From On-Premises to the Cloud: A Digital Transformation Strategy

By | Cloud, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Adopting forward-thinking digital strategies is critical for small and medium-sized businesses to remain competitive. This means not only updating existing systems but also moving in new directions.

One such direction is cloud native. Cloud native refers to a design and development approach that focuses on building applications and services specifically designed from the start to reside in the cloud. Companies began to shift from on-premises financial software during the pandemic. It quickly became apparent that on-premises solutions were not meeting their needs when people were forced to work from home. Companies with cloud-based solutions were able to move rapidly to work-from-home situations, keeping workers and customers safe. Now, many realize that cloud-based solutions offer more benefits than just the flexibility of the work environment.

But before shifting from on-prem to cloud, it is essential to have a strategy. Here’s how you can come up with a sound cloud-first plan that can help your company remain agile and competitive now and in the years to come.

Why Small and Midsize Businesses (SMBs) Are Moving to the Cloud

If you’re currently using an on-premises system for financial management, you may wonder what all the fuss is about cloud-based solutions. According to Gartner, 85% of SMBs are moving towards cloud solutions. Here’s why.

  • Cost: Cloud solutions cost less than their on-premises counterparts. Cloud solutions require no special hardware to run. The cloud provider updates the software. And, although you may want a good consultant for training, implementation, integration, or advice, no additional staff are needed to keep a cloud platform running.
  • Security: On-premises systems are generally secure from a cyberattack perspective if not connected to the internet. However, data can still be lost due to natural disasters, power failures, or hardware and equipment failures. Backups must be maintained and kept secure. Cloud systems, on the other hand, often provided multiple geographic locations to back up their clients’ data so if a natural disaster hits in one area, their data is protected. Data and systemwide backups may also be automatic, ensuring that nothing is lost due to equipment malfunction.
  • Remote Work: On-prems generally do not support remote work. Cloud platforms can fully support remote work. Although many larger companies have switched back to in-person or hybrid work, workers themselves continue to be supportive and eager for work-from-home opportunities. The ability to offer flexible work arrangements can help you attract talent from a wider talent pool and hire a more diverse team than you might find in the local area. It’s an important consideration.
  • Flexible: On-premises or monolithic systems are difficult to adapt to user needs. Vendors often lock users into their ecosystem, resulting in a poor fit between customer needs and software. These limitations can keep a company from finding the best software for their needs. Cloud systems are easily scalable. Even integration can be easier with the use of APIs (application programming interface) to enable different platforms to “talk” to each other as needed.
  • Scalable: Systems that are on-premises can be hard to scale without a full lift and shift or an entirely new license. Cloud systems are often sold by the user or access, meaning you can add staff without huge price increases or new systems needed.

Plan Your Digital Strategy

With so many benefits and few drawbacks, it’s no wonder that more companies than ever are moving to cloud-based solutions. Plan your digital strategy accordingly. If you are convinced that cloud solutions are the right move for your company, begin by assessing your current system noting what is working and what is not. Consider what you may need now, three, and five years into the future. Assemble a cross-functional team with representatives from all major company areas to participate in a selection team. Interview and choose a good consultant who will help you navigate the many considerations to find the exact system you need.

For nonprofits shifting to the cloud, consider Sage Intacct. It’s a cloud-based financial management solution that empowers nonprofits by removing IT obstacles. Not only is it 100% supported online – and needs no special IT personnel to manage it—but Sage Intacct also includes many automated workflows to reduce repetitive functions and tasks.

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 us for more information.

5 Tech Tips for Nonprofits

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Your organization may be very tech-savvy, or you may struggle to understand all the new terms and concepts in the industry. That’s okay. Trends come and go, but certain concepts, ideas, and fundamentals remain the same. The following five “tech tips” for nonprofits encompass a broad range of ideas that may impact your organization now or in the future. They’re worth noting and understanding to get the most out of your technology.

Smart Advice: Five Tech Tips for Nonprofits

Tip 1: Don’t Settle for Bad Software!

If you have buyer’s remorse, you’re not alone. According to some reports, 61% of all small and mid-sized businesses feel “buyer’s remorse” about a software purchase made during the past year. Whether it didn’t deliver on its promised benefits, or the support is lackluster, many organizations wish they hadn’t purchased what they did.

