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The Importance of Listening

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Every day, I speak with nonprofit organizations about their processes, their challenges, and their complaints as they navigate the complex world that is fund accounting. I hear them, but some days I worry that I’m not really listening. It’s a challenge that I think we all face at one time or another – conflicting priorities, repeated conversations, focusing on the negatives, all conspiring to allow people’s words to swirl around us without truly finding fertile ground.

When your job is to really listen to what the client or prospect is telling you, not just hear the words but actually listen to the underlying challenges and find solutions … well, you can’t tune out. And it’s something I’m passionate about – our clients are passionate about helping others according to their mission, while I’m passionate about helping them.

The most enjoyable time in my job is that point when I find a solution in my software that will save a client time or money, or both. When they make that connection between what Serenic Navigator Express or Essentials can do and what they’ve been trying to do in an accounting program designed for for-profit organizations or with Excel spreadsheets. Or when we design new accounting software features as we’ve been doing for the last several months.

Recently, we were working closely with several clients, talking about the tasks that were taking their time and the difficulties they were having. And from those conversations, we’ve added a memorized reporting feature that will help our clients every single day, one that will make the software even more useful to power users and casual users, alike. We designed it over a matter of days and with the power of a cloud solution, our clients were using it within a week.

Memorized reports

Other features include expanding the power of nonprofit reporting with columns that filter by both different dates and account ranges.

Filter by dates and account ranges

And I got to feel that feeling, when I know that I’ve not just heard my clients, but actually listened to what they need and translated that into business requirements and computer code.

Some days, my job is like magic.

Calculating the Impact from a Subscription Investment

June 2nd, 2014 No comments

My boss likes to say that we wake up thinking about nonprofit accounting…it’s not that bad. Some of us wake up thinking about coffee :)

But every day, we talk with our nonprofit clients and (more importantly) listen to understand those processes and tasks that are consuming more time than they should. We understand that every dollar you have was given to you with the expectation that it be used to support your mission. And prospects often tell us that they spend hours, days, and weeks working with their financial data to prove how they have spent their funds. And Serenic’s products were designed to relieve just these pain points. time vs money

  • Compiling my year-end reports takes 4-5 days.
  • I have to manage my funds in a spreadsheet – sometimes this means monies from separate funding sources, and sometimes it means tracking unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted funds.
  • I have to allocate salaries across projects and that takes several days each month.
  • We were dinged on our last audit because our current accounting software did not include a strict enough audit trail. Read more…
Categories: Nonprofit, Products, Uncategorized Tags:

Is Subscription Right for Your Nonprofit?

May 27th, 2014 No comments

Everything flows, nothing stands still. – Heraclitus, ~535 BC–475 BC

A couple of years ago, we wrote the original of this article about Serenic’s licensing models.  Well, all things change, so we think it’s time to update the article.

When considering nonprofit accounting software, the purchasing model adds an important dimension to the decision process.  Which is the best fit for your organization – purchasing a license and installing (either on premise or on leased servers), or making the leap into the cloud? which way to go

Perpetual License –

Some nonprofits are most comfortable with their data stored locally and are willing and able to make a capital investment in the license, implementation, and necessary servers.  Additionally, they may prefer to pay their costs upfront, rather than a monthly subscription fee.

  • You purchase concurrent users (full or limited access).
  • You install the product on your organization’s computers and servers (or on servers leased from a 3rd party).
  • Maintenance of the software is under your direction and control – for example, scheduling and applying upgrades.
  • Should your nonprofit need specialized functionality, you can contract to have the product customized to meet your specific needs. Read more…

Are You Ready for Year-End?

December 13th, 2012 No comments

There it is, just beyond the horizon … Year-End. After all the holiday parties are done (and cookies eaten), after the New Year’s ball has dropped, you know you’ll be heads-down working to meet the regulatory filing deadlines for your accounting software.

So, what can you do now to make January a little easier? 

Follow these first steps to ensure a smooth Year-End:

  1. Review and run your Vendor 1099 reports for accuracy.
  2. Register with the Social Security Administration – have your PIN (also called the User Identification number) ready or call/go on-line to apply for a PIN and password.
  3. Prepare your data by reconciling your payroll history (checks, employees’ numbers, addresses etc.).

Read on for more details, tips and links…

For Payables, run the Update Vendor 1099 Information process and review the Vendor 1099 Information report for accuracy prior to producing your 1099 forms for 2012. 

If you use Serenic’s Payroll, register with the Social Security Administration.  With the Serenic Regulatory Reporting feature, you will be submitting your information electronically.  To do so, you are required to have a PIN (also called the User Identification number).  You can call or go on-line to apply for a PIN and password.  The PIN is required for EACH employer and needs to be changed every 365 days. The deadline to receive a PIN is February 1st.  After that you will not be able to file electronically.

