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Corporate Culture

The Three Pillars of Digital Transformation

By | Corporate Culture, Data, Nonprofit | No Comments
smiling woman at laptop computer. Welter logo

“Digital transformation” is one of those buzzwords that seems to be everywhere right now. From e-commerce to manufacturing, everyone is talking about the impact of digital transformation.

The term “digital transformation” makes it sound like a magician is at work behind the scenes. Presto, change, click a switch, and voila—your entire organization has undergone a magical transformation!

If only it were that simple. Organizations undergoing digital transformation may find themselves struggling with new questions if they lack strategy behind their adoption of new technology.

There are three pillars, or core concepts, embedded within every successful digital transformation. We suggest having these three areas addressed well in advance of your digital transformation project to boost its chances of success.

A Clear Strategy and Alignment of Vision

Success doesn’t happen by accident. A successful digital transformation project occurs when the strategy and vision behind the project align with an organization’s clarity of purpose and mission.

What is the vision behind the project, and how does it help an organization fulfill its mission? New technology can improve the organization’s ability to fundraise, track grants, and/or manage fund accounting. These are all worthwhile and noble goals. Map out how the new technology you hope to implement helps you fulfill a goal that is clearly aligned with your organization’s mission, purpose, and vision for the future.

Shared Decision Making Around New Technology

It’s tempting to think the purchase of new technology is an IT-department responsibility. But the best IT departments will tell you that all stakeholders—those who will use the technology daily—are the ones who need to be at the table when creating the technology requirements document and exploring options.

Shared decision-making around new technology is essential to finding the best technology that will meet your organization’s needs. Each stakeholder knows their respective area of business best and can provide the most valuable input into how the technology under consideration will help them do their work better.

Any digital transformation team gathered at your organization should include a representative from each major area of responsibility: accounting, finance, operations, program management, marketing, outreach, grant management, donor management, and more. Let those who will use the technology have a voice in the decision of which one to adopt and why.

Process Changes, Too

The third pillar, or major consideration, when undergoing digital transformation is that technology never lives in isolation. It is the impact of technology on people, processes, and things that makes it such a transformation.

The people in the equation—your staff and stakeholders who will interact daily with the technology—must adapt and change their behaviors to work with the new system. There may be a steep learning curve for some. Routines must change, and with changing routines, come changing processes.

No matter how user-friendly the new technology, processes and people must both adapt to it. Make sure you give everyone the time and space they need to learn to use the new technology. Keep an open mind and be flexible to process changes and adaptations, too.

Are You Ready for Digital Transformation?

You’ve probably seen those ads on television for diet programs. They always show before and after pictures: someone looking sad and overweight in the before picture, triumphant and overjoyed in the after photo. What they never show is the in-between: the daily struggle to make wise choices, the moments of decision that lead to a successful outcome.

Your organization’s digital transformation is also like those weight loss programs. You have a “before” shot now: a problem you need to solve, a process that’s cumbersome or slowing things down, and so on. What you desire is the “after” effect: faster, more productive work. But, to get there, you’ll need to bring together these three pillars of strategy and vision, shared decisions, and adapting process to make it successful.

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.

7 Tips to Become a Better Virtual Communicator

By | Corporate Culture, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

According to The Washington CPA, 70% of managers say they are more open to a flexible working model now than they were before the start of the pandemic. If any good came from the last two years of turmoil, it is that companies are now recognizing that employees can be as productive and responsive when working from home as they can when reporting to an office.

Given that the world isn’t likely to return to pre-pandemic work norms, it makes sense to focus on improving communication skills in a remote working environment.

Barriers to Effective Virtual Communication

There are several barriers that must be overcome when communicating virtually with team members. Virtual communications differ from in-person communication in several ways.

When people converse in person, they rely on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey deeper meaning than words alone can convey. Virtual communication removes these added layers of information-sharing and puts the emphasis on written words alone. Even with videoconferencing, some nuances are lost, and not all work can be shared effectively during video conferences.

Best Practices

The skills you’ve come to rely on for effective in-person communication differ from those needed for effective virtual communication. Here, we share several tips to help you become a better virtual communicator.

