benefit 4: Enhanced Audit and Research Capabilities

Because it ensures consistent data formatting and categorization, automation makes it much easier to audit financial records, perform targeted keyword searches and identify specific transactions or areas of concern.

Consider a manual reporting process in which an auditor may struggle to quickly locate all transactions related to a particular budget line item or athletic program. The data could be scattered across multiple general ledgers or databases, with inconsistent formatting and categorization. This makes it difficult to find the relevant information.

However, with an automated system in place, the data is structured in a predictable and standardized way. This allows the auditor to simply search for a keyword or code and immediately pull up all associated transactions, streamlining the review process.

Additionally, because the validation process happens automatically, auditors can have greater confidence that the information they are reviewing is accurate, complete and consistently presented. This reduces the risk of overlooking important details or anomalies.

Auditors aren’t the only ones who benefit from this ease of keyword searching and transaction review. This functionality also makes it easier for key stakeholders — such as the university’s CFO or athletics finance director — to search for specific transactions throughout the year and ensure they’re correctly reported.

As a result, the university’s overall quality of data could improve even outside of the reporting and auditing processes, enabling university leaders to build more data-informed strategies to build their athletics programs.

The NCAA/EADA Automation Process Explained

The process of implementing NCAA/EADA reporting automation can typically be completed in just four to six weeks.

Why such a short timeline?

The best way to automate NCAA and EADA reporting is to customize a pre-existing solution rather than building fully custom automation from the ground up. This means much of the foundational work is already complete before the implementation begins, helping establish a relatively short automation timeline.

Additionally, the automation is implemented in cooperation with university teams, including the IT department and business or athletics administrators. This collaboration ensures that vital institutional knowledge is incorporated into the implementation, further enhancing the efficiency of the process and avoiding unnecessary disruptions.

At James Moore Digital, our collegiate athletics automation solution is perfectly suited to this task and has already been deployed in multiple universities around the country. In this section, we’ll break down the process in detail, from initial assessment to full implementation.

Evaluate and Improve Current Internal Processes

Before implementing an automation solution for NCAA and EADA reporting, universities must thoroughly evaluate and, if necessary, improve their current processes. This ensures any existing problems or inefficiencies in the current reporting process will not be carried over into the automated system.

By taking the time to review the current state of their NCAA and EADA reporting workflows, universities can identify areas for improvement and optimize their processes. This involves answering key questions such as:

  • What is working well in the current process, and what is not?
  • Where is the data for these reports coming from, and how is it being accessed and compiled?
  • What challenges or pain points are the staff experiencing when preparing these reports?
  • Are there any gaps or inefficiencies in the data collection, translation or validation steps?

Once the current processes have been carefully examined and optimized, the university can move forward with implementing an automation solution that addresses the specific needs and pain points identified during the assessment phase.

This upfront work lays the groundwork for a solution that truly addresses the institution's unique challenges and delivers the desired benefits.

Assess the Value of Automation

Once you've reviewed your current processes, the next step is to figure out whether automation is the right solution for your university athletics program. This decision will depend on a couple of key factors:

  • Size of the Athletics Program: For smaller colleges with just a few sports programs, the volume of data—and therefore the reporting burden—may be quite low, making the manual reporting process less burdensome. As a result, the value of automation may not outweigh the required investment. On the other hand, if your organization has a large athletics program with multiple sports, automation will likely unlock significant value.
  • Time Spent on Reporting: If your team is spending a significant amount of time and resources on NCAA and EADA reporting, automating the process can be a game-changer. By streamlining data collection, translation, and validation tasks, automation frees up staff to focus on other high-priority and goal-oriented tasks.

Here’s a hypothetical example.

University A is a large state university with a robust athletics program spanning over 20 different sports. The finance team in the athletics department has six staff members, all of whom dedicate significant time (estimated at 120 hours per reporting cycle) to gathering data, translating it into the required formats and validating the information for the NCAA and EADA reports.

In this case, the time and resource savings enabled by automation would likely be substantial. The high volume of data and the significant burden placed on the finance team make a strong case for implementing an automated solution. The freed-up staff time could also be redirected toward more strategic initiatives that drive the athletics program's overall success.

