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  • Looking to the future at your School Board

    Technology today continues to advance at an accelerated pace. It is not just based on Moore’s Law but also on users’ expectations and desire for new ways to communicate, work and interact with their world. Today, people are leaders in the use of technology outside of work, and appreciate it when they can seamlessly transition to comparable technology at their workplace. As the younger workforce replaces the old, the mindset around what is acceptable technology is changing and organizations need to react accordingly. DOS screens or highly manual process are not going to attract the talent they need to help organizations carry out their mission.

    For over 10 years, this is what we have done for our School Board customers and we realize that oftentimes School Board budgets can be tight. It is still important however to invest the time and money into a software solution with up-to-date technology, that is flexible to grow and expand as your needs change. Here are just some of the reasons why;

    1. Technical Support - A key reason to consider upgrading your administration software for schools is for the technical support. Software companies including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Sage etc will often stop supporting older versions of their solutions (sunsetting) which means you will run into major complications (and have no help in fixing the problem) if issues arise. Staying current on supported versions therefore insulates your organization against that risk.
    2. Security – The recent Heartbleed vulnerability highlighted the importance once again of maintaining the highest, most up-to-date security and possessing the ability to react. School Boards’ systems contain vast amounts of sensitive information, from student information and grades to thousands of staff SIN numbers and payroll. Running a modern system, supported by the latest in security technology safeguards that data, ensuring the organization minimizes its exposure to leaks or malicious attacks.
    3. Operational Impact - By upgrading your solution such as Dynamics NAV, you’ll gain new BI and analysis capabilities, increased efficiency, better reporting, and business process improvement. And of course you’ll obtain better collaboration tools that are offered with newer products such as integrations to social channels like Yammer or constituent relationship management via Dynamics CRM.
    4. Additional Software Infrastructure - It’s also important to maintain a consistent level of infrastructure across your organization. If your School Board is running or implementing Office 2013 you would benefit by updating your old Dynamics NAV software simultaneously. Having staff using the latest technology in one part of their job and an old technology in another is off putting and frustrating. Integration improvements alone will increase the productivity across the organization as systems share information and move it in and out of the system seamlessly. As you would expect, Office 2013 will integrate better and run more seamlessly with a newer version of Dynamics NAV than it would with a much older NAV software.

    If you are struggling with or see the benefits of moving to the latest technology, we can help your organization implement or upgrade the software, increasing collaboration across your organization and create a seamless infrastructure. We currently provide ERP (Dynamics NAV) software solutions to over 10% of Ontario School Boards and have the skills and expertise to provide your Board with up to date technology. Just ask Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Our first School Board client almost 10 years ago, they have just upgraded to the latest version of Dynamics NAV with great expectations and anticipation of the benefits it will bring.

    OASBO Conference Exhibitor of Distinction 2011, Altus DynamicsIf you would like to know more, we’re attending OASBO 2014 Education Industry Show next week (May 8th), visit us at Booth 26 and we’d love to have a chat about your organization’s software technology.

     

     

     

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  • The key to a successful project - leading from the top

    One of the most dramatic lessons we’ve learned over decades of serving the nonprofit and public sector is the importance of an effective team.

    In much the same way, the effectiveness of a team is a critical success factor when it comes to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations. The implementation team helps create the ERP implementation plan, contributes to the overall solution goals and vision, works with the partner on data conversion, and is also involved in establishing the format of ERP reports and other key outputs.

    Keys to success for an ERP project – the effective team

    An effective ERP implementation team with clear goals is the foundation of a successful implementation project. It’s important to build an internal team that includes the people who helped select the ERP, along with an executive sponsor, representation from across the organization, as well as other senior management and internal leaders.

    We’ve found that effective ERP implementations start with a team fully engaged in the process. Executive level leadership and engagement is key to the success of an ERP project. This means pulling together a talented Project Manager, executive oversight and subject matter experts from areas like finance, purchasing, human resources, payroll and CRM capabilities like client management, case management, donor management, grant management and member management.

    4 ERP Implementation Keys to Success

    Over time and as a result of many completed projects, we’ve noted these key success factors when it comes to the ERP selection team.