1. Online:

  • Go to www.ssa.gov/employer.
  • Select Business Services Online > Select Register and following the instructions for registration.

2. Phone:

  • Call 1-800-772-6270.
  • This service is available Monday through Friday, 7 am to 7 pm Eastern Time.

Within Serenic’s Payroll, prepare your data:

  • Reconcile your payroll history.
  • Use the Social Security Verification task in Payroll to verify your employees’ numbers.
  • Resolve any outstanding Payroll checks, voiding if necessary before you begin the year-end process.
  • Review your data for any inconsistencies (e.g., suffixes, like Sr., Jr. or III, should not be in the last name field, missing address information, missing email addresses).

For more information and tips, login and read our article on SerenicSource.

 

Serenic Navigator – Different Versions to Fit Diverse Nonprofits

February 14th, 2012 No comments

The Serenic Navigator financial software offerings may appear as separate, individual offerings, but are in fact interconnected and interrelated. Guided by our commitment to serve not-for-profit organizations, Serenic Navigator is a family of products designed to grow with you and give you the features and functionality your nonprofit or NGO needs to achieve its mission in a highly efficient and effective manner.

Once you have determined which purchase model you want to follow – license or subscription – you’re ready to determine what fund accounting version is the best fit for the needs of your nonprofit.

• Basic, only available in under the Subscription model, is designed for smaller organizations with very basic processes and needs. It includes all the necessary core functionality as well as some moderately advanced functionality. For example, Purchase Requisitions are not supported in this version, but Purchase Orders and Purchase Invoices are available.

• Business Essentials, or BE, is available under the Subscription and License models and builds off the Basic version by adding functionality, including Purchase Requisitions and Batch Allocations. Also included are two additional modules: AwardVision Basic and BudgetVision.

• Advanced Management, or AM, is available under the Subscription and License models and is our most advanced version. The additional functionality included in this version is designed for larger nonprofits and NGOs with more complex processes and accounting needs, and includes Workflow Management, a transaction approval module, and the advanced BudgetVision features “Calculations & Assumptions” and “Approvals.”

View a list of some of the features and functionality available in the Serenic Navigator family of products. For a full feature comparison, download the full fact sheet on our website.

Contact us if you have further questions about the License vs. Subscription models, and the Basic, BE or AM versions. Lots of options; we’re here to help you navigate through them!

Software License vs. Subscription Models – Is Subscription Right for You?

February 7th, 2012 No comments

When considering nonprofit accounting software, the purchasing model adds another dimension to the decision process.  Which is the best fit for your nonprofit, NGO, or public sector agency?  Last week we discussed the license purchase model.

Another option you have is to move to the cloud by subscribing to the product.  Under this model, Serenic installs and maintains the software on servers belonging to a 3rd-party provider under contract to our company.  Your data is stored on these servers in a solid-built facility, secured at multiple levels, including locks, video cameras, biometrics, and guards. At all times, our service provider is proactively monitoring the system for problems, with anti-virus technology, backup and disaster recovery, and data privacy protocols in place.

In addition to the relief from the IT requirements, your organization may prefer predictable monthly fees, as compared to a single, initial capital investment.

With Serenic Navigator, you will purchase named users – for example, if you have 20 users needing access to Navigator, each of these users will require a subscription. (If you’ll remember from last week’s article, under the License model you purchase concurrent users.)

To access the program, you will be provided with two implementation options, depending on certain functional requirements of your organization.  In both cases, you’ll install a low-profile application to your computer, or to multiple computers (e.g., office and home computers).

  • Option 1, Application Virtualization Client (App-V) – Once App-V is installed, an icon is added to your computer’s desktop and you will open Serenic Navigator Online just as you access programs installed directly to your computer.  You will be able to import and export to your local installations of Word and Excel.
  • Option 2, Citrix Receiver – Once the Citrix Receiver is installed, you will open a web site to log into the system and access Serenic Navigator Online.   You will also have access to Word and Excel from this interface.

Under the subscription model, Serenic is responsible for applying all upgrades as part of the service. To support this process, customizations are not allowed.

In our next article, we’ll look at some of the feature differences between the different Serenic Navigator offerings.

Software License vs. Subscription Models – Is Licensing Right for You?

February 1st, 2012 No comments

Serenic offers multiple versions of its award-winning fund accounting software, and multiple ways to purchase our software – in fact, it can be a little overwhelming to determine what combination of offerings is the best fit.   In this article and the next, we’ll explore the two purchase models: License and Subscription.  First up, we’ll explore the benefits of following the License model and how it applies to a purchase of Serenic Navigator.

