Powered by Spotlight: Steve Janz from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Steve Janz, an Accounting Instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), firmly believes that Spotlight Reporting is the future. In spending the last two decades teaching accounting, he’s tracked the progression of the industry as a whole, and adjusted his curriculum accordingly—which is why he now trains his students in our software.

“We’re close to 100 students that are Spotlight Certified,” says Steve. “Two international accounting firms that I’ve spoken to mentioned Spotlight as being very important in their Xero app stack. And Spotlight is certainly making inroads here in Canada, even though Xero was only launched in Canada in 2018.”

Spotlight Reporting has been met with huge enthusiasm amongst his students. By learning to use the software, they’re investing in the future of accounting, rather than simply following the status quo. Steve’s graduates are in high demand, with employers valuing the accounting tech skills they can put into practice immediately.

To this end, students must become Spotlight Certified, prepare four intermediate and advanced Spotlight Reports, and create a data analysis summary based on the reports generated. They’re also required to host a virtual-reality advisory session, where they use Xero to roleplay with an AI-generated client. The emphasis here is on the soft-skills of advisory, which Steve believes are replacing the work technology has automated, if they haven’t already.

The Changing Face of Accounting

Located in Calgary, Canada, SAIT’s mission is to shape the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and pioneers—with technology at the forefront. Within the context of the accounting industry, Spotlight Reporting is the perfect example of SAIT’s vision in action. 

In a different class, students spend four weeks learning how to manually create consolidated reports as part of the advanced financial accounting curriculum. But in Steve’s classes, he teaches them to create similar reports using Spotlight Reporting in just 45 minutes. Instead of spending hours eliminating intercompany transactions and consolidating entities using different currencies, students can consolidate up to 75 entities with the click of a button.

“That’s the power of Spotlight Reporting,” says Steve. “With this transition to the new world of accounting, you need to have the skills to use technology beyond just Excel. You invest in building a Spotlight template once, and you can use it to create reports every month. That’s where the efficiencies are.”

“An accounting firm contacted a student of mine for an interview, because she’d listed her Xero and Spotlight certifications on her LinkedIn.”

Although Steve is an expert in Spotlight Reporting now, Steve’s journey into the world of accounting technology began with a conversation in 2019, just as Xero began to take off in Canada. He received a phone call from a friend, who was also an accounting expert:

“He said, ‘please start teaching your students Xero. It’s changing the industry as we know it in Canada, and around the world.’” says Steve. “He’d never said anything as bold as that in the 15 years I’d known him. So I listened.”

Steve started investigating Xero, and was surprised to see how many accounting processes Xero could automate. He decided then and there that he would move his accounting students away from another accounting software program, and began researching the best apps in the Xero Marketplace to incorporate into the curriculum, alongside Xero. It was at this point that he discovered Spotlight Reporting.

“I couldn’t believe how quickly I could just connect my Xero, import my data, and have these most amazing reports with a click,” says Steve. “I was like wow, this is awesome!”

After having spent four months building a Xero training manual for his students, Steve’s enthusiasm led him to build the Spotlight Reporting training manual in just four days over the Christmas period. He started teaching both in January of 2020, and the rest is history.

In the Real World

Patrick Stern, Spotlight Reporting Enterprise Business Development Manager, is more than thrilled about SAIT’s initiatives in this area. He’s proud to support them in their mission to prepare their students for the realities of a technologically-advanced workforce:

“Institutions like SAIT are really providing opportunities for students by bridging the gap between academia and reality, using technology like Spotlight Reporting,” says Patrick. “Graduates will bring value to the businesses they work with from the get go.”

As for the students themselves, in using Spotlight Reporting, they feel like they’re being trained for the real world, rather than an end-of-year exam. Students are allowed to keep the Spotlight Reporting manual they learnt from as an open-education resource, and Steve has already had feedback about how technology training boosts students’ CVs.

“I couldn’t believe how quickly I could just connect my Xero, import my data, and have these most amazing reports with a click!”

“An accounting firm contacted a student of mine for an interview, because she’d listed her Xero and Spotlight certifications on her LinkedIn,” he says. 

Going forward, he anticipates hearing more success stories from graduates as they enter the workforce. For Steve, technology training isn’t just about teaching a course—it’s about investing in the future of his students, and the accounting industry as a whole, by learning about the best apps in the Xero ecosystem.

“When you make that learning investment, you’ll always be in demand,” he says. “And that’s how accounting is changing, and our world is changing. Those who make the investment in learning and implementing innovative technologies for companies are the ones who will have the advantage.”

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