Robert Brockway | 5 Feb 02:56 2012

Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

Jonathan, please add the item "Discussion of back office support" to the 
February meeting agenda.  I believe this should fall within general 
business but don't mind if you put it in another category.

My intention here is for the board to discuss this topic, not to make any 
firm decisions during this board meeting.

There is no need to post any of the material below in to the meeting 
announcement.

CC:ed to spi-general so the community can discuss.

There have been informal discussions within SPI for a while about 
acquiring assistance for the day to day operations of SPI to improve 
service delivery to projects.  This is especially important considering 
that the number of associated projects has been increasing recently and 
all indications are that this is going to continue.

Two possible approaches to obtaining back office support are discussed 
here.  This discussion does not exclude the possibility that other options 
exist.

(1) Using a back office company

Numerous companies (in the US and elsewhere) provide back office support 
services.  A concern here would be obtaining a package that fitted with 
SPI's needs and was within SPI's budget.

(2) Hiring a part-time employee

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Jimmy Kaplowitz | 5 Feb 03:22 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

Hi Robert,

One thought first on discussing this in the meeting: we should probably have a
predetermined time limit for this item, since discussions are usually hard to
make deep progress on during the meeting, but it's reasonable to spend a bit of
time to get comments there.

As for my substantive thoughts:

On Sun, Feb 05, 2012 at 11:56:09AM +1000, Robert Brockway wrote:
> (1) Using a back office company
> 
> Numerous companies (in the US and elsewhere) provide back office
> support services.  A concern here would be obtaining a package that
> fitted with SPI's needs and was within SPI's budget.

I was at one point involved with another nonprofit that used this kind of
service. That nonprofit ended up moving those man-hours to in-house volunteer
board members because it wasn't cost-effective for their needs. Although every
organization is different and it would be a bit less inappropriate for SPI than
for them, I still think it's a worse option for us than either your option #2
or the status quo.

> (2) Hiring a part-time employee
> 
> Another option is to hire an office assistant on a part-time basis.
> The office assistant could work for however many hours per week that
> was agreed with the SPI secretary (subject to upper limits set by
> the board). We may find, for example, that we only need an office
> assistant to work for 4 hours per week to achieve our aims.  The
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Robert Brockway | 5 Feb 15:04 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

On Sat, 4 Feb 2012, Jimmy Kaplowitz wrote:

> One thought first on discussing this in the meeting: we should probably 
> have a predetermined time limit for this item, since discussions are

Yes fair enough.  I find that having a real time discussion with all or 
most directors present is a useful way to move a discussion forward.  A 
short discussion should be sufficient to get us started.

> As for my substantive thoughts:
>
>> (1) Using a back office company
>>
> I was at one point involved with another nonprofit that used this kind 
> of service. That nonprofit ended up moving those man-hours to in-house 
> volunteer board members because it wasn't cost-effective for their 
> needs. Although every organization is different and it would be a bit 
> less inappropriate for SPI than for them, I still think it's a worse 
> option for us than either your option #2 or the status quo.

Yes I personally suspect that option #2 would probably offer better value 
for money but I'd like to take a closer look at option #1.

> This seems useful. We do seem to be rather bottlenecked on the man-hours 
> of remarkably few individuals, principally Michael. To be clear, I'm 
> very happy with what Michael is doing, and having been in his role some 
> years ago I know how hard it is. Still, more man-hours would give him 
> and the rest of SPI more flexibility.

Indeed, and it would allow SPI to continue to scale.
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Henrik Ingo | 5 Feb 16:03 2012
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Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

On Sun, Feb 5, 2012 at 4:04 PM, Robert Brockway <robert <at> spi-inc.org> wrote:
>> I was at one point involved with another nonprofit that used this kind of
>> service. That nonprofit ended up moving those man-hours to in-house
>> volunteer board members because it wasn't cost-effective for their needs.
>> Although every organization is different and it would be a bit less
>> inappropriate for SPI than for them, I still think it's a worse option for
>> us than either your option #2 or the status quo.
>
>
> Yes I personally suspect that option #2 would probably offer better value
> for money but I'd like to take a closer look at option #1.

Just in case it wasn't obvious: If the envisioned amount of hours is
less than 10 per week, then #2 provides for the option that the part
time person would be someone already active in one of the SPI
projects.

For instance a US based university student with the needed skills
would probably be an ideal candidate. Choosing this kind of person
would then enable a "growth path" where either a) the person could
become full time employed later if SPI grows and the person graduates,
or b) he could later stay a volunteer (such as a director) in SPI,
when he is no longer able to have a part-time job due to graduating,
working full-time, family and other reasons.

henrik
--

-- 
henrik.ingo <at> avoinelama.fi
+358-40-8211286 skype: henrik.ingo irc: hingo
www.openlife.cc
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Jonathan McDowell | 5 Feb 19:05 2012
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Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

On Sun, Feb 05, 2012 at 11:56:09AM +1000, Robert Brockway wrote:
> Jonathan, please add the item "Discussion of back office support" to
> the February meeting agenda.  I believe this should fall within
> general business but don't mind if you put it in another category.
> 
> My intention here is for the board to discuss this topic, not to
> make any firm decisions during this board meeting.

I have added this, but the previous approach has been that such
discussion should take place on the lists beforehand, rather than a new,
free ranging discussion being begun at the meeting itself.

