How Nonprofits Can Advance Their Mission Through Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can help nonprofits maximize the impact of their missions. We talked with two industry leaders about how they’ve embraced cloud technology to drive change.

For nonprofit organizations, disparate systems and data make it difficult to keep pace with change and stay mission-driven. In fact, nearly 80% of CFOs admit they’ve delayed major decisions because stakeholders lacked timely access to data.

Far from putting technology plans on ice, however, the pandemic has accelerated the call for digital transformation, showing nonprofits that they need to be even more adaptive and agile. 

“Digital transformation has been more important than ever,” said Alethia Baggett, CHRO, American Bankers Association (ABA). “Organizations need to get away from ‘we’ve always done it this way’ because there’s always a different way.”

In a recent Workday study, "Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation," 58% of nonprofit organizations said, “There is a growing gap between where our business is and where it needs to be in order to compete.” This was true for Paul LeBar, vice president of IT, Pioneers. The company’s legacy systems had not scaled with their substantial growth. 

“Our processes and systems hadn’t changed,” LeBar said. “Many of them were still manual. Our legacy systems were being bent and twisted and customized to accomplish our needs. Because of our growth, we knew that this situation was unsustainable.”

Despite these challenges, there are clear opportunities for organizations looking to digitally transform. In a webinar moderated by Keith Bitikofer, principal of Workday Advisory Services and Workday solution architect at EnterpriseMarketDesk, Baggett and LeBar shared how their organizations tackled digital transformation during the pandemic, recommendations for success, the importance of cloud technology, and insights into their journeys.

“We also have greater visibility in processes, which before operated in a black box.”

Paul LeBar Vice President of IT Pioneers

How has Workday helped your organizations and teams better support your mission?

Baggett: When I started at ABA five-and-a-half years ago, it was like stepping back in time. The systems were incredibly antiquated. For example, our expense reports literally had to be photocopied, hand-typed into a spreadsheet, printed out, and signed. It was so manual. Our membership team would spend hours processing these reports. 

The Workday system was a game changer from an operational efficiency standpoint for all of our staff—not just support staff. We could focus on our jobs and not the administrative work. The time devoted to administrative work has been cut in half for most of our staff. 

LeBar: Pioneers went from a $10 million to $70 million organization in recent years, and our processes and different systems hadn’t changed. Many of them were still manual. Our legacy systems were being bent and twisted and customized to accomplish our needs. Because of our growth, we knew this situation was unsustainable. So we embarked on looking for a system that was more fully featured. 

We went live with Workday Human Capital Management and Workday Payroll in October. And we’ve just kicked off our second phase, which is to implement financials and expenses. We saw benefits during the implementation, including greater communication and unity. 

We also have greater visibility in processes, which before operated in a black box. Now with Workday, we can see where things are and how far they’ve progressed. It’s increased transparency to our members in the field. This is the first time they have access to the systems that are supporting them. We’ve received great feedback already.

What were some of the key components you were looking for in a new system?

Baggett: One of our biggest drivers was that we were in multiple different systems for every HR process—seven in total. We were doing a lot of bending and twisting and adding and getting everything to work, too. So we wanted to have everything in one place. 

We also wanted to improve employee experience and manager accountability. Before, if anyone wanted information, they had to come to HR. And if we wanted reports to be accurate, we had to compare all of them, which was painful. 

The other important thing was the other organizations that integrated with Workday. We had a lot of partnerships and didn’t have to build anything. The integrations were already there, which was a big advantage.

LeBar: We looked for vendors that offered an effective and speedy reporting capability. They needed to be scalable, because we’ve experienced growth. We wanted a reliable platform that also had continuous feature development and not one that was just going to deliver a product, no matter how good it was, and then just rest on their laurels. 

And ultimately a key criteria was the solution had been proven in a similar scenario by other organizations like us. We took a lot of our direction from Wycliffe Bible Translators [Keith Bitikofer is also the systems product manager at Wycliffe], which had implemented Workday previously more than 15 times. So that was foundational to us.

“I know [data is] all coming from one place, so I don’t worry that I’m comparing apples and oranges. It’s all a bucket of apples.”

