I recently had the chance to sit down with Shari Freedman, the Chief Financial Officer for Room to Read, an international NGO that focuses on literacy and girls’ education in 16 countries across over 30,000 low-income communities in need of their programs.
During our conversation, Shari shared why Room to Read decided to switch off of Epicor, how Sage Intacct has changed their reporting and monthly close process, and how the solution has empowered Room to Read’s finance team to become trusted advisors to the business.
Andrew Sevillia: Shari, to start, can you share a little bit about your previous financial management solution, and what led your organization to Sage Intacct?
Shari Freedman: Of course! When I first came to Room to Read, we were using Epicor, which is a server-based software package. We were behind several versions, and it was very clunky. The connectivity was tough, it was very slow, and created a lot of frustrations around the globe. We lost hundreds of hours; and worse, created the kinds of frustrations that people would just take shortcuts to try and do whatever they could do to get the books closed. Oftentimes, a 15 minutes task would take three hours.
We had no standardized process and as a result, every country would sometimes make it up as they went along. When I arrived, we had 56,000 accounts in our chart of accounts. I met with all of the accounting and finance managers around the globe and everyone said, "We just can't work with Epicor. It's just so hard. We can't close the books."
We were looking at both Sage Intacct and Oracle NetSuite. It took three weeks to have one call with NetSuite. When I asked my questions to Sage Intacct I got, "Yes, we can do that." Everything was available out of the box. Whereas with NetSuite, it was, "Yes, absolutely. With customization, with customization."
Shari: I had a lot of confidence in Sage Intacct when I started out. Everyone I talked to at Sage Intacct had a good sense of the non-profit world, and the needs of a non-profit organization.
Andrew: That’s really insightful information, Shari, thank you for sharing. You worked with a Sage Intacct partner during your implementation process; can you tell me a bit about that process and how it went?
Shari: Certainly. Sage Intacct introduced us to the Armanino team; They really understood what we were looking for and helped us think through the process. With Armanino, we agreed that we would actually build some key reports, right into our system implementation so that the hardest ones, the ones that are the biggest challenge, came right out of the box when we pushed the button to go live. That helped us a lot and we've been able to build some real intelligence into our system.
Andrew: That’s great to hear that Armanino was such a helpful implementation partner, Shari. Since going live on Sage Intacct, are there any quantifiable benefits that you can tell me about that have been particularly impactful to your organization?
Shari: Prior to Sage Intacct, we couldn't close the books and consolidate on anything less than just a quarterly basis. Now, we close on a monthly basis. We've taken at least a week out of the close process and we've given people back a lot of time. In the streamlining of our chart of accounts with the dimensions and our variance, we've been able to really get deeper into the detail. Not to mention, the idea that Sage Intacct could help us to reduce our chart of accounts from 56,000 to 100, is a dream for me.
We're able to pull data out around our donor reporting that we could never touch before, it was super exciting. The number of donors has grown, and the number of complex projects that they're funding has grown. Their request for information has really deepened, and our team has not grown. We can pull data out of Sage Intacct on a regular basis without any difficulties.
I think the reporting is probably the sweet spot for us in terms of where we think that we were able to leverage early some of the real benefits from our implementation and the power of what Sage Intacct brought to the table. Our management team is looking at the financials for the first time and thinking, “Wow, they're not six months old. This information is from last week.”
On a team level, this idea of being the trusted advisor to the business has become sort of our mantra when it comes to the finance and accounting team; they have risen in their own sense of empowerment. Our accounting team is no longer also just closing the books and finishing the audit – we’re able to do more.
Andrew: The level of benefits you just described are incredible. It sounds like Sage Intacct has been truly transformative for your organization. Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Shari