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Accounting and Project Management: Two Unlikely Allies

By | Accounting, Grant Management, HR, Nonprofit, Uncategorized | No Comments

As an accounting professional, you know that you play an important role in your organization. Your team can help your organization achieve its goals more effectively by  working alongside project managers.

Project managers may be part of the marketing, creative services, information technology or any other department. Their job is to organize, guide, and as the name implies, manage a project from start to finish, ensuring that timelines, milestones, and budgets are met.

As you can imagine, accounting can best partner on the budget side of projects, however, accounting teams can help project managers with so much more. Here’s how the two can become unlikely but powerful allies to build organizational efficiency.

The Accounting Team Knows How It’s Done

Accounting teams have a special knack for understanding the workflow within an organization. Chalk it up to knowing where the money flows in and out, but the accounting team can be the organizational experts on who does what, when and how.

That information is essential for project managers struggling to align processes and people with project goals and milestones. The accounting staff understand the risks, controls, and other details that can help projects move smoothly through the organization. They know how work gets done internally and can guide project managers around any potential obstacles.

Project Management Methodology

Accountants who wish to add value to the project management team must, however, learn the language and methodology of successful project management.

Projects are mapped with a specific workflow in mind. There is a beginning,a middle (or milestones to reach), and a stated goal which marks the end.

The overall project map can be called a charter or project plan. Accountanting professionals, used to managing risk, can add value to the creation of a project plan or charter by objectively identifying potential risks from their unique perspective.  This can help the project managercorrect any faulty assumptions and keep projects on track.

Accounting Participates from the Start

Another helpful hint: Participate in project plans from the start. Don’t wait until the project is near completion and the project manager needs help finding additional funds in the budget to complete it. You can add the greatest value to a project by working alongside the project team from the start to advise on process and budgets.  Instead of coming in at the last minute, your guidance is essential near the project kickoff, in the middle when the project may need changes or additions, as well as with final budgeting.

Tips to Manage Project Risks

Accountants are risk managers. To add your greatest strength to the project management process, use these tips to help manage risks.

  • Help the project manager at the beginning of a project.
  • Stay involved with the project. Attend meetings of the project team and review any documents, emails or other materials promptly.
  • Ask questions like an auditor. Key stakeholders in project meetings can help identify the most important project milestones that deserve focus.
  • Be aware of workload dips and spikes, and accommodate the crunch periods with additional help.
  • Identify project scope creep, or when the work moves outside of the intended project. Gently guide it back into scope with the help of the project manager.

By asking the right questions and using your talents and strengths  in managing financial accounts, you can become a valuable ally and asset to the project management team in your organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

The State of Gender Diversity Among Non-Profit Boards

By | HR, Nonprofit | No Comments

Women have long been at the forefront of non-profit organizations. From Clara Barton founding the American Red Cross to today’s women forming groups to help many others, women have always volunteered their time and talents for the betterment of society.

But among non-profit boards, gender diversity remains a controversial topic. Today, while more women than ever are at the helm of corporations worldwide, they may still be under-represented around the non-profit boardroom table.

New global data indicate that some countries have made good progress adding women to non-profit boards while men continue to dominate in other areas. The state of gender diversity among non-profit boards worldwide is discussed below.

Gender Proportions Among Worldwide Boards

Within countries that have an established gender quota for boards, women are well represented. In non-quota markets such as the U.S., that number is lower.

Globally, boards comprise about 14% women. Five countries are above 30%: Norway, France, Latvia, Iceland, and Finland. Canada and Australia have tougher disclosure laws and as such, are making better progress towards gender equality in board representation.

What’s Stopping Board Diversity?

Female board nominees face numerous challenges when seeking seats on boards. Boards place an emphasis on collegiality, and females facing an all-male board may find themselves outside of an established male group.

It’s also a fact that people tend to invite business and social colleagues to be members of their boards. Women may not be part of these established networks, and it may take time for women to make inroads into groups that lead to board nominations.

Lastly, men and women view the need for board diversity differently. Women tend to place a greater emphasis on the need for diversity, while about half as many men feel the same way.

The Benefits of Diversity on Boards

Women bring a different perspective to discussions when they sit on corporate boards. There are many benefits of having women on corporate and non-profit boards of directors. These benefits include:

  • Differences in work styles and communications
  • Differences in relationships, with an emphasis on trust and teamwork among women
  • Greater emphasis on civil discourse and discussion
  • More independent and creative thinking
  • Less emphasis on conformity

Such new thinking and differences in perspectives can lead to improved problem solving, creative solutions to problems, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities.

Recommendations for Women

There are several recommendations that women seeking board service can implement to obtain their goals. Women in accounting may have more opportunities for board service than others because accountants are often in demand for board positions regardless of gender. Their ability to process detailed financial information may make them a desirable board candidate.

Women should also consider joining professional groups and organizations. Such groups may lead to colleagues who can recommend them for board positions and who know their expertise and abilities. Like the so-called ‘old boy’s network’, these networks of professional friendships help people connect to opportunities.