My main concern is that we lack definition of "back office support".
What tasks do we expect this new resource to carry out? You say:

> I envision that this office assistant would report to the Secretary and
> principally provide support for the Secretary and Treasurer.

but I haven't seen anything from Michael stating areas he would like
help with, nor have I encountered any areas myself that I think would be
greatly aided by another pair of hands.

I'm not saying this because I'm against the idea, I just think that we'd
need to have at least a rough set of defined tasks that we think are
pain points now (or will become so as we grow) that help would be useful
with.

J.

--

-- 
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Gregers Petersen | 6 Feb 19:21 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

Hi

On 05/02/12 19:05, Jonathan McDowell wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 05, 2012 at 11:56:09AM +1000, Robert Brockway wrote:
>> Jonathan, please add the item "Discussion of back office support" to
>> the February meeting agenda.  I believe this should fall within
>> general business but don't mind if you put it in another category.
>>
>> My intention here is for the board to discuss this topic, not to
>> make any firm decisions during this board meeting.
> 
> I have added this, but the previous approach has been that such
> discussion should take place on the lists beforehand, rather than a new,
> free ranging discussion being begun at the meeting itself.
> 
> My main concern is that we lack definition of "back office support".
> What tasks do we expect this new resource to carry out? You say:
> 
>> I envision that this office assistant would report to the Secretary and
>> principally provide support for the Secretary and Treasurer.
> 
> but I haven't seen anything from Michael stating areas he would like
> help with, nor have I encountered any areas myself that I think would be
> greatly aided by another pair of hands.
> 
> I'm not saying this because I'm against the idea, I just think that we'd
> need to have at least a rough set of defined tasks that we think are
> pain points now (or will become so as we grow) that help would be useful
> with.
> 
(Continue reading)

Robert Brockway | 8 Feb 01:35 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

On Sun, 5 Feb 2012, Jonathan McDowell wrote:

> I have added this, but the previous approach has been that such
> discussion should take place on the lists beforehand, rather than a new,
> free ranging discussion being begun at the meeting itself.

Hi Jonathan.  I don't envision the discussion at the board meeting would 
be terribly in depth.  Id just like to gauge the general feeling of the 
other board members.

> My main concern is that we lack definition of "back office support".

I deliberately left this a bit vague at this stage.

> What tasks do we expect this new resource to carry out? You say:

Well areas that I had in mind include:

* Fulfilling any state & federal annual filing requirements

* Processing reimbursement requests so that the treasurer just needs to 
authorise them

* Data entry, such as entering reimbursement requests to the accounting 
software

In my experience these are time consuming tasks that can be readily handed 
off to an assistant.

The very nature of ad hoc reimbursement requests makes them difficult to 
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MJ Ray | 8 Feb 20:56 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

Robert Brockway <robert <at> spi-inc.org>
> I plan to work on a DR/BCP plan for SPI which will involve me 
> understanding those processes but I haven't got there yet.

It took me some brainpower because bookkeeping is not the context I
usually see it in, and I think I've more often seen it called
emergency incident response plan, but for anyone else as thick as me:

Is DR/BCP a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan?

Thanks,
--

-- 
MJ Ray (slef), member of www.software.coop, a for-more-than-profit co-op.
http://koha-community.org supporter, web and library systems developer.
In My Opinion Only: see http://mjr.towers.org.uk/email.html
Available for hire (including development) at http://www.software.coop/
Clint Adams | 9 Feb 04:35 2012
Picon

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

On Wed, Feb 08, 2012 at 07:56:45PM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> It took me some brainpower because bookkeeping is not the context I
> usually see it in, and I think I've more often seen it called
> emergency incident response plan, but for anyone else as thick as me:
> 
> Is DR/BCP a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan?

Yes, DR and BCP are often conflated.  The former is a plan for
recovery of infrastructure after a disastrous system failure
while the latter tends to focus more on personnel.

So DR might concern itself with what to do if our accounting
system blows up, and BCP might concern itself with what to do
if all the officers get kidnapped by aliens.

The greatest side effect is usually the authorship of
comprehensive and accurate process documentation that can
be used not just for unlikely emergency situations, but
in the case of normal humdrum personnel changes or for
outsiders trying to understand how an organization works.
Josh Berkus | 8 Feb 02:16 2012

Re: Agenda item for February SPI board meeting

Robert,

I'm in favor of getting paid help.  Currently we are entirely too
dependant on schultmc's time availability.  And we have the money.

> (1) Using a back office company
> 
> Numerous companies (in the US and elsewhere) provide back office support
> services.  A concern here would be obtaining a package that fitted with
> SPI's needs and was within SPI's budget.

A second issue, when it comes to check processing, is protection from
errors and malfeasance.

A third issue is that no such company will use free software without us
paying them lots of extra money to do so.

This deserves a fair amount of research by one or more SPI members.
Volunteers?

> (2) Hiring a part-time employee
> 
> Another option is to hire an office assistant on a part-time basis.  The
> office assistant could work for however many hours per week that was
> agreed with the SPI secretary (subject to upper limits set by the
> board). We may find, for example, that we only need an office assistant
> to work for 4 hours per week to achieve our aims.  The hourly rate of
> someone performing this task is likely to be quite modest.

The problem with extremely part-time employees is that they tend to be
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Gmane