For many of us, budgets are similar to New Year’s resolutions, we start them but don’t always follow through. For Himali Patel, CFO and the head of the CICS Finance team, the CICS budget is the most important document to demonstrate what we value. “Finance is here to support the work that CICS does, whether through a smoother audit process, month-end close, or strategic decision making. Finance is a support function, and we support the teaching and educating of our students.”
Himali and the finance team are committed to do just that, demonstrate what CICS values. This year, Himali will be leading thoughtful discussions about the budget with the various teams to build the foundation for a long-term financial plan aligned to the strategic plan and our values.
The finance team is unique to CICS; they were ready to be virtual in part because of the processes they had already implemented. “Because our team is driven to learn, we barely skipped a beat in the transition. We had listening meetings and used that learning to provide teams with better resources and reports.” Himali already has future plans in place, stating that when this fiscal year ends, the team hopes to have a faster reporting system where the process of getting information out to department leads requires minimal work with excellent results.
Himali also sees value in the diversity of the finance team in building a team culture. She strives to create a learning environment on her team. ”I encourage my team to let me know what each of them wants to learn, whether that is more about fixed assets, capitalization or charter school law and its application to finance.” This is part of the team culture that she has created. Himali believes that there should be a culture of learning, a reflection of working in education. “We respect one another and there are no dumb ideas here. We treat each other as equals with everyone having an equal voice and participating in creating processes that will improve the work our team does.”
Part of that improvement process is the creation of a closer working relationship with the school management organization (SMO) partners. “This will be the first full calendar year with the same team. We have created better communications with our SMO partners, streamlining processes, creating templates, and having one point person, in this case, Jen Parkinson.”
Himali hopes that, going forward, she and the Finance team will have a lower profile in the organization as they continue to provide the efficient and effective financial support necessary for the academic success of all CICS students.