What if you’re in the same boat? Do something about it! You can speak with a consultant to see if the platform can be integrated, customized, or adapted to your needs. Perhaps there is a fix for the problem you don’t know about, but someone well-versed in the system knows.

If that doesn’t work, accept that you made a poor choice—and plan for the next purchase. Read reviews, articles about software selection, and more. Speak with other companies in your industry using the system to understand their feedback and reactions.

Tip 2: Evaluate support as well as software.

When purchasing software, many companies go to great lengths to evaluate the system itself. Does it have the functions, reports, and other features needed? That’s important, but equally (and some might say even more importantly), how is the post-purchase support?

After installing and configuring your new system, your team will need training. You’ll have questions. Problems arise, and something isn’t performing as expected. That’s when it becomes critical to have great support behind the product.

Evaluate the vendors and their support team reputations as carefully as you evaluate the software.

Tip 3: Keep up to date with changing technology.

Technology changes every day. Ten years ago, smartphones were becoming commonplace. Today, it is unusual to find someone without one. Ten years from now, the advances we are starting to see today in AI-powered search and automation are likely to be commonplace. What else will come? That remains to be seen, but one thing is sure. You must keep abreast of the changing technology to understand it. You don’t have to be an early adopter of every new tech tool, but understanding what is going on in the world of technology and testing things that make sense for your organization will help you remain relevant and competitive in a world where technology is a driver of change.

Tip 4: Empower a cross-functional team to choose essential software.

It’s tempting to relegate software purchases to IT teams. After all, they are likely to be instrumental during the installation and configuration phase. But it is the people who use the software daily who should be the deciding vote during the selection phase. Software must serve the needs of those using it, and the teams who interact with the software—accounting, finance, operations, sales, marketing, donor relations, and more—are the ones to evaluate the functions and ensure the software provides what they need.

Tip 5: Remain open-minded.

You may have used a particular platform at a previous or another of the many nonprofit accounting platforms available in the marketplace. While it’s great that you have firsthand experience with these systems, perhaps something else better fits what the organization needs.

For example, Sage Intacct offers excellent automations that can save a nonprofit a great deal of time. You may not have seen the most recent version which incorporates payroll, accounting, and other automations to streamline processes and improve efficiency. If you’re unfamiliar with the Sage line of software, becoming familiar with it as part of your exploration process can bring it to the forefront. It’s a powerful package that benefits many nonprofits.

Keep an open mind during the software selection process. Listen to the vendors and the consultants who are advising you. Because they work with many nonprofits, they may know of new software or packages that better serve your organization’s needs. Explore the options thoroughly before making your final selection.

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 us for more information.

Multifactor Authentication in the Modern Digital Landscape

By | Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments
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Everyone who is a cybersecurity professional agrees that multifactor authentication (MFA) is better than single-factor authentication when it comes to protecting systems from phishing. MFA depends on varieties of methods to verify a user’s identity such as emails and text messages, however, experts are finding that cyber predators are finding workarounds to MFA. So, what can your organization do to best protect itself from phishing and/or cyber-attacks?

Identify Your Vulnerabilities

What makes system access security most vulnerable is human involvement, which is unavoidable in most cases. For example, if a text-based MFA is sent to a phone without MFA, then it becomes pointless to use it. It’s important, then, to ensure that when it comes to your company’s systems, there’s a clear and concise guide for employees to follow to help prevent breaches. If your organization doesn’t have a guide for best MFA practices, we’ve got you. Below are some things to consider:

  1. Trust Your Vendor

Like any software, look for red flags beforehand. For example, is the vendor claiming to be “unhackable” in the same way the Titanic was deemed “unsinkable?” There’s no 100% guarantee that hackers won’t figure something out with time, so make sure that your vendor is being honest. Also, make sure that their encryption and products are described and presented clearly, and that the product can grow and change as the landscape around it does.

  1. Improve the Human Involvement

As we mentioned, human involvement is the biggest vulnerability when it comes to MFA, so make sure that you’ve taken the time to educate your staff and ensure they have the support and tools they need to comply with security guidelines. Hold training sessions, bring in experts, and be sure to show your employees what using MFA properly looks like.