Under the traditional software model, you purchase a license that provides your organization with the perpetual right to use the software. You then install the product on your organization’s computers and servers.

Some nonprofits are most comfortable with their data stored locally and are willing and able to make a capital investment in the necessary servers.  Additionally, they may prefer to pay their costs upfront, rather than a monthly subscription fee.

An alternative under the traditional model is to purchase a license and contract with a 3rd party to host the product on their servers and to provide access via the Internet.  Under this option, your nonprofit or NGO is spared the cost of purchasing and maintaining the servers.

With Serenic Navigator, you will purchase concurrent users – for example, if you have 20 users needing access to Navigator, but expect no more than 10 users accessing at any point in time, you would purchase 10 concurrent users.

One benefit to the License model is that should your nonprofit need specialized functionality, you can contract to have the product customized to meet your specific needs.

For example, a client outsources their Payroll to a 3rd party, which provides a data file in a specific format.  The client would like to import this data into Serenic Navigator.  Without a customization, they would need to modify this file to match the standard import format required by Serenic Navigator.

However, because the client owns a license for Serenic Navigator, they can arrange for a customization to the import process so that the system uses the data layout defined by the 3rd party Payroll provider.  When they receive a data file from their provider, they can seamlessly import their information with no manual steps by their staff.

With both of these options, maintenance of the financial software – for example, applying upgrades – is under your direction and control.

Next week we’ll discuss the subscription model, providing online accounting software in the cloud.

EAP, CFG, NOL, and other TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms)

April 27th, 2011 1 comment

A few months ago, we announced our Early Adopter Program (EAP) for the Serenic Navigator Online (NOL) product, our cloud based fund accounting system for small and mid-sized nonprofits. Today, it’s time for a quick update.

First, we decided to rename it and in the span of an afternoon, the EAP became the CFG (Customer Focus Group). This allowed us to emphasize that NOL is not new – it’s built off the same Navigator NA (BE license) that’s been around for years, serving hundreds of customers. The cloud based delivery system and implementation tools are the new element in the mix, and the CFG was designed to allow us to work closely with customers to prove our concept works and identify areas for process improvement.

Second, we looked for customers. And we found them – four diverse organizations that helped us work through the things we hadn’t thought of, were patient while we streamlined our processes, and provided suggestions for ways we could improve the experience for future customers.

Some facts about our first four customers:

  • They range from a 4-person accounting office to a “1-man shop.”
  • Their environments are varied, including Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac environments. (Note: On a Mac, you must run Windows in a virtual environment.)
  • They include employees accessing the software from locations across the United States and abroad.

Each customer brought a new perspective to the process, helping us ensure that we provided all the correct materials and support. And as the first CFG customers prepare to go live, we’re now ready to go live ourselves.

It’s an exciting time to work at Serenic!!!

Making Portals Work for You

October 19th, 2010 No comments

As the Product Manager for Portals here at Serenic Software, I find it so exciting to see the many ways our partners and customers have found to extend our base functionality, creating an accounting solution that meets their specific nonprofit and NGO business needs.

For example, one nonprofit organization wanted their employees to have easy access to certain Time Entry information:  payroll periods, total time entered for each pay period and a status overview. This customer worked with our Customs Development team to create a new calendar look-up control that includes all of this information. The fun part for me is that we were eventually able to use this work as the basis for an enhancement to the Portals in version 3.01.

Time Entry Information

AVF Consulting, one of our most prolific Portals partners, has created several customizations to serve their nonprofit customers. For example, they have designed several modifications to look-up lists, including:

  • “Find as you type”
  • Sorting columns displayed in the look-up
  • Additional information on each list entry displayed as a tooltip
  • Scrolling through the look-up lists, rather than the pages

In another impressive customization, AVF has designed an application allowing their users to review and approve transactions from mobile devices (e.g., a Blackberry). This completely frees up their customers to accomplish their work, wherever they find themselves.

Portals were built with this kind of flexibility in mind–they were designed to provide necessary functionality to our customers, but they were also designed to allow inventive and skilled partners/customers to enhance that functionality in order to meet organization-specific needs.

What kinds of things are you doing with Portals? Use the comments section and brag a bit!

Before I end this post, I want to offer an important recommendation: The features discussed in this article are considered advanced modifications to the Portals. Any modifications beyond the basics (e.g., adding/removing fields, changing captions) should be performed by someone with a current Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, ASP.NET Application Development (Exam 70-562) certification. Serenic does not currently support or train development in C# or ASP.net (the skills required for advanced modifications).  If you are interested in incorporating any advanced modifications into your Portals, please contract with Serenic or an independent ASP.net developer.