Business Intelligence for Tracking Grants
The Wilderness Society has been the leading organization protecting our nation’s shared public lands since 1935. Each year TWS receives millions of dollars in funding from individuals, foundations, and corporations to assist them in protecting wilderness lands from Alaska to New England, from New Mexico to Appalachia.
Multiple Databases, Customization, and Complexity
The Wilderness Society (TWS) needed to pull together data from multiple sources and deliver information to managers and investors for timely decision making. TWS uses Microsoft Dynamics SL, which has been highly customized to create grant management functionality within SL. What’s more, reporting is complex at TWS, both due to the nature of the donations, which can be unrestricted, restricted, or even temporarily restricted, and to the complexity of the projects and campaigns it undertakes. Yet many of TWS’s users are not technical in terms of ERP or reporting.
Self-Service Access for Non-Technical Users
TWS chose BIO Business Intelligence to consolidate the data in their Microsoft Dynamics SL ERP, their Prophix budgeting system, and Excel for reporting and analysis. They chose BIO for its complete “out-of-the-box” integration with Dynamics SL and easy custom integration with Prophix. The financial and budget data is loaded into the BIO data warehouse and is available for self-service access by over 50 users, both in the accounting and finance group and in the field, through a business portal.
In addition to customizing their Dynamics SL ERP to create grant management functionality, TWS also added customizations to allow writeback capability to their Prophix system from Dynamics SL. BIO was able to accommodate all of TWS’s customizations to leverage the data in these systems and make the processes—and the employees—more efficient. Using BIO, even non-technical managers have self-service access to the information they need for timely, data-backed decisions.
Sharon Hess, Director of Business Systems at TWS, manages BIO, Dynamics SL, Prophix, and all of the financial applications. She explained, “Using SL Projects and Tasks as landscapes and campaigns gives us the ability to slice and dice any way we need to. Whether we want to look at specific landscapes like the Rocky Mountain Front or designations such as energy or monuments, we can quickly get to the data we need. Managers can look across projects or across time periods without having to come to me to create special reports.”
Managers at TWS like BIO because it gives them the ability to run their own reports when they need to, run their own analyses, and drill down to transaction-level data to see the cause of variations. They can compare data from disparate systems without a thought to where it originated. And they know the data is current because it is updated automatically every night.
“Grant periods don’t always align with fiscal periods,” Hess commented further. “Our managers have to be able to look at the expenses over the life of a grant to manage the grant properly. Additionally, we report to large investors and the accounting and finance people need to be able to pull together all of the information on a particular gift over several fiscal periods. Sometimes several large donors support a single project and the reports need to show the percentage of the funds and spending attributable to that donor. BIO lets us do all that with ease.”
The BIO implementation has been very successful at The Wilderness Society to date, providing self-service access to data in multiple systems for managers as well as timely information and the ability to analyze data as needed. TWS hasn’t finished yet—there are more tasks that are still being done manually that Hess wants to automate through BIO. “With BIO we get more done and make less mistakes. I’d like to expand that as far as I can.”