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Life as a CPA

Life as a CPA (10): I smell politics! Government & Not-for-Profit Conference 2013

– Ty’s Summer Internship – Day 18 –

My last visit to Washington DC was about 10 years ago back in college. I spent one of my spring breaks in D.C. visiting my friend at Howard University. I did all the touristy things like visiting the Reflecting Pool, Lincoln Statue, and Smithsonian Museum, but never realized until this time how precisely the city is structured. Of course, it is the capital of the United States!

Donny and I are here for the Government and Not-for-Profit Conference 2013 by AICPA. To be honest, I did not know what to expect from the conference. I can easily guess that government related or not-for-profit organizations have different functions and processes compared to for-profit companies, such as tax, fundraising, and accounting and legal processes in general, but in terms of IT advisory perspective, what would be so significantly different?

One thing that I instantly realized was that there are whole different layer of software products marketed specifically for government and not-for-profit organizations. I see a few same vendors from the last conference in Vegas, but there is a whole set of different vendors and software products just for this type of organization. Also, these products are usually priced differently or discounted for not-for-profit organizations, so it adds up to the specificity of this particular market. Donny is here as a speaker, so it will be interesting to see what he has to say about IT Strategy for this particular group of people.

Please check out this video, the highlights from Donny’s talk on IT Strategy and Technology Updates for nonprofits.

This is interesting, not because I found out something new about not-for-profits, but because the base of IT Strategy that Donny is mentioning in his talk is not technical at all. In other words, it is rather “a way of thinking” that any IT strategy planner should have. He said that IT and technologies are just enablers for the organization’s mission.

It seems to me, as a former IT consultant, that it is a super basic concept. IT strategy needs to be based upon the overall business strategy and IT is just a tool to make the business goals happen. Everybody knows this, right? Yet, Donny keeps reminding them this point over and over again. Donny thinks they need this reminder because people forget and put technology before business process, when instead business process needs to drive technology selection.

I really liked the part where he mentioned the “real issue” in many organizations. So in many cases, the issue is not the lack of new technology or malfunctioning current technology, but a bad process itself. If you automate bad processes, they are still bad processes. So simple, yet I could tell from the reaction of the audience that everybody in the room is familiar with this kind of situation. Why is it so hard to avoid?

Sometimes the fanciness of “new technology” blinds people. I have a friend who buys every single Apple product almost religiously. “Oh, I buy this because it has better functions and everybody uses it.” If the funds come from your own pocket, then nobody cares what you buy. But that is not the case in business, in business you need to get the most use of the funds you have available. You have to ask yourself “why you really need it.” It sounds so easy, but in reality, not so much. That’s why people come to Donny—to ensure they are making the best decisions possible in their IT purchases.

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