Hi there, Natalie here! I’ve been at NEW for just over a year, joining as a Financial Consultant. I’ve served our community the best way I know how: bookkeeping and consulting for mission driven organizations. But before NEW, I managed one of the ticket offices at U-M. There, I served fifty plus (50+) orgs on and off campus for four hundred plus (400+) events each year, bringing $2.5M gross sales across our desks. 

One of my charges upon being hired was to change ticketing systems. Having participated in transitioning systems before, I knew it wasn’t as easy as “changing” a new system. If it were to be done well, there would be: input across the organization (not only the senior management); process documentation; client/customer/user journey identification; and  benchmarking among similar organizations to hone-in on products that worked for our business model.

My instinctive approach to any clean up, discovery, or big decision making moment is to make a big, gigantic mess. It’s cringe (as the youth say), because messiness can be seen as a sign of inadequacy. And that leads to vulnerability. But without vulnerability there would be no growth or influence. Without making a mess and cleaning it up, what have you learned? Without driving around and getting a little lost, would you have discovered the gorgeous wildflower patch by the stream? You get my drift?  

I like to pull all the contents out and lay them in front of me, then reassemble to make sense. Be it patterns, colors, categories, any mode that makes sense for the project at hand works for me. In this way, I can truly understand the nuance, touch the data, and make sense of the details to guide the direction. My chosen organizational tool is a good, old-fashioned spreadsheet – with tabs and pivot tables holding notes, timelines, budgets, comparisons, etc. For me, it’s efficient to hold a lot of information and ideas, making it easy to reference. One day a project management tool may reign. *as I note this in my spreadsheet*

At the U, I worked with a wonderful project manager (s/o Melissa). She showed me that there’s actually a structure we can use to learn about these systems. It measures the potential success and fit of each system, which can guide our decisions. The mess that I make – deconstructing the current system and idealizing the future system – can be carefully plugged-in in a way that helps us choose the best fit. And all the folks who touch the system, use it, are impacted by it, and rely upon it are involved. They dictate their requirements of the system and score the vendors. I’m not sure if it’s an art or science, really.

It’s interesting how the things we are attracted to seem to follow us, huh? Or do we follow them? 

When I came to NEW, Allison, Director of Financial Services, said “your experience might be a good fit for the Systems Group.” They listened to my stories and plugged me in based on that fit. IT Director Terri and I began capturing workflows for each staff who relied upon systems that we identified as a focus area. We listened and captured notes, noting patterns. After a staffing change, NEW leadership reviewed needs and created a new position – Systems & Data Manager – to assist with system management. I found it hard to pass up, because it excited me and seemed in line with work that filled my days, but wasn’t my title. I considered it a universe alignment moment, and thankfully, NEW agreed. 

It’s been over a month since I’ve started this work, and the “mess” hasn’t yet been fully discovered. Project management tools, accounting systems, registration platforms, and Google drive organization schemes are on the docket for discovery and implementation. After we untangle all the bits, of course. I am jazzed to learn about the systems we currently rely upon from my colleagues here at NEW. I hope it helps better train our future NEW-lleagues. I want people to have guidance on maximizing the ability of our systems. I want cleaner data for making decisions. And I’m excited to be the person to lean on for all that. Perhaps one day we can offer this as a service to you, too, beloved community…