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New delivery model for non-profit organisations: shared computing services

13 Mar 2013
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Abstract: The current economic climate of funding stringency has intensified the need for non-profit organisations (NPOs) to find new delivery models of their services as a way of creating greater efficiencies and reducing costs. Consideration of improvement to their back-office operations is one way of addressing overheads associated with delivery functions of NPOs so that they can continue to focus on their core business activities. The overheads for back-office functions are much larger for smaller NPOs (by about 10-15 percent) than the larger ones and interest in sharing services could appeal to that sector. One approach to reduce overhead costs is for two or more NPOs to collaborate in sharing office space and office equipment and, in some instances, outsourcing some functions, for example, human resources and information technology. Currently, in New Zealand, there is very little engagement by NPOs in sharing services, particularly back office computing services. It was against this background that meetings with representatives of eight NPOs in Wellington, New Zealand, identified the challenges they were facing. These included funding, client management, compliance with reporting (financial and non-financial), financial management and control, governance, marketing and promotion and retention and management of staff and volunteers. Wellington City Council, as a significant funding agent of some local NPOs, commissioned an online survey with the aim of understanding the interest and readiness of NPOs in adopting shared computing services. The survey was developed collaboratively with the council, a computing charitable trust and a local university. The objectives of the survey were: to provide a snapshot of computing usage within the organisations, identify significant issues challenging the sector and understand their perceptions of shared computing services. The perceptions of the Wellington region NPO representatives (147 valid surveys) regarding shared services are reported in this paper. Results reveal the factors that drive the uptake of shared services within the non-profit sector, the benefits, barriers and priorities of sharing computing services and respondents’ views on their willingness to pay for a shared services arrangement. NPOs were positive regarding potential benefits of a shared services arrangement but recognised potential barriers of privacy and security, a need for contractual relationships, shared vision and compliance and standardisation. Priorities for a proposed shared services model were identified as finance and management of data and knowledge. The majority of respondents indicated they were willing to pay up to five percent of their budget for a shared services arrangement. These results provide a basis for further study as to the type of shared services model that organisations would find acceptable and render efficiencies and cost savings.

Authors: Barbara Crump, Raja Peter Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand.

Paper to be presented at the 7th European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation, Gdansk, 23-24 September 2013.

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2013
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