August 21, 2023

Signs Your Nonprofit Needs to Update its ERP System and How to Find the Right Advisor for An Assessment

By Alyse Newhouse, Manager, Strategic Consulting, Marcum Technology

Signs Your Nonprofit Needs to Update its ERP System and How to Find the Right Advisor for An Assessment Nonprofit & Social Sector

In today’s fast-paced world of technology, nonprofit organizations are increasingly embracing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to streamline their operations, effectively manage resources, increase transparency, and ultimately improve efficiency. However, like any software, ERP systems may become outdated and fail to keep up with an organization’s changing needs. Recognizing the need to update your ERP system and finding the right advisor for the assessment process are steps to ensure your organization remains competitive and efficient.

Signs that indicate your nonprofit should update its ERP system:

Lack of scalability

If your nonprofit has experienced growth since implementing your ERP system and is struggling to handle the increased volume of operations, it could be a sign that an upgrade is necessary. An outdated system may not be equipped to meet the expanding requirements of the organization.

Inefficiencies and bottlenecks

If your team spends time on duplicate data entry, manually transferring data between systems, and repetitive tasks instead of focusing on value-added activities, it might be due to inefficiencies in your ERP system. Modern ERP systems offer automation, workflow, and improved integration capabilities that can significantly reduce workloads.

Data inaccuracies and discrepancies

Dealing with issues related to data accuracy, such as inconsistencies between modules within your ERP system, suggests a lack of integration. Upgrading your ERP system can increase data integration, accuracy, and consistency.

Outdated Technology

As technology progresses, ERP systems become more advanced, offering enhanced features and stronger security measures. If your organization’s ERP system operates on outdated, unsupported, or highly customized technology, it may be vulnerable to security breaches and lack the necessary data security features.

Limited Reporting and Analytics

In today’s data-driven landscape, having access to real-time insights is crucial for making decisions. Legacy systems frequently rely only on reporting, which by its very nature is backward looking. Modern ERP systems have real-time reporting, analytics, and dashboards supporting better management, executive analysis, and decision-making.

Integration Challenges

If your nonprofit organization utilizes software applications that aren’t seamlessly integrated with your ERP system, such as a CRM, grants management, or A/P workflow, it can lead to isolated information and all the issues listed above. Upgrading your ERP system can provide improved integration, enhanced data accuracy, improved data analytics, increased staff efficiency, and many other benefits.

Finding the Best Advisor for Assessment

Selecting the advisor for evaluating your organization’s systems is vital for a successful transition. Here’s how you can identify the right advisor for your organization.

Experience and Expertise

Look for advisors with a proven track record in assessing ERP systems within the nonprofit sector. They should understand the unique needs and challenges faced by nonprofits and be knowledgeable about ERP systems tailored to those requirements.

Industry Knowledge

A competent consultant should have a deep understanding of how nonprofit organizations operate and the functioning of ERP systems. Understanding the nonprofits’ unique mission-driven aspect is critical to a successful project. This understanding will enable them to provide tailored recommendations that suit the needs of your organization.

Choice between Tailored and Out of the Box Solutions

Depending on the requirements of your nonprofit, you may need either a tailored ERP solution or an off-the-shelf system. An experienced consultant can assist in navigating this decision-making process by considering factors such as budget, timeline, and functional needs.

Expertise in Best Practices

Updates to ERP systems often entail changes in processes and workflows. Many organizations struggle with just implementing existing processes into a new system. A consultant who brings expertise in best practices in the nonprofit sector is critical to moving beyond just implementing a system and driving greater efficiencies in your organization.

Change Management Experience

Engaging staff and leadership in gaining adoption of the new system is critical. It is possible to have a successful technical implementation and fail to gain buy-in from the team. A consultant specializing in change management can guide your nonprofit through these transitions seamlessly, minimizing disruptions to operations and speeding up organizational acceptance.

Proven Process and ERP Market Knowledge

It is beneficial to have an advisor with a proven process in the nonprofit market that understands the strengths and weaknesses of the ERP vendors. These factors lower the risk of adoption and assist with finding out challenges before signing a contract.

Alignment with Organizational Goals

A proficient consultant should focus first on understanding your nonprofit’s mission, values, and long-term objectives and then on finding technology that aligns with those factors and what makes your organization unique.

Effective Communication

Successful assessments rely on clarity of communication. The consultant should be adept at explaining technical concepts in a way easily understood by all in the organization.

Compatibility and Rapport

Building a working relationship with your advisor is essential. Look for someone who understands your organization’s culture, can collaborate well with your team, and is easy to work with.

Updating your nonprofit’s ERP system is a decision that impacts efficiency, effectiveness, and the ability to fulfill your mission. Recognizing the signs that an upgrade is needed and finding the right advisor for the assessment process are essential steps in this journey. By evaluating advisors based on their expertise, industry knowledge, and alignment with your nonprofit’s objectives, you can pave the way for a successful ERP system upgrade that propels your organization toward greater achievements.