Sikich HEADSTART ERP Implementation for Associations

We’ve covered multiple times how our HEADSTART program is beneficial for manufacturers and distributors, especially when it comes to managing the supply chain. This time, we’re focusing on the associations industry and how Sikich’s tried and proven ERP implementation methodology, HEADSTART, creates timely and cost-effective enterprise resource planning implementations, or your accounting software. There is no one better to discuss HEADSTART for Associations than Tom Myers, partner-in-charge at Sikich, and Jean Bauer, account executive within Sikich’s association specialty area.

Fact or Fiction?

Associations are digitally transforming into the cloud.

Fact. As we look at traditional applications for associations, even the related not-for-profit industry, those applications have traditionally been on-premise type applications. Now, with the transformation of digital applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365), associations are making those upgrades to a digital cloud platform. They’re gaining ease of access to the applications, eliminating security concerns, removing that layer of complex upgrades, and really looking at an overall lower total cost of ownership to the association, which is obviously very important.

ERP software traditionally can’t track Allocations.

Fiction. When we look at an association and the finance department’s ability to really track the allocation across the organization, across multiple funds, typically that’s been a manual process at the end of the month and/or the quarter, with multiple people using Excel spreadsheets to make those adjustments. When we make a HEADSTART with D365, we’re going to assist with allocating across projects, grants, programs, departments in summary, in detail. We will set up automatic allocations to help improve the budgeting and also efficiently improve the financial reporting that goes along with it.

You should only implement one solution at a time for your association.

Fiction. We have a couple projects going on right now with some major associations, and our association size ranges from very small to extremely large groups. And one of the things that we find is that people come with multiple projects or goals. For example, we have an association right now that has said, “Gosh, I do want to digitally transform, so I need Office 365, I need D365 Business Central, I need an outsourced CIO, I need this, I need that.” Since the Sikich team can work with all of these different products, whether it be implementing or consulting or both, they actually come to us to help plan with the timeline, their internal resources, and what’s going to work best in the order that the things need to be implemented into a new environment in the association.

The second associations group we’re working with right now came to us simply for a new ERP, and so we analyzed both D365 Business Central (D365BC) and Oracle’s NetSuite product. Our conclusion, since we do both products, was that it should be D365BC, but as we went through that discovery and interview process, we found that really they had more than one problem. It wasn’t only about going to the cloud with their ERP and improving that financial management system. A lot of their problems were really inherent with their current associations management system, which was Salesforce.

You are locked into our Chart of Accounts structure when implementing with HEADSTART.

Fiction. You’re absolutely not locked in. One of the big guess benefits of modern applications like D365BC is that ability to have a dimensional chart of accounts. The association defines those dimensions for whatever they need to track, including funds, grants, programs, and sources of income. Through the HEADSTART program, we help them map that out, implement that, and plan for what that charter account transformation may be and best serve the organization long-term.

What is Sikich HEADSTART for Associations?

HEADSTART for Associations is a transformation of the finance applications from traditionally on-premises solutions to cloud. We deploy that in as little as 12 weeks, so it’s a templated, fast, configuration approach based upon best practices to allow that quicker implementation timeframe without sacrificing the benefits of the software. That software is going to include your traditional general ledger, dimensional chart of accounts, budgeting, financial reporting, banking, fund accounting, commitments, encumbrances, integrations with AMS solutions. So, we’re going to put that all together, wrapped around a strong integration with Teams and Office 365, which includes Excel.

Why did we choose D365BC as the foundation of our Associations solution?

Since Sikich implements both NetSuite and D365BC, we analyzed the typical requirements of each and how they differ by organization of things people might need. Both of the software products check a lot of the boxes, they’re both great products, but what we really liked about the D365 product is that it utilizes the full Microsoft stack. So, whether you have Office, Excel, Outlook, Power BI, it’s all Microsoft, and therefore it’s all blended in. In addition, since so many people use some or all of those tools, it’s got the Microsoft look and feel that people are familiar with.

On an ongoing annual basis, cost is always an issue, especially in our associations and nonprofits. The actual software ongoing annual cost for D365BC is at a much lower price point than that of our NetSuite offerings. The other thing from a price standpoint, Microsoft Dynamics GP has been in the association world for over 20 years, so there’s a large volume of associations moving from that product to D365BC. To help facilitate this transition from GP to D365BC, Microsoft is offering promotions on the software cost to help make it easier in that transition to the cloud.

Microsoft also offers some great integration tools and has such a large following. For example, D365BC is the highest sold ERP in the world, and so the number of independent software products that are out there are just amazing and available to view on their Microsoft App stores.

How can Sikich cybersecurity services help association organizations?

As laid out in this article from, cybersecurity is a mission-critical component to any business, including an association. When you look at pre-COVID, we would get together, especially the board of an association would get together, and as they got together, they’d pass out, “Here are all the documents, here are the financial statements, here’s our review for the month or the quarter.” Since they printed those out, security was obviously pretty limited. But as you look at post-pandemic, post-COVID, with the effect of work from home, working remotely, etc., the security policy of every organization, including associations, has to be looked at.

So, the first step is to document and review that policy. The second piece of that is to use a company or organization or association-based email. If you sit on the board, try to avoid using everybody’s personal email. Finally add those security layers from a tech standpoint, whether it’s multifactor authentication or SSO, single sign-on, and then really examine them to improve the security layer of the association.
Sikich has a full security division that could help with all of those from documentation to policies to testing to technology.

Next Steps

Ready to see what Sikich HEADSTART ERP implementation can do for your associations organization? Please reach out to our experts at any time. Please also like and subscribe to our videos on LinkedIn!

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