As with virtually any other organisation, a charity or professional association relies on information systems to keep it running.
Information systems are wonderful things. A new one gets deployed, over time everyone gets to know how to use it, and it becomes a valuable asset. Then another one comes along, to serve a different purpose, and that too becomes a great business asset. And so on. Eventually the organisation (now fully mature) has multiple systems in place all doing different things and meeting different needs. All is good.
But is it really? There are actually several problems associated with running multiple, disparate IT systems. Often these problems go unnoticed, either because ‘its always been that way’ or because those in charge of the technology don’t know that things could be better. These problems can include:
High costs: For many organisations the bulk of IT costs come from system implementation, training, support and maintenance. And the more systems and system providers you have, the greater that ongoing cost becomes. If the core functions within your organisation (such as finance, membership renewals, marketing, events and relationship management) are each managed by a different system, you’re probably spending more than you need to.
No single point of control: With multiple systems deployed, there is no single trusted source of information that can tell you what’s happening throughout your organisation, including its members, donors and supporters. Reports are generated from different systems, presented in different ways, and can only provide a fragmented view of what’s going on. What you lack is a complete and accurate picture of your organisation.
Inefficient reporting: When systems run independently of each other, keeping on top of things can be more complex than it needs to be. Pulling reports from different systems, then compiling them to produce one report is a laborious, time-consuming and error-prone exercise that can create unnecessary bottlenecks.
Redundant data entry: In an ideal world you would only have to enter data once, with changes being reflected in all relevant areas of your organisation. But if, for example, your membership software doesn’t integrate with your accounting system, duplication of data entry is almost inevitable. Not only is this inefficient, it places an unnecessary burden on your admin staff.
Limited ability to produce insights: In today’s fast-paced world, you need fast access to the right information to make well-informed business decisions and respond quickly to changing conditions. An IT infrastructure comprised of disparate systems gets in the way of this. Key information is scattered all over the place, and it’s difficult or impossible to gain the insights you need to stay ahead of the curve.
Inefficient system management: When you have multiple systems from multiple vendors, proper support and maintenance is an ongoing challenge. There’s also the task of training staff on not just one application but possibly three or four different software systems. It’s a pain.
So what’s the solution here?
For an increasing number of charities, associations, not for profits and membership-based organisations, the answer is an overarching software solution that ties the organisation’s key business units and processes together. With the right solution in place, an organisation’s executives, managers and board members can access, analyse and take action on data that was previously either inaccessible or too difficult and time‑consuming to generate. Specific benefits can include:
Reduced costs: With the one business management solution you reduce your IT deployment, maintenance and support expenses. Why spend money supporting four or five systems when you can do it all with one?
Single source of information: Rather than have key information spread throughout several systems, you now have one easy‑to‑access source. An end-to-end solution will tell you everything you need to know. What members are generating revenue, what the most profitable events are, which prospective members should be the target of your next campaign, etc.
Elimination of redundant data entry: You achieve increased productivity and reduced inefficiency by only having to enter data once in a central location. When, for example, a member pays for their annual membership renewal, this is immediately reflected in the organisation’s finance system.
Improved support management: Responsibility for resolving issues and providing maintenance rests with one system provider rather than several.
Sharper insights: You can now quickly find the information you need to act quickly and make business decisions that are evidence‑based rather than driven by opinion or gut‑feel. With the right information at your fingertips, you can plan future activities more strategically.
Increased user adoption: Because you only need to train employees on the one system, training time is reduced and user adoption levels can reach 100% faster and easier.
To realise the benefits of this type of solution you may want to take a look at UpBeat. Developed by Professional Advantage specifically for charities, clubs, professional associations, government bodies and not for profit organisations, UpBeat is a comprehensive business management that provides a 360 degree view of your organisation’s core business units and processes.
If you would like to find out more about UpBeat and how it might be used to help your organisation reach its goals, contact us.
You can download a case study on UpBeat at Insurance Advisornet Australia here.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and Upbeat here.