A Seattle-based international nonprofit that specializes in health innovation had outgrown its internal financial reporting system. The 40-year-old organization, which manages hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and employs 1,200 people in 22 countries, was experiencing significant growth—increasing the amount of grants it managed by six times over the last five years.

The nonprofit had long used a numeric project code structure to track and analyze spending. Over the years, they had added a second numeric code to supplement it—but as they grew, they were running out of codes, making it impossible to gain insight into their spending at the requisite level of detail. Many fields had been repurposed to track multiple data attributes that the system was never designed to track, compromising the code’s usefulness. Because of the overlaps, data often had to be manually reconciled, resulting in multiple sources of the truth—and a lot of wasted time.

Identifying underlying issues

The organization turned to Point B to assess its needs and plan a way to restructure the code’s number sequence, expanding its use for data tracking and analysis.

It quickly became clear that simply expanding the number sequence wouldn’t solve the root issue. At least 50 systems would be impacted by such a change, and the change itself would be at best a temporary solution.

We interviewed 33 stakeholders from 12 teams at the nonprofit to understand how different teams used financial information and how the current project code structure impacted the delivery of financial information throughout the organization. Our team found that as the organization had grown, teams had become siloed and were not accustomed to sharing information. A new executive management team led efforts to break down barriers, but teams remained possessive of their own data, resulting in multiple sources of the truth for the same data.

Results realized

We thoroughly assessed the situation and developed a holistic picture of the needs for financial information across the organization, then created a matrix of the systems that would be impacted by changing the project code. We delivered a recommendation, project plan, and project charter for the nonprofit to successfully restructure the system that manages financial information while ensuring that all stakeholders had access to the same data in a format that was useful, meaningful and ready to use.

By clarifying the real issue, we helped our client avoid the hidden costs of a stopgap solution, revealed opportunities to save time and resources, and developed a plan for them to move forward.