IT, technology and digital

Compassion in World Farming: Oracle NetSuite implementation

Compassion in World Farming underwent a rapid implementation of a system called NetSuite with the help of a grant from, a foundation who donate $70 million of software to ...

Compassion in World Farming underwent a rapid implementation of a system called NetSuite with the help of a grant from, a foundation who donate $70 million of software to non-profits and social enterprises. Nick Dugdale discusses how they made the case for the change and made sure it aligned with their strategy and wider charitable objectives. nickdugdaleThe process started in December 2016 and we went live in April 2017. It has been a challenge but also a great success. NetSuite is a Cloud based (Software as a Service) system. We felt that this system is fit to support Compassion in World Farming’s ambitious international strategy and can be rolled out to each country, giving us a real time consolidated view of our organisation. It allows us to have greater integrity of our financial information and more robust financial controls in place. It is also really helpful that there are no additional upgrade management costs or IT infrastructure costs as they are both included in the licence fee.

Learning points

The cloud based systems also offer free trials and product demos. It was really important that we included our whole finance team from the start and we were asking for feedback from staff at an early stage. We are also still collecting feedback as to how we can improve the system and our training. It was also very helpful to get peer references about different products. We went and visited other charity finance teams using different products and had product demonstrations from real users in the sector. The suppliers should be able to organise this for you but you can also use it as an opportunity to be proactive about networking with other charities yourself. As well as the cost benefit analysis we did an implementation risk analysis. This follows the familiar risk management approach of impact, likelihood, appetite and mitigation. Some examples we considered include:
  • Employee dissatisfaction with system change
  • Finance team unable to meet low level operational responsibilities and commitments
  • Significant month end reporting delays
  • Late paying of suppliers and potential disputes
  • Unplanned costs arise including need for additional project support
  • Fraud committed amidst process change
  • Non-audit related data migration issues and delays

Are you due a finance systems review?

Technology is always changing. The pace of this change can feel overwhelming for small organisations and over 80% of UK voluntary organisations are classed as micro or small by NCVO. Charities are fantastic at finding opportunities to do more with less and, with cloud technology you might be able to find something that can help you to work more efficiently whilst also costing less money each year. The finance systems available today are considerably better than the ‘legacy systems’ that many charities are still struggling with. There is a real opportunity now to make the case for change to your Trustees and Senior Management.


Many charities are using systems that have been superseded and are no longer fully supported by their suppliers. One thing I have heard too many times from finance system customer support teams is that they are unable to help because you are not on their latest version of their system. Cloud based suppliers can now ensure that all their customers are on the same version of their software which means that the quality of support can be greatly improved. There are now large web communities full of people with different levels of experience from both small and large organisations learning together. There are many free online training materials available for these new cloud systems too.

Death by spreadsheets

Do you require large numbers of spreadsheets for reporting and financial management outside of the system? This can be incredibly difficult for new staff to understand and there are data accuracy, privacy and security implications too. There is a lot of terminology that makes new technology seem daunting and it can be difficult to understand the ‘types of cloud’ on offer. Some suppliers call their products cloud because they use Remote Desktop or Hosted server solutions but these are not true software as a services (SaaS) Cloud-based solutions. The ICAEW accredited software list was a really useful tool to help me to initially understand what products were available: Hear from Nick Dugdale and Oracle NetSuite at CFG's IT Conference on Thursday 15 March. Secure your early bird place now. « Back to all blog posts