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How Apeability is shaping NGOs through business transformation

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The life-changing work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can sometimes be hampered by complicated organisational structures, irregular injections of funding, and learning needs around how to make new technologies serve them – rather than the other way around. 

Apeability’s Co-founder, Aditi Desai, explores the opportunity for NGOs to embrace a standardised, modular and agile approach to implementing business process and document management. Getting these right leads to organisational transformation and the creation of an enabling environment within these high-impact organisations.


Organisational evolution

Apeability is a consulting firm that works closely with non-profits, NGOs, foundations, government agencies, and for-profits engaged in social and sustainable enterprises. Serving clients throughout the world, from the US to India, Apeability supports these organisations in four key areas: business transformation, digital transformation, growth, and strategy. Their mission is to help organisations evolve by meeting their goals for transformation and growth. 

However, working in this sector presents its own unique set of challenges, as Aditi explains:

Non-profit should not be synonymous with ‘non-innovative’. While they embrace novel approaches to shape the fate of the world, they should do the same to shape their own fate.

- Aditi Desai, Co-Founder of Apeability

Unlike the for-profits, finance for the non-profit sector invariably comes from grants or similarly large injections of capital. Whilst all organisations operate differently, with varying revenue streams, in general, this financing model means that funding arrives sporadically and in large amounts; and is typically allocated to a direct impact project, as opposed to an ongoing organisational improvement. Due to this, internal growth typically takes the form of a ‘big bang’ where a sudden influx of capital creates a spike, and then plateaus until the next time, and so on. The problem with this approach is that rather than sustaining an ongoing, long-term infusion of growth and development, it is periodic and short-term.

Taking the lead from the agile model used in software development, as part of wider business transformation, many for-profits are enjoying the benefits of a more iterative approach to problem-solving and development, by placing emphasis on making more regular, frequent, and smaller improvements rather than rolling out sweeping changes less often. However, the standardised approaches used by for-profits do not necessarily fit with the business objectives and organisational demands of the non-profits. That’s where Apeability comes in.  


Making IT work for NGOs

Business and digital transformation can help non-profit organisations solve problems better. But without the right systems in place, it’s difficult to innovate or create meaningful impact. Partly due to the global pandemic, there’s been a seismic global shift towards Cloud-based collaboration software – such as Microsoft Teams. 

In fact, studies show that the global number of active daily users almost doubled last year from 75 million to 145 million. Conversely, it’s often the case with non-profits that whilst they have the software, they’re not necessarily able to leverage the best value from it due to a lack of knowledge and training. 

Frequently, organisations use Microsoft software without understanding or leveraging the potential of SharePoint to organise, structure, and share documents and data. But typically what they do have is a familiarity with the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, making it an ideal platform to build-out business and digital transformation. 

So how do non-profits make the best use of this technology?


New way of working

Building on users’ familiarity with the MS 365 suite, there’s implicit value in using Microsoft SharePoint to bring structure and manage ever-increasing volumes of data and documents.

Taking control of information through structure and organisation brings with it the opportunity to streamline, improve, and scale business processes. 

A Cloud-based solution to managing workflows also has the added advantage of access from any connected device, which is especially beneficial to non-profits with people on the ground engaged in fieldwork. This mobile access to critical documents and data is just one advantage to making the journey towards digitalisation.

However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for non-profit organisations. Sharepoint has its own riddles and complexity, often overwhelming for both the IT administrator and the organisational user. Overlaying a solution like WorkPoint 365 gives non-profits a head start on managing and overseeing their documents and data, whether that’s a specific department, like projects or donor contracts or any other aspect of the organisation. What Apeability can do is innovate, and build-out from that platform to ensure continued improvement, through things like building an organisation-specific development pipeline and even app integrations.

Not only that, joining an existing community of organisations with different approaches to management, enables non-profits to leverage the power of partnerships, sharing deep insights, pains, and gains. This is the innate and unique value of the non-profits – they’re not afraid to share their formula’s for success. In fact, many would aspire for it to be replicated by all others chasing the same impact goals. A good example of this would be non-profit like the Red Cross, which has hundreds of chapters around the world. They need scalable solutions to respond to a variety of global emergencies and spikes in demand for services. 

There may be existing solutions from another chapter or organisation which can be customised and implemented. For example, a company specialising in mental wellness might already have an optimised model for managing patients and all the associated data, such as appointments and notes. Another working with greenfield project implementation may have well-evolved project management as well as monitoring and evaluation models. Each new innovation in the community lays the foundation for the next innovation and transformation, creating a chain reaction of benefits for the community at large.


Financing the needs of tomorrow

One of the biggest challenges faced by the non-profit sector is the funding model, and legacy approaches to the allocation of funds. It’s essential to create awareness and embrace digital solutions, which move investment in business process and document management from capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operational expenditure (OPEX). 

This adjustment means that rather than being locked into a licence agreement and paying a hefty, upfront fee, organisations buy in what they need – so there’s no wastage – and costs are transparent, per user, per month. It can also alleviate fears about being stuck with a solution that doesn’t work or isn’t fit for purpose because agreements are typically made on a three-month basis. Companies like Apeability also offer extended agreements to allow time for integrations on top of WorkPoint 365 to embed within the organisation.


Improving future outcomes

Iterative approaches to management within non-profits put the organisation in the driving seat of their roadmap for growth, allowing them to continuously improve in smaller but far more regular increments. Furthermore, this approach has the added benefit of predictability of cost and dramatically reduces the risk associated with ‘locking in’ to a new solution. 

Change can be daunting, but through their consultancy services, companies like Apeability are able to guide non-profits through the implementation of a digital workplace that utilizes Cloud technology, the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, and WorkPoint 365. 

Getting better value from the readily available technology can drive meaningful and incremental improvements to business and document management processes and help non-profits to deliver better future outcomes to the people they serve.

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