Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently sat down with Mohamed Drahaman, Business Systems Consultant of Modrah Consulting, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Mohamed had a far-ranging conversation that touched on how Mohammed named his company, childcare organizations in the nonprofit space, the shift from paper-based to digitized systems, and how Modrah Consulting helps clients improve processes with Formstack for Salesforce. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Background on Modrah Consulting
Zak: Let’s start by hearing about Modrah Consulting. What is the focus of your consulting business?
Mohamed: I help multi-service nonprofit organizations maximize their investment in technology.
Zak: How did you get into this space?
Mohamed: I have worked in the nonprofit sector for the last 10 years. I started out as an educator in private school operated by a nonprofit, then moved into the accounting department at its head office. From there, I moved back into an educator role at a child care operated by a nonprofit organization. I worked my way up to supervisor, then a Senior Manager of Corporate Services, where I oversaw IT, marketing, and fundraising. My last role was as an interim Director of HR, where I got to see all the different sides of nonprofits. My journey probably resonates with a lot of senior leaders in nonprofit organizations who go through a similar career path.
Zak: When did you create Modrah Consulting?
Mohamed: It’s something I’ve been working on for the last four years. I was originally doing it part-time, but in July 2019, I officially started doing it full-time.
Zak: What types of businesses are you working with?
Mohamed: I focus on nonprofits that are multi-service, providing what’s called “fee-for-service programs” for children and families. I also work with other nonprofit community service organizations. However, most of the nonprofits I work with are in the education space.
Zak: Where does the name come from?
Mohamed: It’s a marriage of my first and last name. It was my wife’s idea! At first I wasn’t too sure, but you know, sometimes you’ve gotta listen to…your wife!
Zak: That actually reminds me of another partner of ours, SATRDE, who named their company after their wives. There are three co-founders, and so they combined their three wives names.
Mohamed: I should have done that with my wife’s first and last name! Maybe for our ten year wedding anniversary I’ll change it!
Zak: Now that’s a smart idea. Shifting gears—how are you finding new customers?
Mohamed: It’s a lot of cold calling, social selling, reaching out to people in my network. I also try to attend a lot of child care conferences.
Growth in Nonprofit Organizations
Zak: Let’s talk about growth. What does growth look like at a small nonprofit organization?
Mohamed: It’s a very slow process. Most of them will see massive growth within a two-to-three-year period. And within that time, they continue to rely on old processes. The technology doesn’t scale fast with what they’re hoping to do.
Zak: Are the organizations typically for or against evolving their technology?
Mohamed: It really depends on the people. The people who have been there for a long time end up having to come up with sub processes that bridge the gaps between processes and technology that’s in place. They want things to make life easier for them so they can focus on doing the parts of their job that they love. That’s where I come in and help implement processes and the right technology that helps them do just that. Another factor in technology decisions for a lot of organizations that I work with, especially in the nonprofit and child care sectors, is compliance. It is very important.
Zak: I can imagine that’s a huge thing. Let’s expand on that. What sort of compliance issues are these organizations faced with?
Mohamed: It’s about capturing clean data. Clean data is massively important, especially around a time when the Ministry of Education comes out to license these programs. To make sure that they’re compliant with all Child Care and Early Years ACT(CCEYA) regulations, organizations have to make sure the information they have about their children and staff is accurate.
Another issue I find is when executive-level management receives data, they are receiving it from siloed systems. Often the information is staggered and disjointed. This makes it hard to see the whole picture. They don’t see potential non-compliances and are not able to deal with them before the Ministry of Education arrives for an inspection visit. They are also not able to make key business decisions and solve any potential problems until a month afterwards. They get stuck in a retroactive patchwork solution loop, rather than being able to make proactive decisions.
Zak: How does this impact the business?
Mohamed: It has huge impacts on making critical business decisions. I often talk to my clients about working with old data and getting stuck in a retroactive patchwork solution loop. This keeps them from being able to see problems and put in place proactive solutions. This problem is usually started by the method in which they’re collecting data. We see paper registration forms and excel sheets being used to store registration information. Once that ends up happening, there’s a delay in getting the information into the system so there’s a delay in customer service. When you have this type of paper-based data collection, they can’t do much with the data that they’re bringing in.
So my focus is to make sure that there is an online registration and intake process—that these service programs are streamlined with the right technology. When I talk to clients, I always show them a triangle, and if one point is weak, the whole table comes down.
Zak: Is that triangle people, process, and technology?
Mohamed: Exactly. Ignoring one of those can have catastrophic effects on your business systems. That’s why when I put a solution together for a client, I start by interviewing the people and then bridge the gap between their processes and technology with the people in mind.
Zak: You touched on data collection. We have on one hand this antiquated way of collecting data through paper-based systems. And then on the other hand, the new modern way is through digitization and automated processes. How does this conversation go with new clients?
Mohamed: It can be tough because change is hard, and there can be a lot of inertia in the organization. There’s a lot of fear around the idea of eliminating manual data entry and introducing process automation. Questions like “What does this mean?” and “Will some of us start losing our jobs?” come up often.
It’s about going in and helping them understand that first, no one is going to lose their job. And secondly, that implementing processes like this will make them more efficient. It’s about eliminating process chaos and unnecessary tasks so they can focus on doing the things they should be doing. A lot of these nonprofit organizations usually start with gatekeepers who started as employees who wear many hats. If you’re good at what you do in the nonprofit world, it means you’ll take on a lot of responsibilities. If I can help eliminate some of those mundane tasks, it’ll free up their time to do things that they love.