  1. Use technology to enhance communication: Most companies choose one project management system, one instant messenger system, and add email and videoconferencing to the mix. These four basic technologies cover most day-to-day needs. It doesn’t really matter which ones you choose, as long as you use them consistently.
  2. Set expectations and boundaries around technology use: Establish response timelines and share them via written documentation. For example, you may request that during the business week, all instant messenger communications and emails are answered within 24 hours or that the project management system is updated by a certain day of the week. Share these expectations and hold team members accountable for following through.
  3. Select specific channels for different types of communication: Instant messenger tools such as Slack and Skype are great for quick responses, but unsuitable for longer discussions. Learn when to use specific types of communications. Some good rules of thumb are:
    • Quick questions or updates: instant messenger channels
    • Project updates or information sharing: project management channels
    • Formal communication, reports, or updates: email
    • Brainstorming, team meetings, large briefings: video conferencing or conference calls
  4. Provide frequent feedback: Another important element to virtual communication is frequent, regular contact with team members. Providing regular feedback on project updates, messages, and initiatives is vital for effective virtual communication.
  5. Close communication loops: Don’t leave anyone wondering what’s going on. Along with frequent feedback, “close the loop” by ensuring you alert others when a task is complete, a project is finished, or a customer situation has been addressed.
  6. Write in a short, succinct, and direct manner: Since so much of virtual communication is conducted via typed or written words, it must be impactful. Avoid extraneous thoughts, off-topic asides, and trying to convey emotions via writing. Humor and sarcasm may be suitable for your personal communication but added to a business communication can seriously twist a message, often to the point where it can be misconstrued. Use shorter sentences, plenty of bullet points, and other written communication techniques to ensure shared understanding.
  7. Keep everyone informed: A good rule of thumb is to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Include anyone who may need the information in an email as a Cc line, or forward information to team members who may need it.

As the world continues to embrace flexible work arrangements, more workers will demand the ability to work remotely. This is especially true as the so-called “great resignation” shows no sign of abatement. Offering virtual work options, flexible work arrangements, and telecommuting options allows you to hire outside of your immediate geography and find excellent candidates. But, in order to make it work, you and everyone else at your organization must improve your virtual communications. Become a whiz at that, and you’ll be set up for a strong future.

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.

What Distinguishes High Impact Nonprofits? Experts Weigh In

By | Corporate Culture, Nonprofit | No Comments

What distinguishes high impact nonprofits from average ones? The Stanford Leadership Study, spearheaded by researchers Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker, identify seven factors which they call the “engine of impact.”

These seven factors include:

  1. Mission
  2. Strategy
  3. Impact evaluation
  4. Insight and courage
  5. Organization and talent
  6. Funding
  7. Board governance

There is no one critical factor, but rather all seven must work together to propel the nonprofit forward – hence the term “engine of impact.” With a combination of all seven factors working in concert, nonprofits can serve more people and achieve their mission on a grand scale.

Only a Handful Meet the Criteria for High Impact Nonprofits

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to the engine of impact. The bad news is that only about 20% of all nonprofits believe they meet the criteria of a high impact nonprofit. The good news? Among the remaining 80% who fail to meet the criteria of high impact nonprofits, there’s plenty of room for growth, and many are well on their way to achieving it.

One core concept the study posits is  the importance of external audits or evaluations. Among the nonprofits surveyed, only about 40%  utilize external evaluations. .

What Is the Impact Engine?

These seven factors encompass many overarching concepts that set strong nonprofits apart from struggling ones. Mission and vision, for example, provide leadership and guidance not just at the top, but to all who work at the nonprofit. With a strong mission and vision statement, nonprofits can guide, organize, and adjust their work to fulfill the mission and ensure that all work they undertake supports their mission-driven environment.
Funding is another example of a broad concept that has specific, measurable impacts. Funding, talent organization and board governance  comprise the fuel that keeps the engine of impact turning. Without enough fuel, a car sputters and stops. So too, a nonprofit without adequate funding, poor funding management, and poor governance and organization cannot achieve success as a strong nonprofit.

What Are Nonprofits Doing Right?

Among the nonprofits surveyed during the study, several key findings emerged.