    1. An Emphasis on Project Management
    Due to the nature of an ERP implementation, the team must be led by a person with the project management front of mind. A dedicated individual manager can make the difference between success and failure. More than a part-time task master, the project manager provides leadership for a) accountability, b) transparency and c) decisiveness. We advise our clients that the entire ERP implementation team should keep a focus on excellent project management techniques.

    2. A Commitment to Apply the Appropriate Resources
    Public sector organizations must apply significant internal and external resources for ERP implementations. From data migration to user training, from a phased pilot to “go live” deployment, the correct vendor, consultant and internal business user resources are critical. We see many companies underestimate the required resources especially during critical phases of the project. We advise our clients to never trivialize the scope and scale of an ERP implementation. Success follows, when an organization allocates the proper amount of time and resources.

    3. A Focus on Change Management
    An ERP implementation brings with it change for the entire organization. The team sets the pace in implementing ERP for lasting operational change within an organization.

    4. A Focus on Education
    This point can’t be stressed enough. An ERP solution is only as good as an end-user’s ability to operate it. The team must design workshops and instruction to teach all types of users how to utilize the system to its full potential. Our implementation experts often suggest short, targeted training sessions. This allows users the time to try what they have learned and to develop ideas for process modifications and system optimization.

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  • The 6 Challenges of Financial Management

    Non-profit and public sector organizations want financial management solutions that balance functionality with ease of use. They require solutions that are flexible to accommodate customizations and expandable to meet future needs and accommodate growth.

    The best financial management solutions go beyond the basics of planning, budgeting, accounting, and managing cash flow, so organizations can extract added value from financial data to help decision-makers better guide operations. They need the ability to explore their own data to extract insights for strategic planning and to provide reliable financial forecasts.

    To survive and thrive in today’s funding and regulatory environment organizations from K-12 school boards, to social services providers, community living groups, membership bodies and charities need every advantage they can gain, including solutions that can enhance their financial management and improve operational efficiencies. So what are the 6 challenges a potential financial management system should address?

    1 The Need for an Integrated Solution

    Typically an organization’s information is spread out amongst various repositories of data, in various databases, filing cabinets or personal staff computers. This generally results in information silos and a lack of a clear view into their operations. Integrating functionality and data sources that traditionally have been stored in separate applications and databases (silod) is essential for organizations that want clear insight into data from across the various departments or divisions, either at the central office or regional offices, schools, agencies etc.

    Financial management solutions need to integrate processes and data to help break down the artificial barriers of information silos, and information entered into one application must be simultaneously available for use in other applications, in real time. Integration can also better connect everyone in the organization with stakeholders, suppliers, and employees—including across the Internet and from internet collaboration portals. This in turn boosts productivity by freeing users from the burden of having to pull information from separate sources and enhances financial management.

    2 Expandability

    The same application used for general accounting and financial management, such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, asset management, project accounting, grant management, HR and Payroll and other traditional functions, should be expandable into other business processes. The value of financial management applications is magnified when Constituent Relationship Management (such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM) and other business and strategic information management systems’ functionality can be seamlessly integrated and shared.

    This kind of expandability helps ensure a smooth user experience, and removes the barriers that might otherwise exist to sharing data and functionality across applications. Employees gain the ability to quickly and easily click their way to details about everything from staff schedules and expense claims to event bookings and donation campaigns—all by accessing a single, security-enhanced database (e.g. SQL Server) so people can make decisions based on the same store of data.

    3 Audit Trails and Legal Requirements

    Today’s financial management solutions must provide easily accessible audit trails and support other forms of verification or security for other regulatory and compliance organizations. The solution needs to support corporate quality initiatives and integrate with audit, Ministry or compliance functionality.

    4 Support for Reporting and Analytics

    Organizations also need financial management solutions that support, or better yet, directly integrate with robust reporting and analytical solutions. Without a flexible and easy-to-use reporting and analysis system in place, executives and analysts cannot get the insight they need to make informed decisions about the success factors and performance indicators that are native to that sector.

    5 Integration

    Organizations need an integrated, adaptable software solution that can quickly and easily provide multiple iterations of forecasts and budgets, enable user-defined forecast rules, and support what-if scenarios. Business intelligence scenarios, which are often built upon data warehouses and multidimensional analytic cubes, require that an organization be able to easily integrate its financial management solutions, including CRM, with relational databases and analytic and reporting tools.

