Central City Concern (CCC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency serving single adults and families in the Portland metro area who are impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions. Founded in 1979 as a joint venture between the city of Portland and Multnomah county, the agency has developed a comprehensive continuum of affordable housing options integrated with direct social services including healthcare, recovery and employment. CCC currently staffs over 800, operates an annual budget of $60 million, and serves more than 13,000 individuals each year.
Toward the end of 2019, CCC approached SSNW for a financial assessment of their organization. We found that number of custom software combined with an aging MIP had resulted in highly inefficient workflows, largely MacGyvered in localized instances with little to no cross-compatibility between departments. By March 2020, SSNW completed the financial assessment, recommending a system-wide shift to Microsoft Business Central. We also outlined a comprehensive change management plan, along with a Human Resources plan.
Observations - Financial System
CCC utilized a heavily patched and customized MIP that handled disparate streams of data. The primary driver behind their software infrastructure woes followed from this: a lack of data integration, leading to a constant knock-on effect on the day-to-day running of the agency.
CCC’s data was, in large part, developed independently within its subsystems. The lack of uniformity meant that these systems were more prone to errors, particularly when data from different places was required to move forward with large-scale decisions. Most of the issues we found were in and around the General Ledger and processes associated with it.
A great deal of this was done manually: using and translating Excel sheets, backdating transactions that complicated readability in the General Ledger and made balancing on a month-to-month basis quite difficult.
Inefficiencies in this area were similar in form to those in accounting. Of primary concern were AP voice entry process, creation of client checks and move out accounts, and reconciliation and processing of non-EDI payments between two unintegrated software.
Previously mentioned issues inevitably coalesced in the agency’s closing processes, which usually ended up significantly delayed, with insufficient or wrong information.
We’d found that the original MIP had an inflexible chart of accounts, no integrated budget module, limited workflow and reporting capabilities, no procurement/purchasing module, and an inability to soft close an accounting period. Rather than address the identified issues one at a time, SSNW opted for a more holistic approach, which started with the replacement of CCC’s MIP foundation.
Microsoft Business Central
70% discount for nonprofits, easy to implement
Geared toward small and medium size businesses
Provides a strong financial foundation and supply chain management capabilities
Provides a robust platform for third-party integrations and future enhancements
Microsoft’s One Version services application and platform updates remove significant burden from IT resources
In all, CCC made use of four other software along with their MIP: Centricity for healthcare, PioneerRx for pharmacy, Ulti Pro for employment, YARDI for property management. Each of these software brought their own major issues that needed to be addressed, and SSNW determined that the functions these software provided could either be folded into Microsoft Business Central’s existing capabilities, or integrated so their data was not developed independent from the central system.
Program for implementation
SSNW’s assessment included a software implementation roadmap as well. We followed a sequentially phased timeline, with the first ten to twelve weeks dedicated to design. The following months were slated for development and deployment, with a go-live date in October of 2021.
While an overhaul of software was necessary, a holistic approach required SSNW to look beyond the screen. Change management proposals included changes in executive and business management, organizational alignment, communication, and training of employees. We also recommended looking into the structure of senior managers, controllers, and business analysts.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CCC decided not to move forward with such a drastic overhaul at the time. Our assessment and recommendations were provided pro bono.