Decades of innovation have transformed the finance office from a mindset of processing transactions to one of strategic financial management. But even with this advancement, nonprofit organizations are operating in an increasingly complex environment that requires them to balance routine and new tasks with a higher volume of information.
When the topic of efficiency is raised to an organization whose finance team is at capacity, it is not unusual to hear the team is already using technology and that, perhaps, no further innovation is possible. However, asking a few questions helps to uncover whether the tools they have implemented are really transforming their processes or whether they have merely replaced manual processes with electronic ones.
Confusing “Electronic” With “Innovative”
As a result of the pandemic, most finance offices were forced to shift to virtual operations. Understandably, many were unable to put a strategic plan in place before making this transition and simply replicated a manual workflow that layered into it an electronic component, such as email or another paperless option. Many of these workflows still exist today but present confusing workarounds for typical tasks, such as:
What all these examples have in common is that they replace paper with an electronic file. But these modifications do not introduce any real workflow changes or innovative technology that is designed and customized to support that workflow. In fact, workflows like this can be less efficient and less effective, especially in a high-volume environment.
There are a variety of innovative technology solutions that enhance efficiency and effectiveness for the finance team. For example, the following simple solutions can help address the situations above:
Beyond electronic accounts payable, time sheets and credit card management, other common areas for innovation include:
When beginning to assess which tools may improve efficiency, it is helpful to focus first on the most time-consuming areas for the finance team, also keeping in mind how the team would spend time if capacity were increased. These are just a few of the most common areas for innovation, and there is certainly no shortage of technology solutions.