Although men and women are equally capable of serving on boards, each brings a different perspective to a non-profit. Both will serve well, given their abilities and talents match the needs of a board. Non-profit boards would do well to consider adding more women to the table – the board table, that is.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Personalized Training Plans Offer More Meaningful Professional Development

By | Abila, Accounting, Government, Grant Management, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Training | No Comments

CPAs, like other professionals, need an additional 40 hours of continuing education units annually to maintain their certification. Even if your industry does not require taking continuing education courses, everyone benefits from refresher courses and keeping abreast of changes and developments in their industry.

There is great value to designing a personalized plan for continuing professional development. These plans build a customized training roadmap for individuals, so that instead of taking a prescribed set of courses to meet your continuing education requirements, you create your own curriculum. Here’s why they work.

The Benefits of Personalized Professional Development Plans

  1. Relevant: Personalized course plans are highly relevant. They take into consideration your currently level of skills, interests, and needs, as well as those of your employer or company. You can choose the courses that are right for you and fit your personal learning goals.
  2. Flexible: You choose when you wish to take the courses, creating a plan that lets you take courses on the weekends, at night, or even during your lunch hour. You aren’t locked into a set schedule.
  3. Higher completion rate: Because the courses in your personalized plan are relevant and on a schedule that meets your needs, they tend to have a higher completion rate than other courses.
  4. More feedback and interaction: Some personal development plans include interaction with a mentor or trainer, providing more personalized feedback and interaction from the one to one mentoring.
  5. Noticeable difference: Personal plans offer you the added bonus of being able to identify specific goals to work towards. You can document progress toward your goals through milestones and checkpoints. Not only does this help you achieve them, it also helps you see both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture. You can see just how far you’ve come.

Does Personalized Professional Development Stand Alone?

Most companies blend both personalized development with general professional development activities,  offering both the benefits of personalization and group interaction that’s valuable for team building and shared knowledge.

Why Professional Development Matters

Lifelong learning is important for all professions. While we tend to think of professional development for teachers, accountants, financial managers, others benefit from continually sharpening their skills.

Professions change over time. New governmental and IRS regulations, for example, may change how accountants and financial planners manage specific tasks and functions. Yes, you can read about these changes in professional journals or online bulletins from the managing organizations, but in some cases, in-depth professional development through workshops, conferences, or classes may be the best way to completely understand something new.

Technology is changing how CPAs manage data, how sales and marketing professionals do their jobs, and how human resources managers organize their files. By taking additional professional development courses in technology-enhanced areas, you’ll be able to maximize the use of such  developments to create a stronger, better organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Mandatory Fun: Why Requiring Vacation Time for All Means a Better Workplace

By | HR, Nonprofit | No Comments

“I’m too busy to take a vacation!”

Have you caught yourself saying that? If so – stop. Just stop, right now. Because we’re here to tell you that fun is mandatory. Vacations aren’t just a nice thing to do. They’re important for your productivity, creativity, peace of mind, and a happy workplace.

Take Vacation – Please

Time off helps workers recharge their batteries and refresh their creativity. Studies have shown that staying busy all the time, or engaging the left brain (the logical, reasoning brain) for long periods of time depletes the creative energy needed for fresh thinking and ideas. In other words, time spent daydreaming on a beach or strolling the lanes of a foreign city is great for refreshing your left or creative brain.

To Check In or Not to Check In?

In order to fully reap the benefits of taking time off, it’s best not to check in at all, or to check in sparingly. Some executives may feel they should check in at regular intervals, setting times when they are available during vacation for quick calls or messages. Others check text messages but not email or voice mail. It’s important to set your own boundaries when it comes to taking time off.

The Benefits of Time Off

Vacation time may be a company benefit, but it offers the company benefits, too. For example, research has shown that workers who fail to take time off impact not just their own productivity but others at work, too. That’s because people who don’t take scheduled time off often find themselves taking unplanned time off like sick days because they burn themselves out. Then, in turn, their work must be completed by others, which adds to their stress. This can lower the overall morale and productivity of the entire team.

Another unexpected benefit of vacation time is that it may lower workplace fraud. The FDIC and the SEC both have policies in place to encourage vacation time. The FDIC, in fact, states that mandatory vacation rules discourage embezzlement. That’s because embezzlement and fraud require a sustained effort over time. Vacation disrupts that time and may make fraud more easily detected if the perpetrator isn’t there to cover his or her tracks.

Lastly, organizations who enforce mandatory vacation policies benefit their bottom line, too. Policies that allow workers to accrue vacation time can set the stage for an expensive payout when someone with a lot of vacation time accrued finally leaves the company. A “use it or lose it” policy prevents vacation from accruing annually. It both encourages people to take time off and prevents a big payout when someone leaves.

Leaders Set the Tone

If you’re in a leadership position within your organization, it’s important that you set a positive tone around taking time off. Never make anyone feel guilty for attending to family or personal needs. Be generous with time off policies, and respect people’s boundaries when it comes to taking time off. That means don’t call them when they’re on their wedding anniversary cruise and avoid sending emails during their vacation unless it’s necessary.

 

People sometimes think that vacation time is frivolous, perhaps a holdover from the old-fashioned Puritan work ethic that drives some people to work until exhaustion. But if you’re too tired to work, you’ll be of no use to anyone – not to your clients, your coworkers, or more importantly, to your family or to yourself. Take time off this summer for your sake and that of your company.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.