  • 56% of the nonprofits in the study had Board Governance in place, with Funding close behind at 52%.
  • 50% of nonprofits had systems in place to evaluate their impact, which is more positive news. Without such an evaluation, it is difficult to assess areas of focus for the future.

Where did nonprofits fall short?

  • Just 35% had a stated strategy in place
  • 18% lacked a clear Mission statement
  • 17% lacked insight and courage, two elements that enabled nonprofits to take a long, hard look at their work, evaluate its success or failures, and make improvements for the future.

How Does Your Organization Measure Up?

Before you decide where your organization fits in this evaluation, the study’s authors have put together a free online quiz to help you assess your nonprofit. Take the quiz, then return to the Welter Consulting website for more information and articles to help you build your nonprofit impact engine.

Take the Next Step with Welter Consulting

After completing the nonprofit impact engine survey, how does your organization measure up?

Most organizations will find one or more areas in which they could improve. That’s nothing to panic about. Instead, it provides ample opportunities for change and growth.

Once you’ve identified key areas with room for improvement, it’s time to get to work. If you’re unsure where to start, contact 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.

Feeling – and Dealing – with Being Overwhelmed

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, Cloud, Corporate Culture, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

It’s not confined to tax season. A look at why you’re feeling overwhelmed, and how to deal with it.

In the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, authors Jeff and J.J. Sutherland have an interesting chart on page 91. In this chart, they cite statistics that indicate that as one’s attention is divided, productivity decreases. Working on two projects at once means a 20% loss in productivity due to switching gears; three projects at once, and you lose about 40% due to context switching.

Accountants and financial managers at nonprofits aren’t immune to this loss, due to context switching. In fact, we’re probably more vulnerable to it due to the focused nature of our work. Dealing with financial issues, accounting questions, and understanding complex financial information requires quiet, focused time. The barrage of instant messenger apps, phone calls, emails, texts and myriad information streams in today’s connected world increases the loss due to context switching. Multi-tasking for greater productivity is a myth.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Nearly all professionals are feeling overwhelmed these days. It’s as if the crunch before tax season never ends. Researchers point to the common culprits – instant messengers, instant news, instant everything – as a big part of the problem. The human brain isn’t wired to deal with this level of intensity, and we haven’t had time to adapt to the rapid pace of change that technology has wrought in our personal and business lives.

Although we cannot fully shut the world out and switch off the phones, there are ways to improve productivity. These include avoiding context or task switching, single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and establishing boundaries around office times.

Single-Tasking for Greater Productivity

Multi-tasking does not improve productivity. Instead, it diminishes productivity because the mind needs time to acclimate to the second task. As we focus on one task, our attention is fixed on that task; switching to a second task takes brain power to establish focus, change direction, and process new information.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. Instead, turn off the music or the television while you work. Shut the door to your office. Switch off the instant messages and turn your cell phone to mute while you work on a project. Allow yourself the space to focus, rather than trying to cram as many tasks as you can into the same amount of time.

Set Office Rules

Another tip to improve productivity and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to set some basic ground rules around your time in the office. While many managers prefer an ‘open door’ policy and make themselves available to their staff at any time, you may need to establish some basic policies around availability.

Some managers have ‘office hours’ when they leave their door open as a clear signal to their teams that they can drop in and ask any questions they wish. Others block out time on their calendar for quiet, focused work. Either method works fine. The point is to ensure that you have adequate quiet time for focused work and additional time blocked out for your teams.

Switch Off the Mobile Phone

 Cellphones are a great convenience, but their buzzing, shrilling, vibrating presence has ruined many a meeting, family dinner, or quiet time. Shut off the mobile phone when you aren’t at work or when you need some space. Texts are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be, and your brain needs a break from the constant stream of messages and information it’s trying to process.

Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 Lastly, give yourself permission to rest on the weekends, vacations and holidays. When you’re behind schedule on projects, it is tempting to trying to bring work home or devote a few extra hours in the evening to finishing up a project. Occasionally burning the midnight oil doesn’t hurt  but making it a habit can cut into your overall productivity. Ensuring balance in all things takes time, practice and effort, but it helps your overall productivity.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times by work. If it becomes chronic, however, it’s time to take steps to safeguard your time. Burnout happens in all professions, including accounting and finance, nonprofit and for-profit companies.

 

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.