By carefully evaluating factors like the size of the athletics program, the data volume and the staff time commitment, universities can determine whether the benefits of automation outweigh the investment required. This assessment is a critical step before moving forward with the implementation process.

Implementing Automation Solutions

Once you determine that automation is a good investment for your NCAA and EADA reporting, the next step is to implement a purpose-built automation platform, like ARENA by James Moore Digital.

While it's theoretically possible to build a custom software solution in house, this is often not a feasible option. Building a custom automation solution typically requires significant time and resources from your IT department.

Instead, universities can leverage pre-existing automation solutions like ARENA by James Moore that can be customized to their unique data sources and reporting requirements. This approach allows the institution to benefit from a proven platform while still addressing its specific needs.

The implementation process typically involves three key steps:

Step 1: Data Collection

To initiate the automation process, the team must first source the data the solution needs to collect. This involves working with the university's IT department to access the data across all the university systems where it is housed.

In this step, the technology partner (i.e., the James Moore Collegiate Athletics team) acts as a liaison between the IT team and the business office, helping to ensure the right data is being collected and formatted correctly.

However, the automation is not yet ready to run a report. While the necessary information for the report has been sourced, the team still needs to build out a rule set to process the data and then test it to identify bugs and further customize the solution.

Step 2: Rule Set Development

Next, the automation team (James Moore) collaborates with the university’s key stakeholders to develop the mapping and rule sets used to identify and categorize the data for the reports.

This process involves:

  • Defining Data Mapping and Categorization Rules: Developing the logic that will integrate raw data into the NCAA and EADA-required formats. This includes defining specific codes, systems and data fields used to identify and classify transactions and other required budgetary items.
  • Establishing Data Validation Criteria: Establishing the validation checks and anomaly detection the system will use to ensure all data is complete and accurate. This could include checking that all required fields are filled out and numerical values fall within expected ranges, as well as looking for duplicate transactions.
  • Customizing to University-Specific Needs: Each university has unique data sources, accounting practices and reporting requirements to accommodate. As such, automation solutions must be tailored to the university. An automation partner like James Moore would work closely with the institution to understand these nuances and incorporate them into the final automation.

In essence, this step is when the team builds out the initial automation solution and begins tailoring it to the university athletics program’s anticipated needs. However, the implementation and customization process is not yet complete. Further enhancements will occur in Step 3.

Step 3: Testing and Optimization

During this final stage, the automation team and the university’s internal stakeholders work closely together to test the implementation before finalizing.

The testing process involves running the automation through various scenarios to identify any issues or errors. This could include verifying that all necessary data fields are being captured, numbers fall within expected ranges, and the final reports are correctly formatted and match the manually prepared versions from prior years.

If any problems are uncovered, the team fixes them by refining the data mapping rules, validation checks and other components. This iterative process continues until the system produces accurate, consistent and compliant NCAA and EADA reports.

Once the testing and optimization are complete, the automation solution is ready for use.

Key Stakeholders In Automating the NCAA & EADA Reporting Process

Although the actual solution is provided and customized by James Moore, automating the NCAA and EADA reporting process requires collaboration between different teams throughout the university.

Understanding who is involved, what they’re responsible for, and their likely time investment will help you plan for the automation process more effectively.

Athletics Business Office and Administration

The primary stakeholders from the university include members of the business office and athletics administration, such as the college athletics finance director, CFO and athletics director or assistant director of finance. These individuals are responsible for sponsoring and overseeing the automation project, as they have a deep understanding of the reporting requirements and the pain points involved.

Their key roles and responsibilities include:

  • Sponsorship and Project Oversight: The college athletics finance director, CFO and athletics director are typically the executive sponsors of the automation initiative. They provide the high-level guidance, approval and resources needed to implement the solution and ensure the project aligns with the university’s strategic goals.
  • Defining Requirements and Validating Outputs: The business office and athletics administration leverage their institutional knowledge to help define the specific data requirements, reporting formats and validation criteria for the automation solution. They may also assist with testing the system and validating the automated reports to ensure the final product meets the university’s needs.
  • Ongoing Process Improvement: After implementation, the business office and athletics administration teams continue to identify areas for improvement and refine the process. They provide feedback, suggest enhancements and help the automation system adapt to any changes in reporting requirements or university procedures.