Also, be sure to roll out your MFA to the entire organization and not in disparate silos. This is especially important if your workforce is partially or fully remote.

  1. Ease of Use, But Not at the Expense of Security

Along with proper training, ensure that you have an expert or security leader rolling out your MFA so that it’s configured properly from the get-go. If it’s challenging for your team(s) to use, your MFA might start causing more problems than solutions. If it’s possible, let your employees choose their MFA solutions—i.e., text messaging or fingerprint scanning. When they can choose what they’re most comfortable with, they’ll likely feel more in control and comply with the MFA.

Ensure, however, that if your employees are choosing their MFA, they understand the risks associated with each choice. Listen to the concerns of your employees and get a sense for who might need extra guidance or help in this process.

Implementing MFA in your organization can be easier than it sounds. Speak with a software consultant well-versed in nonprofits and your organization’s unique accounting needs before choosing an MFA provider to ensure the transition goes smoothly.

Cybercrime may be a constant threat, but there’s much you can do to prevent it. These tips, along with the right technology, can go a long way to protecting 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.

How to Evaluate Software and Technology as Part of Digital Transformation

By | Technology | No Comments
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If you’ve followed along in this article series about digital transformation, you know the importance of conducting a systems review and inventory and identifying your organization’s unique bottlenecks and pain points. Once you have this basic information in place, it’s time to consider software to help you complete your digital transformation.

Gather Your Team

Because most of the software that you’ll need will be used by multiple departments, it’s important that each department using it has a say in the final choice. Begin the software discovery process by gathering a team of representatives from each department who will help you review, evaluate, and choose the final software system.

Of course, IT should play a major role in the team. Partner with IT or other staff at the organization that are technology or accounting/finance savvy. Ask for their help gathering contact information from potential vendors and creating your request for proposal or project description.

Write the Project Description

A project description or request for proposal can be a big help when evaluating multiple software solutions and vendors. It will help you compare “apples to apples” when looking at all the different packages available.

Write out a description of the project, including key features needed and any other important information the potential vendors should know. Your IT department can fill in any information gaps they think potential software system vendors should know.

Other important information that you should share with the software vendors you’re working with during the discovery phase include:

  • The current software systems and technology you’re using (system review)
  • Needs analysis and requirements gathering (process mapping, pain points review)
  • Team members—their names and roles in the organizations
  • Decision-making process and the steps involved
  • The project timeline, including steps involved

Find a Consultant

An excellent way to save time and avoid software systems that aren’t right for your organization is to work with a software consultant though the initial discovery and vetting stages. A good consultant gets to know your organization and its pain points and will help you winnow out the products that aren’t the best fit for your needs. They may also know of software systems unfamiliar to you or your team that you should consider and will help you evaluate all the pros and cons of the various solutions under consideration.

Should You Share Your Budget?

Some companies are reluctant to fix a budget number to the project. They fear they will get taken advantage of if they have a large budget or ignored with a small budget.

Project budgets are important because the budget does determine the array of choices. Imagine walking into a car dealership and not having a budget in mind. It will be hard for the salesperson to help match you with the right vehicle if they don’t know your budget—your budget may be for an economical sedan or a luxury vehicle with all the bells and whistles.

You’ll end up wasting time looking at all the wrong vehicles if you don’t share your budget, and the same holds true for software projects. Have a budget range in mind and be honest with your consultant and vendors about funds available for the project. They will help you find a solution within the budget or help you understand the options available to you.

Vendor Turn Off

Sometimes, the software is right, but the vendor is a turn-off. Perhaps their salesperson rubs key team members the wrong way. If that’s the case, don’t ignore the software just because the vendor sets your teeth on edge. The same holds true for a charming or knowledgeable vendor who just doesn’t have the right software for your needs. Don’t follow a wonderful vendor into a bad software decision, and don’t ignore a great software package because of a bad vendor.

Ready to Begin?

The software selection process for an organization’s digital transformation should be taken slowly and thoughtfully. If you’re ready to begin, you now have the information you need through these articles to help you get started.

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 us for more information.