two persons on a bench

Is digital transformation key to nonprofit survival during a crisis?

We recently spoke to two organizations at different stages of their digital transformations to understand why moving to modern, cloud ERP was so important and how it’s helped them manage the COVID crisis.

Oxfam America, which works towards solving the injustice of poverty, is currently in the middle of their digital transformation. Oxfam began their journey wanting more than just a more efficient solution. They want to break down corporate silos and bring business elements together to help them work more collaboratively and enable data-driven decision-making.

“We wanted to think outside the box. We wanted to push some boundaries here.”

Farah Abbas Oxfam America

Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is tasked with the safe long-term management of nuclear waste in Canada, completed their Unit4 ERP implementation only weeks before the COVID crisis really took hold. NWMO was looking for something to help them focus on transparency and line-accountability to truly empower their people in the field and traveling.

So what did they learn about digital transformation for nonprofits?

It was about unifying and simplifying processes for both organizations and giving their people the tools they needed to work together and do more.

Their previous systems were no longer able to drive their missions forward. And they foresaw a need to keep their organizations’ momentum going, which this year has been a huge challenge across the nonprofit sector, and elsewhere.

Like many nonprofits, they wanted to achieve simple but powerful things, like getting rid of paper-based processes and integrating their systems to consolidate one source of truth. But they also needed to find a partner that could adapt and innovate in the future to help them stay abreast of industry trends and take advantage of new technologies and opportunities (for example, faceless ERP that drives improvement via AI/ML to predict and pre-empt).

This led them to look for wholly integrated solutions. They’re global organizations, and the solutions needed to work everywhere, no matter the challenge, as their people don’t have time to waste on technology when the systems should be actively helping, not hindering, them to deliver impact on their missions.

Learning from yesterday

So, how have they found the process, and what would they do differently?

NWMO’s implementation project was completed on-time and on-budget and yielded some key learnings. Remote working capabilities like the eliminated paper processes, have proven invaluable this year. They also saw considerable line accountability and engagement across the organization with in-depth communication plans and stakeholder consultations. One key takeaway from the whole process is to take more time to work with all stakeholders in workshopping needs and taking advantage of individuals’ expertise, both internally and at Unit4.

The Oxfam team benefitted greatly from applying lessons learned from their last implementation project.

Instead of wasting time producing loads of requirement docs and reports that staff and vendors would need to navigate, this time, they wanted a cleaner, more straightforward process. Using a rapid-fire workshop approach to requirement building, they brought together teams of people to hammer out what they really needed. Looking at all elements of their end-to-end processes to really understand what worked and what didn’t from a fresh perspective.

This helped transform typical vendor-led demos of cool feature showcases into real-life scenarios based on Oxfam's user-stories, where staff could see themselves in the solution and how it would transform their work. It's an approach we found really inspiring and loved the challenge of delivering on. 

It helped speed up project scoping and decision making. But it also meant they aren’t replicating past mistakes. It gave them a more holistic view of the requirements and gave more people a bigger voice about their particular requirements, rather than a top-down view of what they thought people needed.

The full story

To hear the full stories behind both of these digital transformation journeys and see what other lessons Oxfam and NWMO learned along the way, you can watch our chat.

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