The business and athletics teams will be highly involved in the project, particularly during the initial implementation and testing phases. However, once the solution is fully operational, their ongoing time commitment will reduce as the automation platform handles the majority of the data collection, translation and reporting tasks.

The University IT Team

The university's IT team plays a critical role in the automation process, though they might not be as directly involved as the business office and athletics administration. The key IT stakeholders involved typically include:

  1. Database Administrators: Work closely with the automation team to identify, access and extract data from the university’s various databases. They may also help ensure the data feeds into the automation solution correctly and consistently.
  2. IT Personnel Supporting Athletics: While there might not be a dedicated IT team for the athletic department, many university IT teams have a few staff members who regularly assist them. These individuals’ insights can be valuable, especially regarding data structures, reporting requirements and integration points.

The IT department typically has a higher level of involvement during the initial implementation phase than the business office and athletics administration teams.

Once the automation solution is fully implemented, the IT team's ongoing time commitment is reduced. This is because end-users in the business office and athletics department no longer have to gather and format the data manually. The IT department's role then shifts more toward maintaining the data connections and troubleshooting technical issues that arise.

James Moore Digital

As the provider of ARENA, James Moore acts as a critical intermediary between the university's business and IT teams and facilitates the automation’s implementation.

With input from the university stakeholders, the team leverages their deep understanding of the data sources, reporting requirements, and common pain points to ensure the automation creates a consistent and accurate report every time.

Our professionals lead the implementation of these new technologies. They work closely with the business office and athletics administration to define the specific data requirements, reporting formats and validation criteria and to test and optimize.

How Significant an Investment is ARENA by James Moore Digital?

The business model for implementing ARENA by James Moore Digital for NCAA and EADA reporting is designed to provide universities with a low upfront investment and a straightforward annual licensing structure.

Automating NCAA and EADA reporting does not require an upfront investment from the university. Instead, ARENA by James Moore Digital uses an annual licensing model to minimize the initial impact and maximize long-term value for the university.

The annual licensing fee covers implementation, ongoing maintenance and support, along with any necessary updates or enhancements as reporting requirements evolve. This subscription-based model is predictable, allowing universities to budget for automation as an operational expense rather than a significant capital expenditure.

Building a Business Case to Establish Automation’s Return on Investment

Accurately evaluating the business case for automation can be difficult, especially if the athletics department or business office has not previously worked with automation solutions and cannot accurately anticipate the benefits and challenges.

Before implementing ARENA, James Moore Digital collaborates closely with university teams to build a comprehensive business case by:

  • Quantifying the potential time/cost savings and error reduction
  • Specifying improvements to reporting consistency and data accuracy
  • Demonstrating the return on investment (for example, the improved capacity to direct resources to strategic initiatives)

By minimizing the upfront investment and helping universities accurately anticipate the automation’s ROI, James Moore Digital aims to make this transformative solution accessible to institutions struggling with manual, time-consuming reporting processes.

Streamline Reporting with Tailored Automation from James Moore Digital

The NCAA and EADA reporting processes can be extremely burdensome for university athletics programs, especially as they continue growing and accumulating more data. 

Automating these reporting workflows can provide significant benefits. Universities could see improved consistency in reporting, time and cost savings, and enhanced auditing and data analysis capabilities. And those benefits continue to develop over time.

James Moore’s Collegiate Athletics Data Analytics Team brings automation within reach of universities, even in the most complex or demanding reporting requirements. With solutions tailored to each institution’s unique challenges and architecture, athletics departments save countless hours of effort, freeing resources to be directed toward strategic and growth-oriented initiatives. 

To learn more about how the James Moore team can streamline your NCAA and EADA reporting workflows, connect with an advisor today.