As nonprofits seek to better steward their organization’s resources they are challenged with providing the best in technology and support to increase efficiency, funding, and mission success. Boards have expanding responsibility and oversight as well, so conversations are happening at all levels around how to reduce costs and increase benefits with the best IT setup and solutions. Top of mind in all these conversations is cloud computing and promises of lower up-front costs, greater scalability and freedom from the burden of managing IT resources. If you are involved in these conversations, here are ten points to ponder.
- Strategic Plan. What do you want to accomplish? What does success look like? Start with a long-term organizational strategy and treat technology, deployment, and payment choices of solutions such as financial management software, as enablers to executing on the strategy. While you may understand this, remind other stakeholders who may be caught up in the latest buzz of in the software or technology market.
- Autonomy and IT Outsourcing. Keep in mind that (Software-as-a-Service) SaaS applications are designed to be managed by business users, not IT specialists. This may not result in complete outsourcing, as you will potentially still need savvy users to develop sustainable practices, customize the solution to suit your organization’s needs, as well as connect and integrate with other systems.
- Cost & Startup. Nonprofits are being drawn to cloud applications to reduce costs and IT burdens and improve operations. The comparatively low upfront cost and quick startup can be a big plus for your financials.
- Security & Risk Management. As you look at the benefits of cloud computing, make sure you balance the security and risk management concerns by fully vetting the solutions and providers you select. Ask if the vendor has had a security breach in the past several years, and if so what was the impact customers and remediation of the issue.
- Audit Trail. Transparency and accountability are top of mind for donors, community, board members and staff. It is important to make sure that the cloud provider you are considering has the ability to provide tracking of information regarding user activity.
- Board of Director and Auditor Support. From the initial planning stages, get buy-in from your Board of Directors and CPA firm. With increased governance and accountability demands, these partners will be essential in developing strategy and executing a successful plan to achieve your goals across all critical areas.
- Exit Plan. One of the nice things about cloud accounting and subscription pricing for solutions is that you can always change your mind if the solution is not the best fit or if your organization’s needs change. The cloud ecosystem is complex and you need to have a defined exit strategy that you can execute. Look for flexible options that allow you to move (with your data) to on premise solution if desired. Pay attention to agreement details related to “if” you can move your data, and how much the transition will cost you.
- Integration. Most organizations will make a gradual shift in business processes to the cloud over time, as security, cost and ROI are proved out. You want to make sure that you choose technology solutions that work and play well together – both on premise and in the cloud.
- Connectivity Options. Whether through a web portal or terminal services connections, you will want to have your IT and planning team test and confirm connectivity options with the cloud platform and architecture that you select.
- Performance. The contract between your organization and your cloud provider is critically important and should include a Service Level Agreement (SLA). It should be reasonable and state the performance standards – along with appropriate penalties and protections in the event of non-performance by your provider.
So, cloud or not to cloud? What are your thoughts?