Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Saving on Your Hiring, Orientation & Onboarding Costs

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

How can you make your hiring process, orientation, and onboarding more efficient? It starts with preparation and follow through. Get ideas you can use in your nonprofit to put the right person in the right place at the right cost in terms of time, money and effort.

Presenter: Jan Triplett, former Asstistant Director of Staff Development for a Texas tax exempt organization

How to Save on Your Hiring, Orientation, & Onboarding Costs

Why Upgrading Your MIP Software is Better than a Trip to the Dentist

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

The latest version IS the greatest!

When you hear about a new release of MIP Fund Accounting, do you load it as fast as you can?  Or are you a bit pioneer-phobic — the fear of having arrows in your back? Do you feel upgrading software is like a trip to the dentist — to be put off as long as you can?

Many users have the notion that it is better to let other users “shake out the bugs” before they install it themselves. Others can’t wait to try the promised new functionality.

So what’s really the smart choice to make? The answer, is “BOTH.”

Why wait?

When the major release number changes (e.g. from 2014.x to 2015.0), we have often seen a number of issues with the product that just weren’t caught even though the product gets lots of alpha and beta testing. Every month when we meet with your TeamNFP Certified MIP Business Partner, we go through the Knowledge Base provided by Abila discussing the items most likely to cause you the most trouble. Our goal is to help them help you and so we all spend time staying current and discussing the fixes and “work arounds” suggested or we recommend one to our partners for those few instances when there isn’t one provided.

Significant and broad changes sadly often bring unintended consequences. But speculating on why that’s true really isn’t the focus of this article. But we’ll agree that it often isn’t productive to jump on a release as soon as it comes out if you don’t have to (in order to produce 1099s or W-2s, for example).  Almost always there will be a .1 release in time for those important tasks, so it’s fairly safe to wait.

You may also have staff or even the head of your nonprofit who drag their feet about switching. No matter how much better the upgrade is there is:

  • A learning curve because things just don’t work as they used to
  • A dread that the changes will impact other things and it will take time they don’t have to do those other fixes

So, you wait knowing that at some point you and they will have to make the change, deal with the downtime, and hope that the improvements are real.

Why Upgrade Now

But once the .1 release has been made available, it’s time to change your tune! Each release that follows will have more of the improvements you seek and the changes made are usually of a highly focused nature, so the risk of those unintended consequences is quite low. So these are high gain, low risk releases and you should be happy to install them as soon as you can.

So, take the plunge, the water is fine. Upgrade now.

More Reasons to Upgrade

For more reasons to upgrade any software you have or convince others on the need to upgrade, read  Why You Should Upgrade and ask them to do so, too.  We agree, you need to act in order to:

  1. Not get stuck with an obsolescent version that’s unsupported.
  2. Be able to take advantage of new features and improvements.
  3. Reduce or eliminate any problems you encountered because they may have already been corrected.
  4. Keep control and deploy in your own time after you see if there are any other adjustments that need to be made to other software, how you do things, protect yourself against fraud, waste, and abuse, etc.
  5. Have more opportunity to interact with the software, giving you more familiarity with issues that surface when you or others implement changes.
  6. Learn new things about accounting and better ways to do things.

Final Thoughts

Be sure to say thank you to your TeamNFP MIP Business Partner and Abila’s technical staff for maintaining the Knowledge Base that is such a big help to all of us. They take a lot of the pain away from your software upgrade. Your Business Partner is also always there to help you. So are we at TeamNFP — just email me at or contact your Business Partner.

Don’t you wish you could take us with you when you go to the dentist to share your pain? (No offense intended to dentists anywhere!)

Upgrading really IS better than a dental procedure!

Disaster Recovery Should Be Top Of Mind

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Have you given any thought to how long it would take to recover from a server disaster?  Have you actually exercised your recovery plan?  You do have a recovery plan, right?

I have had the misfortune to be involved with two MIP customers who have had such disasters only to discover that there was no backup from which their MIP data could be restored.

In one case, the user had just never tested the usefulness of the backups being made by trying to restore from one of them. When the time came that they were needed, the backups were found to be corrupted beyond repair.