    6 Ease of Use

    Ease of use is important to all organizations, but especially for small businesses that often have no or limited in-house IT support. Financial data must be accessible in a format that is easy to view and analyze as well as export and publish to security-enhanced tools and solutions such as Excel and SharePoint Server. The Dynamics family of solutions, mirrors the user interface of more common Microsoft offerings such as Word or Excel. This familiarity increases user adoption levels and therefore deployment and overall project success.

    To read more on this subject, download the whitepaper.

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  • Altus Dynamics NAV vs. QuickBooks

    When first starting out, the chances are your organization will be small and as such your requirements for accounting software are moderate and well-contained. At this stage in your organization’s life, a solution focused on the needs of a small organization is a logical starting point. And this is where software such as QuickBooks does well from a sales perspective for small businesses. But it is not uncommon that after just one or two years of growth, QuickBooks’ features will no longer be robust enough for an organization’s needs. But how will you know? What are the indicators that it is time to move from the entry level piece of accounting software that got you up and crawling to an integrated enterprise resource planning solution designed to help SME’s (Small to Medium Enterprises) run, and keep running, as they continue to grow, expand and fulfill their mission.

    If you are experiencing one, several or all of the indictors (or frustrations) below, it may well be time to look beyond QuickBooks;.

    1. Death By Spreadsheet: A sure sign that your financial management software is failing is the need to process accounting information outside of the accounting solution and then put it back in. Constant exporting, manual manipulation and re-importing data, is not only incredibly time consuming, labour intensive and mundane work, but it also introduces a higher probability of human error. This results in inaccurate information in the system, causing further headaches and manual checking and ultimately a loss of faith in your system.
    2. Un-Real Time Reporting: Working outside of the system and the manual re-keying and manipulation of the organization’s data takes time. These delays, coupled with the higher risk of errors put pressure on those in the Accounting Department to produce and validate the figures and reports needed by the Board of Directors or senior management. The delays in getting the reports to management not only means they could potentially be working with inaccurate data, but that data is at the very least out-of-date. Decisions therefore could be made to the detriment of your non-profit, government or educational organization.
    3. Only Two Segments: Smaller organizations have smaller requirements. They likely are not perturbed by the segment limitations in QuickBooks. But as an organization grows, they likely will quickly outgrow the limitations of reporting on data in only two segments. Let’s say you’re tracking Division and Location data. Wouldn’t it also be great to be able to report by Project? What about by Funder? Sure, there are workarounds, but these are often in Excel, and then we’re right back to the problems outlined in 1. and 2. above.

    Altus Dynamics NAV is a natural progression for non-profit and public sector organizations who are looking to graduate from a basic accounting software package designed for small businesses such as QuickBooks, to something far more robust. Leveraging Microsoft’s knowledge, expertise and research & development dollars, we have created integrated financial management (and HR) suites for organizations in the non-profit, education and government sectors. These solutions offer a familiar user interface as they are part of the Microsoft family, and ‘feel like’ other Microsoft products. All information is contained in a central SQL database, providing a single version of the truth (data). The result is that accurate reporting is delivered at the push of a button, not after days or weeks of inputting and validation.

    So whether you are a non-profit charity having to report to its funding committee, a Social Services Administration Board needing to manage its assets or a higher education establishment needing administration software for schools to improve and streamline your purchasing process, we’ve done it all with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

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  • Key considerations for integrating payroll and HR with Financials

    Traditionally HR professionals have spend most of  their time on administrative activities, but the pressure is now on for them to focus more on transformational work and to deliver more to the business. HR departments are addressing this expectation both through structural changes that enable them to standardize policies and procedures and through use of technology.

    An important trend in payroll solutions is integration with HR and Finance applications. For progressive organizations Finance,  HR, Payroll and Benefit functions have tremendous overlap and sharing the data ensures that all systems are in sync and using the most recent and accurate data.

    Some key questions to ask when considering integrating your Finance, HR and Payroll systems could be:

    • Do I believe that the flow of Management Information within my business can be improved?
    • Do I know whether management reports can be produce on demand, accurately on any day?
    • Does our current system save us money, enhance our employee satisfaction and contribute to improved client satisfaction?
    • Are we utilising the human capital in the HR department as effectively as possible? Does our HR and Payroll reside on different platforms?

    Although Finance,  HR & Payroll are dependent upon each other, they're completely different business processes. That's why,even though they ought to reside on the same platform, they often don't.

