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How modern ERP improves productivity for NGOs

Posted by  Christopher Brewer

The best way to improve productivity in not-for-profits is with an industry-specific ERP solution which harnesses the power of the latest machine intelligence.

For a project-driven, non-governmental organization (NGOs), improving productivity helps improve more lives, faster. But administrative tasks like grants management, managerial reporting and project reporting use up a lot of resources. Meanwhile, the complexities of NGOs mean the efficiency of core organizational processes can leave a lot to be desired.

Old, generic, fragmented technology

The majority of NGOs rely on separate systems to manage different functional areas of the business. Most still rely heavily on manual labor and outdated technology like spreadsheets to execute humdrum tasks and manage projects. In a time where transparency is paramount, reporting across dispersed architecture like this — which includes lengthy data extraction and transformation — is costly, labor-intensive and prone to security and consistency issues, not to mention the high costs of maintaining multiple products

Among the NGOs that use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, it’s often a traditional, generic legacy solution originally designed for commercial entities. Few ERPs meet the specific requirements and processes of not-for-profit organizations. What’s more, they seldom leverage the advanced technology to help NGOs get more out of their hard-earned funding. All this creates more resource-sapping tasks which add no value to the organization.

It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be this way.

A modern ERP solution, purpose-built for project-driven NGOs improves efficiency and productivity in a plethora of ways.

There’s no secret to improving productivity

For a project-driven NGO like yours, efficiency comes when you minimize time spent on administrative tasks and boost efficiency of core organizational processes; it allows you to focus on improving support of program and project activities. There’s no secret to improving productivity. The answer lies in automation of the following areas:

  • Post-award grants management. An NGO-specific solution can automatically link project transactions to the right grant (saving manual labor on mundane tasks), while alerting grant managers to any exceptions (the area they need to spend time on).
  • Managerial reporting. Modern, not-for-profit ERP solutions are built on a single data architecture (so they provide a single version of the truth) and come with in-built reporting capabilities. No need for extract, transform and load (ETL) tools and extensive Excel-related work. Reports are available on-demand, leading to lower back-office costs with increased data quality for better business insight.
  • Project reporting. Mobile-enabled, integrated ERP solutions reduce administrative costs, increase data quality and provide insight by capturing planned and actual data at the core. They do this by allowing employees to allocate time and expenses to projects through mobile devices anytime, anywhere. And they allow subcontractor invoices to be automatically linked to projects. The right ERP solution will also include extensive forecasting capabilities to empower faster decision-making.

Beyond legacy ERP

Finance executives and other C-suite leaders can leverage today’s advanced technology, like machine learning, predictive analytics and digital assistants (DAs), to go way beyond the traditional functions of legacy ERP systems.

Modern, purpose-built technology can help project-driven NGOs quickly and accurately analyze data, easily report on progress, and improve project management. Driven by digital innovation, modern ERP solutions enable NGOs like yours to take efficiency a step further in areas where traditional systems may not always add value.

Adding value with machine learning and DAs

For example, with Unit4’s intelligence-enhanced ERP solution, program managers can build new projects based on criteria of previous, similar project such as social impact, length, location or size. This saves valuable time by enhancing core business activity of project planning.

With the rapid development of DAs comes another huge reduction in time. Using conversational platforms like Skype Business or Facebook Messenger, DAs react to your questions and alert you to necessary actions in natural language. Examples include time entry on projects, invoice approval, raising purchase orders and making travel requests.

Built for NGOs

While traditional ERP solutions are associated with efficiency to improve productivity, they don’t quite fit the bill. An ERP system built specifically for NGOs, on the other hand, supports activities that add value to project-driven NGOs like yours, which creates space for your staff to do what really matters: improving people’s lives.

Technology has the capability to help you address the political, economic and social challenges facing the sector in the most efficient way. To find out how to overcome these challenges and boost your productivity, read our whitepaper on purpose-built ERP for NGOs: How Modern ERP Helps Improve Productivity in NGOs.

Christopher Brewer

Chris has more than 25 years experience working with some of the world's largest Not-for-Profits and NGOs to enhance their technological capacity. As a Global Lead, Not-for-Profit, Chris focuses on helping leaders identify and address changing patterns in philanthropy and shifts in technology to ensure their organizations' ongoing success and increase social impact.