In the other case, the IT staff in charge of backup management incorrectly believed that the MIP data was on the server drive on which they concentrated all their other program data (so that they could focus their back up efforts there and ignore the C: drive). They believed that only system files resided on their server’s C: drive. They were sure that they would always simply recover their C: drive by installing Windows and SQL Server and all would be well. But as you know (or should know), your MIP Organization database is managed in a folder about four levels deep from SQL Server in the Program Files folder tree on the server’s C: drive. At install time, the user has control of where the MIP Share folder will be stored, but none over where the actual database files (.mdf and .ldf) are stored.

Now the IT folks could certainly take the time to detach those files, move them to an appropriate location of their choice, and then reattach them there. But almost no one knows this is necessary.

Does your IT staff know this?

Why not put this down and pick up the phone and find out?

Disaster stats should encourage you to focus on your own disaster recovery plan

  • 6% of all PCs will suffer an episode of data loss in any given year.
  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control.
  • 34% of companies fail to test their backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape back-up failures.
  • Companies that aren’t able to resume operations within ten days (of a disaster hit) are not likely to survive. (Strategic Research Institute)
  • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States. (Mozy Online Backup)
  • Simple drive recovery can cost upwards of $7,500 and success is not guaranteed.

Excuses for not conducting a disaster recovery test and having a plan are inexcusable when you have the facts.

There are a lot of reasons a nonprofit doesn’t have a disaster recovery plan or even test. Time or fear of failure or lack of knowledge or money shouldn’t stop you.

Maybe you hadn’t thought about how many ways data loss can occur. Wikipedia lists five major causes and over fourteen different examples:

  • Intentional Action
    • Intentional deletion of a file or program
  • Unintentional Action
    • Accidental deletion of a file or program
    • Misplacement of CDs or Memory sticks
    • Administration errors
    • Inability to read unknown file format
  • Failure
    • Power failure, resulting in data in volatile memory not being saved to permanent memory.
    • Hardware failure, such as a head crash in a hard disk.
    • A software crash or freeze, resulting in data not being saved.
    • Software bugs or poor usability, such as not confirming a file delete command.
    • Business failure (vendor bankruptcy), where data is stored with a software vendor using Software-as-a-service and SaaS data escrow has not been provisioned.
    • Data corruption, such as file system corruption or database corruption.
  • Disaster
    • Natural disaster, earthquake, flood, tornado, etc.
    • Fire
  • Crime
    • Theft, hacking, sabotage, etc.
    • A malicious act, such as a worm, virus, hacker or theft of physical media.

The cost of a data loss event is directly related to the value of the data and the length of time that it is needed, but unavailable. These costs include:

  • The cost of continuing without the data
  • The cost of recreating the data
  • The cost of notifying users in the event of a compromise

You really must be vigilant.

Do you have a disaster recovery plan for multiple disasters?

It’s spring (hopefully) and the winds and weather are still a big problem. Do you have a plan for disaster recovery if you lose your data because of hail or tornado or flood or another act of God? This article by Lindsey Farber in Forbes gives you some great ways to stay ahead of good ole Mother Nature. According to Farber,there are three big benefits to disaster recovery testing that may inspire you to take action:

  1. Clarity of Expectations
  2. Clarity of Assumptions
  3. Clarity of Ramifications

I encourage you to read the article at Then test to find your weaknesses and fix the problems or have an offsite, maybe in the cloud, contingency.

You can’t afford (nor can those you serve afford) to have your nonprofit dead in the water! So, go take care of this before it’s too late.

LEIE Exclusions: Make Sure You Don’t Hire Them!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Office of Inspector General expects you to be careful in who you hire.

LEIE? (no, not the dreaded highway in NYC)

Since fraud was the topic of our recent webinar, it seems natural to turn our attention in this month’s blog topic to one of  importance to all our clients in the health care sector.  The folks at HHS maintain a list of “excluded” people and entities who have distinguished themselves for this treatment by such actions as having been convicted of Medicaid fraud.

From the Office of Inspector General, US Dept of Health & Human Services on their “Background Information” page: (

“OIG has the authority to exclude individuals and entities from Federally funded health care programs pursuant to sections  1128 and 1156 of the Social Security Act and maintains a list of all currently excluded individuals and entities called the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE). Anyone who hires an individual or entity on the LEIE may be subject to civil monetary penalties (CMP).”

“To avoid CMP liability, health care entities need to routinely check the LEIE to ensure that new hires and current employees are not on the excluded list.”