    Integrating finance, benefits and payroll on a single, enterprise-level platform, if done properly, is fast, accurate, and it doesn't require 24/7 supervision. Utilising the latest manager and employee self-service technology you can now deliver the platform's data via the Internet: your employees don't have to fill out paperwork, or trouble your HR staff on routine administrative matters. Everything they need is available via any desktop browser.

    The volume of paperwork generated during the administration of traditional finance, payroll systems and your human resource management function is phenomenal - both for the employer and the employee. Automating the Payroll process with the HR  and even finance functions will result in greatly reduced paper administration – at all employee levels - and will virtually eliminate all the input errors. Additional integration benefits include the automatic update of employee records and entitlements. For example when an individual is terminated, their payroll and benefits are automatically terminated at the same time. This means that you are no longer susceptible to cashflow leakage as a result of this commonly made error.

    Other benefits include:

    • No duplicate data entry – Changes made to the common Finance, HR and payroll database need to be entered only once. This eliminates errors and the need for duplicate entry of employee, pay rate, benefits and deduction information
    • Less paperwork — With finance, payroll and HR data stored in the same database you can reduce unnecessary paperwork. For example, if HR enters a new benefit for an employee, the payroll deduction amount can be automatically established as part of the benefit plan. There is no need to submit another paper document to the payroll department.
    • Integrated Reporting — Consolidated reporting is valuable to management, but is virtually impossible without an integrated database and reporting tools.

    Tips for an effective integration of payroll and HR systems:

    • Prepare to re-organise as part of the project.
    • Set realistic timetables - rushing will limit the value of the benefits realization.
    • Set a benefits realisation plan for the project and monitor it during the course of the project, not just at the end.
    • Tie in resources from your supplier.
    • Ensure your policy and strategy requirements are met by the functionality of the product.
    • The best performing companies all have HR departments that have the mandate to work strategically to fulfill the overall objectives of the organization. For your company to maintain competitive edge in today's market, your corporate HR department must also be granted this opportunity.

     Submitted by James Faw, VP Product Innovation

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  • Unleash Your Solution's Potential!

    At Altus we understand that your financial management tool is key to meeting your organizations needs not just for today, but the future as well. That is why we are pleased to offer you a complimentary opportunity to plan your solutions future direction while taking into account strategic initiatives that your organization may have. Titled the 'Business Solution Roadmap Tool', this exercise includes a series of questions that help to determine the direction you should take your solution while still keeping budgetary constraints and proper solution planning in mind.

    Key benefits of this process include:

    • Ability to determine areas for improvement within your existing product. 
    • Understand potential new product or new features/functionality that will meet a specific business requirement or process. 
    • Provides insight on your solution for up to 5 years in the future. 
    • Uncover needs by user/departments to extend your solution into new business areas. 
    • Develop an overall plan that can be referred to annually for budget and timeline considerations. 
    • Where a specific project is being considered (implementation of HRIS for example) this tool can help to focus on the functionality that is important to you.
      This process is effective because we engage staff from several departments including Finance, IT and where applicable, HRIS. Using their knowledge of your organizations goals we ask questions that will drill down to the specific requirements within key business areas, including: 
    • Business Intelligence (BI) 
    • Financial Management 
    • Human Resources (HRIS) 
    • Risk Management 
    • Specific Organizational Needs 
    • And even, Upgrade Potential

    If you are interested in more information on this process, click here for a detailed fact sheet. Otherwise, please contact Diana Budreau at dbudreau@altusdynamics.com. She would be pleased to review the process and answer any additional questions you may have.

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  • A Glimpse of our Canadian Executive Briefings for Non-profits

    Top 3 Strategies to Cut Costs and Improve the Tracking of Performance Metrics
    What does success mean to your organization? Defining success is key to help drive your goals towards making a difference. By articulating your successes and results you can help attract more donors, increase funding sources as well as internalize the results and objectives across your operations increasing effectiveness and synergies with staff. We’ve outlined 3 core strategies to successfully cut costs and track your performance metrics.

    1. Leverage technology to support performance tracking in your operations

    When it comes to supporting performance tracking in your operations you need to be disciplined and consistent year over year. We recommend you use technology to support what you need to track, all the while ensuring that you build the metrics important to your entire operations.

