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NetSuite: A Unique Nonprofit Solution
By Gayle Samuelson Carpentier, Chief Business Development Officer, TechSoup Global
Small organizations often start with a Rolodex or an Excel spreadsheet and move on to donor management systems to track people important to their work and financial transactions. And if they are fortunate, they get large enough to need powerful customer relationship management (CRM) and business management applications.
That's why, back in June 2014, it was so exciting when NetSuite announced its partnership with TechSoup Global. TechSoup's international network leverages technology to help build the capacity of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). So being able to bring NetSuite's comprehensive suite of cloud business-management applications, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), CRM, e-commerce, professional services automation (PSA), TribeHR for social human capital management (HCM), and the LightCMS content management platform, to nonprofits around the world was a great addition to TechSoup's online family of donated technology offerings. Natalie Gagliordi of ZDNet noted after the partnership was announced that, "As for NetSuite, the nonprofit strategy is just as much about expanding its SaaS [Software as a Service] footprint as it is about being philanthropic. The companies cited survey results that estimate more than half of global nonprofits plan to move significant portions of their IT to the cloud in the next few years. The TechSoup partnership could give NetSuite a jump on competitors also looking to fill that gap." NetSuite's generous offer means that nonprofits can now come to TechSoup to take advantage of NetSuite's donations, as well as the more than 90 other programs to be found on the TechSoup.org site. In addition, when TechSoup, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit itself, needed to upgrade its own internal systems, it chose to turn to the NetSuite Mid-Market CRM solution too. "Before moving to the NetSuite solution, our internal structure consisted of eight different software solutions that were all custom integrated and were getting older, and we knew it was time to move to a better way to handle our business needs," said Nicola Gabancho, the analyst and project manager for TechSoup's NetSuite implementation.
NetSuite's generous offer means that nonprofits can come to TechSoup to take advantage of NetSuite's donations, and more than 90 other programs to be found on the TechSoup.org site
"We needed to replace software that controlled inventory management, customer validation and requests for our donation programs, grant management/ tracking software, internal financial and accounting services, and more," Nicola continued. "NetSuite not only meets all those needs in one already integrated solution, it gives us new layers of functionality we need."
TechSoup's implementation team draws upon software architects, project managers, executive sponsors, and more and requires ongoing threeweek Scrum cycles. David Aaronson, TechSoup's program manager for the NetSuite program stated, " implementing NetSuite as a cloud solution means you are more likely to adopt best practices." However, he also cautioned that, "As in the grant process we follow at TechSoup, sometimes you (at your own risk) have to depart from best practice models. One must understand going in that if … [you] have to make customizations (i.e. code changes), these will need to be maintained by your team going forward.”
"There are pros and cons to a SaaS," David added. "The cons are that you have very little control of what global system enhancements happen, and when they will be launched. On the plus side, there is much lower overhead in terms of system support. NetSuite handles major upgrades, and the organization only needs to test around its customizations, special workflows, and whatever NetSuite recommends testing during a major upgrade.”
"The basic benefit you get with NetSuite is being able to have all your contacts and communications around those contacts in one place. [This] is a huge part of the benefit of this complex transition. Having ERP and CRM in one system allows for robust intrasystem reporting that having a non-integrated system, like the ones we are retiring soon, would not allow," David offered to anyone considering NetSuite as a new in-house solution.
Jennifer Beckett, TechSoup's grant and program recording analyst, is the closest person to the day-to-day work of teaching staff how to effectively understand and use the power of the NetSuite applications. "This NetSuite solution," Jennifer noted, "allows us to 'lead from above.' It means all staff use the same tool, and have access to the same reporting.
"By this time," Jennifer continued, "we know that if we follow their "out-of-the-box" solutions, it means we're following best practices, and that has worked in over 95 percent of cases. Yet, there are times when, due to our own business structure as a social entrepreneurial nonprofit, we have to create different rules and structures. And since we know, as a cloud-based solution, they upgrade NetSuite regularly, anything we customize need to be checked and tested each time NetSuite upgrades their platform. For any user [who] is new to working in a SaaS or cloud environment, that's something they'll need to make sure they plan for when making any changes."
TechSoup is only one of the organizations that benefit from the support available to new NetSuite users. From the NetSuite account representatives (and kudos to our rep, Charlie Cave, who has been of invaluable help!), to forums and online discussion groups that provide new insights and ideas, to NetSuite's help desk folks, everyone has been amazingly responsive and attentive to our needs. Qualified NGOs can also benefit from NetSuite.org's unique grantee support programs like SuiteVolunteers, which pairs NetSuite employees with grantees to tackle the NGOs' back-office challenges through ongoing pro-bono projects
We couldn't be more pleased to partner with NetSuite both in bringing its donations to the nonprofit community and in our own adoption of its solution here in-house at TechSoup Global.