Alethia Baggett CHRO American Bankers Association

How do you manage the amount of change that comes with a digital transformation like this, such as getting buy-in and making cultural changes? 

LeBar: There previously had been less-than-pleasant system implementations at Pioneers that left a sour taste in people’s mouths. I wanted to be sure we overcame that bad experience before we got started and that people understood the level of effort it was going to require, because it is a huge level of effort. 

I spent—and it was well worth the time—six to eight months building a consensus, hearing the frustration with existing systems. Even though our teams didn’t like the existing systems, there was still angst about moving to a different platform. I communicated and built consensus over months, instead of overwhelming everyone with one big program, so people understood that the project team was going to hear and be responsive to them. That was essential to getting the buy-in we needed to have a successful implementation.

Baggett: From a user perspective, the employees, the bar was incredibly low, and the change management was probably the easiest I’ve ever been through! It’s been a year and people still comment on the Workday systems and how much they like them. 

From our support teams, HR and finance, it was a massive change-management effort because they had been in the same systems for so long. Some of the people had been here for 30-plus years. That’s the group you may want to focus on as they may have the greatest heartburn in swallowing the change. Once they got on board and realized what the system was capable of, there was no issue. 

What was it like to get your data to be accurate and consistent during implementation?

LeBar: One word answer: painful! We had multiple data sources, and data was our major obstacle in the course of implementation. Having discrepancies in data held up our data loads, delayed our testing, and proved an obstacle. We did substantial cleanup as we went. My recommendation would be to get started on the data cleanup and reconciliation process even before you begin your Workday project, so you can focus on the process instead of trying to get your data accurate.

Baggett: I consider having consistent data all in place one of the biggest benefits of the implementation.

I’ll give you a quick example from today. We require people to provide proof of vaccination. We built a workflow super quickly, literally overnight, to upload vaccination cards, track them, and create a report. We’re returning to the office on Monday and I needed to make sure we had 100% compliance. And all I had to do was push one button, pull a report. That would’ve never happened before. Just that efficiency gain has been tremendous. And I know it’s all coming from one place, so I don’t worry that I’m comparing apples and oranges. It’s all a bucket of apples. 

We also did an inventory assessment with all of our leaders and heavy users of data, asking them what reports they needed regularly. And we made sure to build those reports on the front end so they could access that data themselves, which to them is mind-boggling because it’s instantaneous and accessible.  

What are your growth plans and how do you see Workday supporting those plans?

Baggett: We’re looking at opportunities for improving processes and long-term planning. Anytime I see someone doing something manual, I ask, “How do we get that in Workday?” And 99.9% of the time there’s a solution. Succession planning is on the horizon, as well as using the nine-block methodology within Workday for identifying high performers.

LeBar: We’re implementing Workday Prism Analytics, which allows you to bring in data from non-Workday data sources and report on it, so you can still have a single reporting repository. We can build models for key metrics that our executive leadership needs so they can more quickly make strategic calls. They don’t even have to ask for it anymore. They just go to a dashboard and pull up the report themselves with a single click. 

What are some of your key learnings that people should consider?

LeBar: Don’t reinvent the wheel. There’s a broad spectrum of Workday customers who have already experienced the challenges you’re facing—and resolved them. The Workday Community is a platform for information sharing. From my experience, it is unsurpassed. It is a fabulous community in which to learn, participate, and take advantage of early in your Workday experience.

You also need to be thinking of the next six months so you can always try to be out in front of your team and thinking about the challenges you might face. And after your go-live date, be prepared to answer questions from your implementation team who have been focused on the business process and haven’t had to live in the systems day to day. 

Baggett: We hired a Workday administrator to go through the implementation with us. They were part of the build and really educated our entire team on the system. We have two new roles on our teams, but it was not an addition to head count. We gained efficiencies with so many other places that we have less head count needs with certain functions now and were able to apply those to Workday administration.

One of our guiding principles for our implementation was to use what the system provided and not create workarounds to meet our internal processes. We would first see if the internal processes could be changed. And again, 99% of the time they could. 

To learn more about how Workday helps nonprofits drive digital transformation, visit our website.

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