Long-term planning

How Sage Intacct Empowers the Finance Teams of Indigenous Organizations to Overcome Unique Business and Social Challenges

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Following the new Sage Intacct Webinar ‘Path to Modernization: How Finance Leaders in Administration Organizations are Trailblazing’, Melanie Touchie of MNP and former CFO of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, tells Sage Advice how indigenous administration organizations are leveraging core financials software to overcome their unique challenges.

Challenge: The Finance Teams of Indigenous Organizations Can Face Understaffing and High Staff Turnover

One of the key issues that face many Indigenous organizations is keeping the finance team fully staffed while also having a plan to retain and pass on this knowledge internally. This is something that Melanie Touchie of MNP has experienced firsthand. Melanie worked with her own Nation for ten years, where she was mentored by a financial controller who believed that it was important to look within the Nation to fill out the vacancies. This however is not always possible, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and grow the skills internally.

“Unfortunately, that’s something very typical in the industry,” explains Melanie. “There is a high turnover of, employees and there is little to no succession planning with some of the Nations. It’s a very big gap and the challenges are that most of these nations are in remote places where recruitment is difficult, and then you add a pandemic on top of it. It’s almost impossible. So, it’s definitely something that’s an issue we have observed in the industry.”

Solution: Consult with a Technology Partner to Leverage Sage Intacct to Apply the Technology Where You Need It the Most

Since the advent of cloud-based core financial software, we have heard how finance teams across a range of sectors have leveraged the likes of Sage Intacct to take time back from monotonous data entry tasks and overwhelming excel processes, freeing up resources to help drive their organization forward. However, in the case of the indigenous organizations, the reduction in manual processes can in some part make up for the fact that finance team might only have one or two members. In a sense, it’s as if the technology is the unofficial support staff on the team.

Challenge: Existing Software Package Can’t Satisfy Reporting Needs

As the former CFO of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Melanie has firsthand experience of the difficulties faced by indigenous organizations that are attempting to create accurate quarterly financial reports for the business throughout the year. Continuous growth and the addition of new entities to the organization, saw the finance team lose so much time trying to make their legacy systems fit their current business needs.

“We had three unique businesses run separately off our nation’s books. And those three businesses probably took 75% of our time because some of their expenses, their projects, their government reporting, all of these other things were so complex. 75% percent of our time was unraveling their reporting, which was so difficult,” says Melanie.

Even when leaning on external accounting and advisory through MNP, the effort to make sure both parties’ sets of numbers match was enormous. All this data needed to be reconciled before the Nation’s leadership could be presented with a consolidated view of the Nation’s financial standing.

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Solution: Leverage Sage Intacct’s Dimensional Reporting Capabilities

Sage Intacct’s general ledger includes multiple dimensions to capture the context of an organization’s transactions, operational measures, and budgets. This means that the finance team can create reports that give a real time snapshot of the financial vitals without having to run an overly complex chart of accounts. The free time the finance team gets back can be utilized to analyze data and make strategic decisions to benefit the organization.

“With Sage Intacct, when I started drilling into all the different projects and seeing all of the different ways that you can treat those dimensions, I knew it was going to serve a Nation well for a long time. It’s going to be able to grow with them and it can handle as much as they need it to. Where clients are really going to see the value is when they no longer have to get separate solutions for the different entities that the finance team manages,” says Melanie.

Challenge: Indigenous Organizations’ Finance Teams Manage Both Sensitive Social Data As well as Commercial Data

The diverse portfolio of programs that an Indigenous organization has to manage is unrivaled in other sectors.

For example, the list of programs that might exist in a First Nation’s administration organization could look like this:

  • Culture and Languages
  • Business and Economic Development
  • Fisheries and Forestry
  • Tourism
  • Child and Family Services
  • Communications
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Health and Healing
  • Housing

This blend of social and commercial programs that live under the remit of the financial team creates a heightened level of responsibility, especially when one can see the real-world implications of the decisions on the community instantly.

“The only thing that I would say is a little bit different, is that these programs and services that Nations roll out are a lot more personal. So instead of an [entity saying] ‘we’re selling a product’ or we’ve got this new service’ you’re actually, caring for families and you can see, you know the product or the service being utilized in the community is usually right outside your door,” explains Melanie.

This business case calls for a software solution that is secure, but also has controls in pace to allow multiple user profiles to be setup in accordance with their specific data needs. For example, a user that needs access to a commercial entity like tourism wouldn’t need access to the child and family services information.

Solution: Choose Software that Has Security Standards That match the Needs of For Your Organization

When it comes to controlling access to Sage Intacct in your business, Sage and the customer work together to meet the customer’s needs regarding access and security, while also upholding the security standards set out by the Canadian authorities.

Path to Modernization: Learn How Finance Leaders in Indigenous Organizations are Trailblazing

Join us on July 15th for a free webinar as leaders within MNP  Indigenous EASE Services, discuss how finance leaders of indigenous administration organizations are leveraging technology to overcome operational challenges

Register now

Challenge: The Diasporic Nature of Indigenous Communities Combined with a lack of Communication Infrastructure Can be Barriers to Finance Operations Running Smoothly.

Administration operations among indigenous communities were heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, due in part to a lack of access to the necessary technology among community members. This coupled with the fact that the culture of indigenous communities can be predominately verbal, meant that the shift to remote working and videoconferencing etc. was particularly hard on these communities.

Using her own Nation as an example, Melanie describes how the diasporic nature of the community increases the challenges created by working remotely.

“Probably 60% of our member population lives away from the Tofino area. Members needed to be located, communicated to regarding update meetings, receiving programs and services like food, community fish distributions, etc. like that had to be drastically adapted because of the pandemic, all of our Nations services immediately went virtual to reach out to our members” Melanie says.

Solution: Ensure Your Technology Solution Can Integrate with Cloud Communications and Office Solutions

An upside that Melanie and MNP found was that once the community got to grips with technologies like Zoom and Microsoft, the members who had been somewhat removed from the day-to-day conversations of the Nation were now more involved than ever. This success can also be achieved for stakeholders looking to not only, access the financial data remotely but to collaborate on it, by using Sage Intacct Collaborate. This secure social layer covers every process and device so finance and other service teams can cooperatively resolve any issue.