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Many nonprofit agencies have reporting requirements that go beyond GAAP. For example, in New York State, social service agencies depend on state funding to serve their clients. To get this funding, they must submit various CFRs (Consolidated Fiscal Reports) to various NYS departments, including the OPWDD, OMH, OASAS, and OCFS (i.e. Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Service, and Office of Children and Family Services).… Read More

As a consultant, I’ve spent many hours on the technical aspects of budgeting. I’ve designed models, developed spreadsheets, downloaded and uploaded data, and of course, written lots of financial statements. I’ve also budgeted for my own business as well as other companies where I’ve worked. So, I know something about budgets. But, recently, in my volunteer position as treasurer of my local Y, I’ve been thinking about how a nonprofit board should approve a budget. The challenge of any nonprofit is that board members mostly don’t know the ins and outs of the business. And running a community center is particularly difficult as you have at least five to six different businesses contained therein, with very different revenue and cost structures. In my day job, I never have to model a health club and nursery school in the same project—not to mention a teen musical production. The other challenge is that, unlike in my day...

In our first and second posts in this series, we covered the first four keys to successful ERP project management for mid-sized, for-profit companies. In this post, we close up with the final two. Key #5: Hire the Right Consultants Obviously, I think I have a solid team. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing this. Each of my team members has years of experience. But what makes them especially valuable in the mid-market space is their ability to work across domains. For example, our project managers have application experience. Our application consultants can work with data. Generally, our developers are programmer-analysts, not just programmers. This means not only do they know how to program, they know how to program what the business wants. Here are two reasons why having the right consultant is extra important on a mid-sized project: 1. Project Managers Need Subject Matter Experience I’m going to quote Dave Packard, one of the founders of HP,...

First off, let me give the “real” title for this post: "6 Keys for Successful ERP Project Management Implementations for Mid-Sized, For-Profit Companies." It’s not as catchy, so I went with the shorter version. But let me be clear: I’m not a generic project management expert. I have no idea how to manage a project to build an airport or implement a website that supports millions of hits a day. But I do know how to run BI and ERP implementations for mid-sized, for-profit companies (with occasional forays into larger organizations). I have years of experience in this area. So when I talk about project management, that’s what I’m talking about. And that said, here are six keys to successful ERP project management: Key #1: Keep the Scope Conservative Some folks take a “Big Bang” approach to BI and ERP software implementation. If multiple pieces of software need to be replaced, they want to do it all...

In our first post in this series, we covered the first and second keys to successful ERP project management. Here, we’ll continue with keys three and four. Remember: The context for these posts is narrow. They’re directed at mid-sized, for-profit companies. Key #3: Make the Documentation Process as Simple as Possible I’ve made it clear before that much of the documentation produced by consultants is garbage. Many consultants create different documents for all kinds of things, such as need requirements, conference room pilots, end user training, day-to-day procedures and more. In my experience, not all (actually, not much) of this is necessary or even helpful. But at the same time, I’ve also said that having too little documentation isn’t good either. So, what documentation do you need? 1. A detailed project plan. I recently took over a project to replace all ERP applications for a $85 million company, including GL, AP, AR, order entry, purchasing and projects. In...

What questions should you ask when hiring us or any other ERP consultant? You should ask questions that help you determine whether (and to what degree) your company and the consulting company are a good fit. And because I’m a data guy, I developed a spreadsheet to help. It contains eight categories that you can use to rate each consulting group, awarding between one and 10 points. Then, you assign a weight percentage to each category for a total of 100. I’ve populated the spreadsheet with suggested scores for Red Three (which I’ll explain below), based on our ideal clients. Of course, you may score us differently. Also, in my model, I’ve weighted everything fairly equally. You might choose to adjust this as well. Here’s the description (and suggested Red Three points) for each category: 1. Experience With Your Type of Company As I note on our website, we succeed with solid, mid-sized companies that...

Lots of people get into software development because they like playing with computers. They find development interesting. And like most people, they do a good job when they're interested in what they're doing. And because they're doing a good job, some of these people will eventually get tapped to move into management. Unfortunately, the transition doesn't always go well. Their bosses complain, “He's not spending his time managing," or "She keeps doing the development work herself instead of getting her team to do it." It's true that some people just don't make good managers. But the question is why. And often, it’s a more a problem of motivation than ability. What Motivates the Move from Developer to Manager? When a person gets promoted from developer or analyst to manager, the primary motivation is often financial. They want the money. Or they think the only way to safeguard their career in the company is to accept the...

I spend my days working with data. And while I believe data can help companies run better, it's not the answer to everything. Yes, data can stop you from being stupid (as in, "These products are losing money"), but it can’t always make you smart (as in “This is the new product we should sell"). Because, as Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions about the future.” Like most people, I’m pleased when the universe reinforces my view of things. So, the Michigan and Mississippi primaries were a fun day for me. And while I don’t follow the presidential campaign as closely as my 12-year old budding policy wonk son, it was interesting to see how the pundits talked about data and its limitations. Data's Achilles' Heel: Something New Happens Let’s start with the continued rise of Trump. As Matthew Sheffield put it in this article in The American Conservative: ...

I’m a regular reader of the Farnam Street blog. In it, a recent reference to this Isaac Asimov quote got me thinking about honesty and integrity in the world of software. Per Asimov, honesty and integrity aren't the same thing: Integrity, is, to me, a somewhat stronger word than “honesty.” “Honesty” often implies truth-telling and little more, but “integrity” implies wholeness, soundness, a complex philosophy of life. - Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov, How to Enjoy Writing: A Book of Aid and Comfort. The world of software is perceived as integrity challenged. But why is that? In the course of my twenty-year career, most folks I’ve met are decent people. Sure, I’ve run into one or two psychotics, but that’s not a bad track record. Yet, many customers view software salespeople as little better than used car salespeople. And it's not unusual to hear salespeople say, “buyers are liars.” How’d we get here? Why Do...

A couple of my clients use Dynamics GP. So, I monitor related forums for tips and tricks. Recently, a user (a GP All Star and legend in the making) asked how he could convince his CFO (who was all about hard dollars) to send their accounting folks to the GPUG Summit. The issue is important enough to merit another blog post. (In December, I touched on the topic of user training in my post, What to Get Your Finance Team for the Holidays.) User Training = Higher Satisfaction But before I get into monetary justifications for user training, let me provide you with anecdotal evidence. Generally, I've found that clients that send users for training (whether user group gatherings or other types of training) are far happier with their software than clients that don’t. It’s not just a matter of getting answers to user questions. Rather, it about getting answers to questions users didn't...