The current list (updated monthly, most recently in January at time of this writing) contains more than 50,000 entries. If you only have a dozen or fewer names to compare to this list, there is a facility on their web site in which you can manually input the names you want to check. (See the link in the right margin of their site titled “Online Searchable Database.”) But if you have a much larger list, this is prohibitively time-consuming and error-prone.

Fortunately, the entire LEIE is made available through the “LEIE Downloadable Databases” link.

On that page you you will find, under the heading LEIE Database, the most recently updated list of excluded individuals and organizations. This month, for example, it is call “01-2014 Updated LEIE Database: EXE|ZIP.” By clicking on the letters “ZIP” at the end, you can download that list.

Unfortunately there is no guidance on how to compare the names on that huge list to your own list to find the matches. So users may be challenged if their spreadsheet and/or database skill aren’t up to the task of making this relatively easy.

The short story is that we have helped with this and can offer assistance to you, as well.

In the case of our most recent client, a user of MIP Payroll, the longer story is that we were able to make them self-sufficient at the task of finding all the matches in their list of more than 300 employees. We left them with instructions that take them through opening the database in excel and eventually populating a table in their MIP database. Then they run a query we saved for them that pulls all the matching names from their employee table (along with the dates of birth and Social Security Numbers they’ll need for the REAL matching exercise on the website).

If you are spending hours at this task each month, ask your Business Partner or call us for some assistance. Lots of them have the skills needed to give you this same level of service.

This needn’t be a task that consumes much more than half an hour or so. And it should be a great relief to your CEO, General Counsel, and Board to know that you are taking the necessary steps to eliminate the risk of being subject to those civil monetary penalties!

Q’s Tip #1401 Your Response to “Not Responding”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

It’s pretty frustrating to see the title bar in your application say “Not Responding,” or to see those words besides your application’s name in the Task Manager window, isn’t it? But do you really know what it means? Most folks do not and it has been very costly for them.

Windows keeps track, fairly often at least, of the status of the various applications it runs for you. It sends a status request message to its open applications and when they give a prompt response that all is OK, it keeps quiet and checks again a bit later. When you open Task Manager, you are forcing Windows to perform another status check again, right now.

Windows has lots of other important things to do, of course. And since it has to check the status of ALL your apps (particularly in the case of Task Manager usage), it can’t afford to wait forever for an answer from every app. So it has a built-in “time out” period for which it’s willing to wait for a response to its status request. If the program doesn’t comply within that period of time, Windows gives the dreaded “Not responding” message.

No Cause for Alarm

What may be surprising for you is that this should NOT necessarily be a cause for alarm. It doesn’t always mean that your application has “died.” In most cases, it’s just too BUSY doing what you want it to do to respond quickly enough to Windows’ request.  This is particularly true of programs that interact with a database or perform other resource intensive tasks. While these activities are going on, the application is simply too busy to process all the messages coming to it from Windows, whether they be mouse movements, key strokes, or status requests. And if we’re patient and give it a little extra time, it usually “comes back to life” with no ill effects.

But when users believe that their application has quit working altogether, they sometimes take drastic measures and shut down the “dead” app when it’s in the middle of a critical database update step, often causing corruption. This is why so many MS Access database got corrupted in the late 90’s.  Users saw the “not responding” message and said to themselves: “Yep, that flaky Access database is corrupted and caused the application to hang. I’ve read about this problem!” And they shut down a perfectly running application causing the database corruption they thought already existed!

Don’t let this happen to you or to other users at your organization. Get the word out!!

“Not responding” just means we need to exercise that wonderful virtue we’ve been trying so hard to enrich: patience!

Reducing Wasted Employee Time

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Photo by Alan Cleaver

No nonprofit can afford to have employees waste time or effort.  No manager can expect employees to be 100% efficient either. Some time wasters can actually be rejuvenators according to an article on finding a productivity sweetspot by NICE Systems. (more…)

5 Ways to Evaluate Your MIP Business Partner

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Diagnose the value of your MIP Business Partner.

Abila’s MIP Fund Accounting program is powerful and that makes it complex. It’s important to have the best support you can get to make sure you use it efficiently and effectively.

MIP also responds to changes in compliance regulations and user needs through upgrades. These can affect how to do financial management tasks. Your support system should help you stay current. (more…)