Tuesday, October 9, 2007

4 Tips For Considering New Technology

"I'm in finance, so why do I have to worry about technology, too? Technology, software, and even phone systems -- what do these have to do with accounting?"

Everyone knows that nonprofit professionals -- especially finance staff -- wear many hats. The executive director must spend a majority of time "facing out" from the organization, typically working closely with the board, donors, and program officers.

Therefore, management of daily operations usually falls to the finance/accounting folks, whether they like it or not. They are left to wrestle with accounting and investing, as well as running day-to-day operations, which often includes making technology decisions.

According to Liz Marenakos, product line manager, Financial and Business Solutions at Blackbaud, Inc. in Charleston, S.C., the big questions -- what to buy, how much to buy, which providers to work with -- need thoughtful, careful answers. It's easy to recall technology mistakes because they leave a lasting impression. For a nonprofit chief financial officer, one of the most difficult decisions is whether to make a significant investment in technology. But the reality is that an organization cannot achieve long-term financial growth without investing in technology, she said.

Here are four things Marenakos suggests:

  1. If new technology for your organization requires more staff time than it saves, don't use it.
  2. Training is critical to using technology effectively. Many nonprofits have powerful tools they can't use because of insufficient training.
  3. Don't forget to evaluate the vendor's customer service and technical support services, which can set one vendor above the rest. Seek out the top experts -- not the "discounted" service. (Nobody talks about finding "the hospital's cheapest surgeon.")
  4. Investigate how long the technology vendor has been in business. Many software suppliers don't stay in business for long. The longer the company has been in business, the better the odds it will still be around in 10 years.

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