People, Process, Technology—Tips for Improving Nonprofit Financial Management
Successful nonprofits rely on the synthesis of people, processes, and technology to accomplish objectives with speed, efficiency, and accuracy. When talented people follow proven processes, empowered by modern, cloud financial tools, nonprofits can adopt a data-driven strategy, becoming more proactive and improving stewardship of financial resources.
This article provides an explanation of the people, processes, and technology (PPT) framework and how it can help organizations improve nonprofit financial management. We’ve also gathered tips in each of these areas from nonprofit leaders who have used Sage Intacct to transform and streamline the financial management processes.
The PPT Framework
The people, process, technology (PPT) framework refers to the methodology in which the balance of people, process, and technology drives action: People perform a specific type of work for an organization using processes (and often, technology) to streamline and improve these processes. To drive strategic decision-making within your nonprofit, you will need:
People: Your finance team needs curious, creative, analytical, people who will monitor data, identify trends, and hypothesize how to achieve success and improve mission impact.
Processes: Well-documented, effective methods of accomplishing key tasks will help organizations train employees and make effective use of technology.
Technology: Organizations need three technological capabilities to become a more data-driven, strategic finance team:
- Automated financial operations
- Multi-dimensional analysis of key metrics
- Real-time data synchronization with other systems
It’s important to note that people, processes, and technology must be kept in relative balance in order to optimize success. Without enough people, work does not get accomplished, and your team burns out. Without creative people, innovation suffers. Inefficient processes frustrate employees, partners and donors, either delaying or derailing progress. Lacking the right technology, organizations spend too much time on low-value, manual tasks and decision makers do not have the advantage of real time insights.
Are your people, processes, and financial tools (technology) aligned properly to optimize your finance organization’s performance? Let’s look at some tips for each area.
People Tips for Improving Nonprofit Financial Management
Employees and volunteers deliver on the mission of any nonprofit. Without the right people, organizations simply don’t succeed. Today, there is strong competition for talent and a very tight labor market. So, it has never been more difficult or more important to find nonprofit financial professionals with the right mix of creativity and analytical skills.
Glenn Wood is the Church Administrator at Seacoast Church, a multiple location church operating in North and South Carolina as well as online. Its mission is to help people find God, grow their faith, discover their purpose, and make a difference. Glenn has been with Seacoast Church since 1995 where he oversees administration, IT/AV departments, legal work, campus leases, forecasting, and more. He has been using Sage Intacct for over 4 years.
Glenn provided these tips for making sure your organization offers a culture and opportunities that will help you recruit and retain great employees:
- Offer flexibility. Every good team needs to be flexible. The ability to adapt to changing times and circumstances is vital to achieving the mission of the organization. We in accounting can become “stuck” and closed to new ideas and options.
- Encourage life-long learning. We need to always be looking for “better” ways to accomplish not only our mission, but also the tasks that we are given to move the organization forward.
- Treat others as we want to be treated. We can get so focused on what we need to do to get our job done that we lose sight of others. We all have jobs to do, but we have to get along and we need to treat others with respect because 1) we don’t know what their day/life is like, 2) they have jobs to do as well, and 3) it shows we respect and value their worth to the organization.
- Mean what you say and say what you mean. When it comes to job descriptions and recruiting, it’s very important to state what the job is and is not. Remember, if it’s not in writing, it isn’t important in the eyes of the law. Job descriptions should tie to the actual duties a person will be evaluated on.
Process Tips for Improving Nonprofit Financial Management
Good processes make the most of both your people and your technology. Process drives the interaction between employees and financial tools, enabling organizations to get more done with fewer resources. Without well-documented, efficient processes, both organizations and employees will suffer from inconsistent performance.
Braam du Plooy is the Controller at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB) which helps to bring over 42 million visitors to Georgia each year. In support of its mission to drive tourism, ACVB runs a nonprofit chamber of commerce and arts foundation, as well as for-profit publications. Braam has been with ACVB since 2005 and has used Sage Intacct for over 5 years.
Describing himself as “an optimistic futurist,” Braam enjoys automation and integrating processes and the challenge of finding new and more efficient ways of being productive. He offered these insights for improving processes through the use of technology:
- Work through the software and not just work with the software. I see every day how many users work with the software but are not optimally using it by not working through the software.
- Empower your finance staff. Teach them to manage processes by using dashboards instead of focusing on inputting data. With automation, more emphasis can be placed on managing instead of on manual data input.
- Encourage finance staff to interpret and understand your processes. Finance staff need to understand how enhancements affect the input, flow, and outcome of transactions in a process. Think three dimensionally.
Technology Tips for Improving Nonprofit Financial Management
Technology empowers your people and transforms all of the data collected across your organization into something meaningful—valuable real-time insights for leaders and key performance indicators.
Kote Lomidze is the Senior Vice President of Finance and CFO of World Learning, an NGO focused on international development, education and exchange programs. In addition to his years at World Learning, Kote held financial leadership positions at Project Concern International based in San Diego and at World Vision.
Kote has exceptional talent with financial management technology. He has been using Sage Intacct since 2014 and has developed more than ten custom applications on the Sage Intacct platform that eliminated every internal paper-based process and leveraged efficiencies to save thousands of staff hours each year. Here are his tips for aligning technology with people and processes to achieve mission success:
- Embrace Cloud solutions. Appropriately maintaining, upgrading and backing-up financial systems in-house is a difficult and expensive task. Transitioning various financial systems to the cloud may at first seem difficult, but the sooner you do it, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
- Automate processes to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Robotic process automation in nonprofit financial management is paramount for achieving cost savings and increasing productivity. Selecting systems with strong APIs allows intra-system as well as cross-system automation.
- Don’t forget about cybersecurity. Cybercrimes are on the rise and criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated. Multi-factor authentication and robust spam filters along with cyber insurance are a must for any nonprofits.
As you can see, the PPT framework provides a helpful way of examining your organization’s performance. When people, processes, and technology are properly aligned and in balance with one another, your finance team’s efficiency and effectiveness can soar. To learn more about how to use technology to drive efficiency, process improvements, and financial performance, download our eBook, Rise of the Data-Driven Finance Leader.
A native Texan, Joan has over 25 years of experience in the accounting, technology, publishing, and nonprofit fields. Bringing her experience as a nonprofit financial leader to Sage Intacct, Joan has been instrumental in creating solutions, and providing support and best practices that help ensure nonprofits achieve their mission.
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