Insights: Article

Questioning the Effectiveness of Your Business Software?

Do you need to make a change?

By Shelley Earsley

October 25, 2018

As a nonprofit, your primary focus is providing programs and services to further your mission within your community and the regions in which you serve. Funding is typically focused on these programs and services, while back-office and technology investments tend to come second. Yet delivering these programs and services effectively and efficiently requires business systems capable of supporting the activities. When your organization is struggling with your business software, it makes it more difficult to fulfill your mission.

Challenges with your Business Software
An organization may begin to question their business software if:

  • Staff members are creating spreadsheets and MS Access databases outside of the software to do what is needed for operational and financial reporting.
  • Employees do not trust that the software works, so they are frustrated when asked to use it rather than using their spreadsheets.
  • Users do not know how to make the system work for their needs.
  • A new regulation requires additional reporting that is not readily available in the system.
  • The software vendor is slow to respond to your questions and support challenges.
  • The software vendor is suggesting you need to upgrade.

Risks of Software Change
Software implementation can seem like a daunting task. Investments in business software such as accounting, fundraising, grants management, or relationship management applications are not only costly, but they also require significant time and effort from management and employees. The transition to new applications may impact many areas of your operations, programs and services provided, and it can also affect program participants, donors and volunteers. There are many examples of software implementations that did not go well—missed their target dates, had budget overruns or resulted in the software not doing what was expected—so it’s important to weigh the benefits against the risks.

Does your organization require a change in software?
Your organization may not need to make a software change even though you are questioning the effectiveness of your existing software. To help you answer the question of whether you need to replace your software, consider the following. 

Product Roadmap & Fitness
Investigate the software provider’s product roadmap, as well as investments they are making in the solution, frequency of updates, new releases and their vision for the future. Look for feedback from other customers using these solutions, and work to understand the size and complexity of said customers. Also, be sure to look into typical support issues being reported and whether they are being resolved.

Training
Users are often hesitant to eliminate the use of their spreadsheets or comfortable processes. It’s important to assess your users’ knowledge of the systems and their confidence in the information tracked within the system, and to evaluate whether additional training could further enhance their knowledge. The more confident users are in the system, the less likely they are to continue relying on outdated processes.

Functionality Gaps
When you clearly identify the perceived functionality gaps within the systems, you can effectively determine whether the solution is being used to its full capabilities. Engage your solution provider to assist with this evaluation and to identify how the solution can be used to close any functionality gaps. You can also expect the solution provider to address these gaps with a variety of solutions, including existing functionality of the application you are licensing, an additional module, a third-party application or a workaround for the organization.

Build a Plan
Based on the information that you gather throughout your evaluation, develop a business application plan and strategy to best support the delivery of the organization’s programs and services. This strategy may include optimizing the use of your existing systems through enhanced system adoption, automation of manual processes and additional training or planning for the evaluation of a new solution.

Developing a strategy that is proactive and can be budgeted for, as well as clearly aligning investments to support the mission are just a few ways to put an organization in control of its investments. This allows the plan to be executed at the appropriate pace and sets the organization up for success. 

Though these considerations, you can effectively take control of your technology systems, eliminate the inefficiencies in your organization and make the mission of your nonprofit your primary focus again. If you have questions along the way, contact our Technology Consulting team. We are here to help at any point in your technology journey.

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