Verité is a small, non-profit organization with some big project accounting challenges.
The Amherst, Mass., organization, which aims to improve working conditions across global supply chains, employs 31 people and works with 100 clients, some of which have demanding financial reporting requirements.
For one such client, Verité is managing more than 30 projects and 90 tasks. The client wants Verité to maintain budgets for each individual project and task, assign expenses to each task, and generate invoices for each task. Verité found that it took two people two days to pull all the financial data required for budget and expense reporting as well as invoicing, according to Jenn Stachnik, accountant and IT manager at Verité. That manual, time-consuming chore inspired her to turn to Quick Base, a no code platform, to automate the data gathering and reporting process.
Verité had previously deployed Quick Base and had created a core application. On that foundation, Verité has constructed a number of tables through which its employees handle various project management and administrative activities. In Quick Base terminology, a table serves as a container that holds the data, or records, related to a particular project or task. For example, invoice records for a project could be housed in a table. And each Quick Base application can house many tables.
For its large-client reporting project, Stachnik used the native feature of Quick Base to create a template that pulled in data from multiple tables. The template, which took about six hours to build and test, shrinks the data gathering and reporting process for this client to mere minutes rather than days. And, as an additional benefit, it can be reused, Stachnik said.
"We intend to apply that template to our other clients and our tracking process overall," she said.
Saving time and money
Verité's use of the no code platform has boosted its efficiency. Stachnik estimated that Quick Base automation saves 60 to 100 hours of staff time per month. That's an important consideration given Verite's limited staff works with large clients including Gap Inc. and Nestle.
"We work with some of the biggest companies in the world with very large supply chains and they have very demanding requirements for reporting," Stachnik said.
Tracking such clients and their projects couldn't be done on an entirely manual basis, she noted. The use of Quick Base, however, helped the organization put processes in place, so it can spend less time on administrative tasks.
"It allows us to take on additional work" without significantly expanding staff, she said.
The cost equation is a bit more nuanced. Since deploying Quick Base seven years ago, Verité has been able to avoid $30,000 in software development costs. That's because Stachnik does nearly all of the Quick Base development on her own. The organization does work with a Quick Base developer, Data Collaborative Inc. in Arlington, Mass., but the company usually plays more of an advisory role.
"I like to fix problems and figure things out," Stachnik said. "I only go to the developer when I have a problem I can't solve."
But as Verité adds employees -- the organization hired seven people in the last 18 months or so -- the cost of using Quick Base goes up. Customers pay a per-user, per-month fee to use the technology.
Managing a no code platform
No code platforms such as Quick Base have given rise to citizen developers and citizen technologists -- people whose work life began in a non-IT field, but have nevertheless found themselves taking on a technology billet. Stachnik, through her work with Quick Base, has added IT manager to her original accounting role. Verité's use of Quick Base over the years has spanned such areas as project management, budget tracking and expense and timesheet tracking. The more functions Stachnik automated, the more interaction and influence she had with other departments.
"All of those things really helped my role with the organization grow," she explained.
Part of Stachnik's role is no code platform governance. The brief learning curve associated with such platforms is generally a strength, but can become a weakness if too many citizen technologists jump on the no code platform bandwagon. Stachnik said the organization had problems in the past with employees "just going and doing things" without checking whether the functionality they were building already existed in other departments.
Accordingly, Stachnik controls access to Quick Base and requests for automation funnel through her.
Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx, an industry analysis and advisory firm focusing on agile digital transformation, suggested Verité is hardly alone in needing to deal with no code platform governance.
"Redundant applications have been the bane of no code applications since the Microsoft Access days," he said, referring to Microsoft's database and development tools that let business users build applications. "Dealing with redundant apps that may or may not meet business needs or regulatory constraints are shadow IT governance issues that modern no code platforms must address in order to successfully compete in today's increasingly digital world."
Stachnik, meanwhile, continues to receive automation requests. Inquiries can come from a range of sources. Verité's operations include ethical labor practices programs that may involve field assessments and on-site training worldwide -- the organization has worked with brands and suppliers in more than 70 countries. Closer to home, finance and business development functions also require no code help.
"We have an open dialog between programs and the business side and myself … to find solutions to inefficiencies and problems people are having," she said.
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