    2. Leverage technology to promote easier decision making

    Enabling more informed decision making by ensuring your systems are easy to use, intuitive and flexible. The key is to rely on solutions to reduce the hurdles for back office staff to investigate and find information.

    3. Leverage technology to promote accountability and transparency in your operations

    Increase transparency in your operations and promote the sharing of responsibility for accountability across your organization by leveraging technology. Web-based tools that are simple to understand and easy to use for your front office folks gives back office staff increased visibility into budget statuses and budgetary control in a real time basis.


    Attend one of our upcoming Executive Briefings in Calgary, Vancouver or Ottawa to gain real customer insight into strategies to cut costs and improve performance tracking.

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  • Long-Term Benefits With The Right Partner (Part 1 of 3)

    Choosing the right Financial Management solution is not only about the immediate cost, but more importantly, it’s about the long-term benefits provided by your investment and Partner!

    With the many product and vendor choices available today, making the right choice for your organization usually factors in the product fit, overall cost, on-going annual costs and past customer references. However, are these criteria sufficient when investigating the key financial tool that will run your organization for years to come?

    ‘The Client Life Cycle’ or the long-term care relationship and services you will receive as your needs change, is one of the most important aspects of making an important technology decision. Your financial solution is critical to tracking revenue and expense, to making critical business decisions and to helping you grow while also making organizational improvements. This is why the long term relationship with your vendor, the care you will receive from that vendor and how the vendor will ensure your financial solution continues to meet those needs during the life cycle of your relationship, is very important.

    Below are a few, key ‘long-term care’ considerations for selecting a qualified vendor:

    1. Dedicated account representatives whose role is taking care of you, assisting you with product decisions, budget planning and so on. 
    2. Ample online and classroom training opportunities, newsletters, blogs, webcasts, and training videos. 
    3. Information-filled Annual Conference, offering networking opportunities with similar organizations to yours. 
    4. Documented ‘handovers’ as you move through the implementation to live use of your system.
    5. Dedicated ‘on-the-fly’ support for urgent issues. 
    6. A clear annual product roadmap and review of product improvements to meet your needs. 
    7. A client satisfaction strategy to ensure a successful long-term relationship.

    Stay tuned for more posts on each of these important considerations!

    Read Part 2 of 3 of this article

    Submitted by Diana Budreau, Client Relationship Director

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  • Guest Bloggers from Charity Intelligence Share Best Practices for Performance Measurement

    In preparation for our annual, cross-Canada Executive Briefings tour, our guest speakers Kate Ruff and Bri Trypuc from Charity Intelligence Canada (Ci) have prepared a sneak peek into their presentation. These in-person sessions are coming to a city near you and space is limited, so be sure you learn more about the topics we'll cover, the speakers and most importantly, what you have to gain by attending.

    Some of the questions that confront us everyday are: What separates outstanding charities from average charities?  What are the key indicators of top performance?  How much do efficiency metrics sway donors?  What are the performance metrics that matter, and how do excellent charities think about and measure performance?  What are the best practices that separate charities with excellent results tracking from those, working in the same sector with similar populations, that say their outcomes can’t be measured?   While there are no “one-size fits all” answers to any of these questions, Ci does see patterns and trends. Five years into our work of analyzing charities and identifying excellence, Ci has some strong hypotheses on what makes a great charity and how grant-makers and donors can identify the charities that consistently get results.    Ci is looking forward to sharing our experience with the Altus Dynamics community.

    For 5 years now, Charity Intelligence Canada (Ci) has been analysing Canadian charities and identifying excellence; our work is focused on helping donors make informed, results-focused giving decisions.  To identify Canada's outstanding charities we study financial statements, review whatever documents the charity chooses to submit regarding its social performance, which may include annual reports, strategic plans and program evaluations, and we interview executive directors. Profiles of Ci Recommended Charities are showcased in Ci’s annual “Top Picks” report, which is freely available online and widely distributed to media for all Canadians to use.  (Many Ci Top Pick Charities report an increase in unsolicited donations.) In addition to the publication of the Top Picks Report, Ci’s Donor Services team works with individuals, private foundations, and corporations to develop customized high-impact giving strategies.  At Ci we live and breathe at the intersection of charity effectiveness and donor priorities.

    Authors: Kate Ruff, Bri Trypuc - Charity Intelligence Canada (Ci)

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