Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1980, whose mission is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these crimes, and prevent underage drinking.
I recently spoke with Lista Hightower, the CFO at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about their transition off Microsoft Dynamics, why they ended up with an Excel workbook with 50 tabs, and how Sage Intacct’s best of breed approach has allowed them to revolutionize their efficiency.
Andrew: Thank you for chatting with me today, Lista. To start, can you share a little bit about your previous accounting system and some of the challenges in using Dynamics?
Lista Hightower: We had been using Microsoft Dynamics SL since the turn of the century, and Dynamics SL was not table-driven, and it did not have dimensions and attributes. We had to do all of that through a sub account. We would have a 16-digit sub account where every digit meant something in order to capture the data we needed. It created bottlenecks because every time we wanted to do something different, we had to create a new sub account, with a sub account combination.
It also wasn't cloud based, so we had to be by the server in the office, which meant that people were tied to being in the office a lot more than they needed to be. It was just not seamless or efficient.
We also ended up being really tied to our consultants. Every time we wanted to run a special report, create, tweak it, we had to call them, wait a day or two till they worked on it. We were much more tied to our IT department because there was constant backups and upgrades, and things never really went smoothly. Now, it's just overnight. It just happens.
Andrew: Can you walk me through what the reporting process was like?
Lista: We have 50 states of financial statements that we have to produce every month. We were to the point where all the accountants would produce the financial statements and then they would scan them in, and then email them out to all the different managers in the different states. You would find that there was something that you needed to change, you'd have to go and do it all again.
We ended up doing a lot of stuff in Excel, so we would do kind of a data dump out of Solomon, and then adjust the numbers. Solomon used FRX for the reporting, and it was very difficult to use, took years of experience to get it, and we were designing a new report every single time we needed to tweak one little piece. We had to make major changes.
Andrew: Tell me about the amount of time that it took to create these reports.
Lista: We were closing at the end of the following month, and it was taking our accountants two and three days for every payroll to get that done. Now it's done in 20 minutes.
Previously, by the time we had our finance committee meeting, the finance committee was sitting there going, "These are financial statements from two months ago. What's happening now?" And we were like, "Well, we won't know that until another month." It was very disheartening to not provide the up to date information that we needed. Now we're down to closing mid-month, for the previous month. It’s a very big improvement.
Andrew: Lista, was there a moment or an incident that you realized, “We can no longer continue to operate this way? We need to find another solution.”
Lista: Yes, in our budgeting process we were doing budgets from all over the country, through Excel. Each Excel workbook had 50 tabs in it, they were all linked, and you had to bring them up, consolidate them, and one year we found 230 errors in just that were running through every single spreadsheet. We couldn't trust the numbers, and we were frantic as far as getting everything ready for the finance committee, for the budget approval. That's when we really started looking.
One of the things that made us decide that Sage Intacct was for us, was that it had the ability to easily integrate with all of these software that we already had. We sort of went at it backwards: we implemented Adaptive Insights first and needed something that worked seamlessly witit. We also had Concur and we had already implemented Salesforce to be our CRM, so we needed something that would work with that. These integrations into Sage Intacct have really revolutionized what we're able to do as far as getting everything efficiently talking to each other.
It took us several years, but we feel like we finally found the right product in Sage Intacct.
Andrew: When you were considering making a change from Dynamics Solomon, did you evaluate a number of different software applications? And can you talk to me about what helped you to make your decision?
Lista: We evaluated Oracle NetSuite, but NetSuite did not have the non-profit vertical that we were looking for. Everything they talked about was, “Yes, we have a workaround for this, and to do that we have this extra process over here.”
Andrew: Okay. Can you tell me about your implementation process?
Lista: Yes, we selected JMT Consulting to take us through our Sage Intacct implementation because we wanted a business partner that would look at our financial operations and really give us some insight. We've made quite a few changes in our processes, just at their advice, and it's wonderful.
Andrew: Great; and can you talk to me about how having Sage Intacct in place has enabled you to streamline what used to be cumbersome processes? What are some overall benefits that you’ve seen?
Lista: Sage Intacct is just built for non-profits. It works immediately and there's no workarounds. You have special dashboards just for non-profits, and that is very helpful to speak the language of the people in the field that you're working with.
We have changed our processes now that we have Sage Intacct. Previously, we had to have 10 different vendors for say, American Express, because they had different addresses. Now we just now deal with one vendor and we can get reports consolidated about that one vendor. That was helpful for our AP people to be able to just click through quickly, and it takes a lot less training for them, and it's a lot more intuitive.
Sage Intacct enables me to explain the effect something would have on our financials, to quickly have the background supporting data that I need to back up what I have to say. It gives you a lot more credibility.
Additionally, it's sped up our process, and there's much less scrubbing of the numbers because we sync back and forth all the time; all the dimensions are updated. When we slice and dice the data, we're able to produce reports that are geared to every situation, with different allocations, for each different state. The dimensions allow us to easily do the reporting on each individual state's requirements. The ability to slice and dice by grant, by sub-grant, by employee within a grant, has really helped our reporting with our needs there.
We're subject to audits in every state all the time. For us to be able to do well on those audits ensures that the grantors look favorably upon us when we come up for renewal of our grants or hopefully get increases in grants. The last three or four audits we've had, the granting agencies have even taken an opportunity to write to us and say, "This was perfect. Every number ticked and tied. Your reports were fabulous." Sage Intacct has certainly helped us keep our grants.
Lastly, we're probably down about two to three full time employees over the last two or three years, and in large part, that's due to the work of software like Sage Intacct.