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.
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.
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.