Components of Compliance
Zak: Let’s go back to the compliance requirements you’re seeing for nonprofits. What are some of the key components of compliance?
Mohamed: These organizations need to capture children’s information and medical information. These programs are licensed, and the Ministry of Education must conduct a licensing visit where they go through all of the registration forms and make sure that the necessary information is collected with the right practices in place. We have to make sure that if you’re going to move away from paper registration, that you’re capturing the data securely. It needs to be HIPAA compliant, and if they’re accepting payments, it needs to be PCI compliant. When I talk about compliance, these are the things I focus on. It’s security and the integrity of the data.
Zak: Can you tell me more about the licensing visit and what it looks like?
Mohamed: They can be very stressful. The program advisor from the ministry will go through your policies, children’s files, staff files, as well as observe your educators in the classroom. It puts the educators on edge as well as the supervisor of the program. When these program advisors come for a licensing visit, if there are issues with the data, such as incomplete phone numbers or missing emergency information, it counts as noncompliance. And the number of noncompliance determines which tier your child care programs lands on. Depending on the tier, it could increase the number of licensing visits you receive throughout the year, which is a huge distraction to a child care program. The more accurate your data is, the easier those visits are going to be, and the less headaches for the people who work there. As a former supervisor, administrative matters are what is fully in your control. If you have accurate data in the children’s files and staff files, then that makes the day go much easier.
Zak: Is it well understood that these businesses need to be HIPAA and PCI compliant?
Mohamed: Unfortunately, it’s not very well understood. Most of these organizations are still new to this idea of being on the cloud or implementing cutting-edge technology. Some of the organizations that I’ve worked with were collecting credit card information over email. They’re passing this information back and forth via email, or they’re sharing Excel spreadsheets with credit card information.
So it goes to show how new this technology can be for some organizations. One of the things I focus on is a review of their processes, and then I go through and help them understand or make them aware of the risks they’re taking with these processes. I also walk through the importance of this type of compliance to ensure privacy and what it means to collect and share data securely.
Zak: It seems like you have an emphasis on educating organizations on the risks of noncompliance and what that means for their business.
Mohamed: Exactly. I conduct these risk assessments and help them put strategies in place to minimize risk so they can focus on what they should be doing, which is serving their constituents—their children, families, and communities.
Modrah Consulting & Formstack
Zak: When it comes to introducing Formstack, how do you go about that conversation?
Mohamed: I was recently working with a company where I shared Formstack as a great solution for their business. They were looking to make the process of collecting information much easier and were ready to get started with setup right away. I helped them take a step back and look at this project in smaller pieces we needed to fix that would contribute to the whole. We first needed to walk through their current setup and remove any barriers. This is always a difficult process to work through, but it needs to happen so they can realize the true potential of a solution like Formstack.
Zak: What is the aha moment for your customers? In other words, what’s the one thing that really resonates with them when you’re talking about Formstack?
Mohamed: It’s always the time savings. I’ll tell them that they’re currently spending an hour on something that should take them seconds, and that’s the moment where I get their full attention. From there, they realize that I can help make their lives easier by removing manual data entry from their day-to-day.
Zak: Especially given that time is so precious for nonprofits who have limited resources but still have so many programs to manage.
Mohamed: Absolutely. One of the things that attracts people to working for nonprofits is the focus on work-life balance. As organizations grow, it’s great for the business, but if you don’t have the right processes in place, that work-life balance can erode. This can lead to burnout and high turnover rates.
So it’s my job when consulting the executive team to shed light on how we can eliminate manual tasks so their employees can focus on doing the job they want to be doing, while also maintaining a good work-life balance. They’re going to stay longer, and you won’t have to deal with the headaches that come with staff turnover in the nonprofit world.
Zak: When along the way did you discover Formstack?
Mohamed: The first time I discovered it was about two years ago on the AppExchange. And then last year when I was working with a client who was looking for a solution that would allow them to eliminate their paper-based registration packages, I recommended Formstack. We could capture the information right into Salesforce. When it comes to Salesforce implementations, Formstack and Salesforce just go really well together, so the decision was easy.
Zak: Formstack and Salesforce have a great partnership, and now you are part of our partner program with a growing community of Salesforce consulting firms.
Mohamed: I was lucky enough to become part of the partner program. It was the perfect partnership opportunity. The amount of support I’ve received from yourself, Justin, and Bryce is truly amazing. Anytime I have a question, anytime I send out an email, someone always responds quickly.
Zak: Let’s wrap up with the lightning round. What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
Mohamed: I love sports. I’m a huge basketball fan. I love the Raptors—world champs! I also love video games.
Zak: Do you have a productivity tip you can share?
Mohamed: I don’t check my emails as frequently as I used to. I’ve started scheduling one hour blocks a day because they can really eat up productivity. I also work from home, so scheduling every part of my day on my calendar helps me keep track of time.
Zak: Do you have a favorite TV show?
Mohamed: I’d have to say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Zak: What’s your go-to lunch during the work day?
Mohamed: A Jamaican patty
Zak: Speaking of food, we have a debate here at Formstack: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Mohamed: I’m going to say yes. It’s in bread. Anything that’s in between bread is definitely a sandwich. Unless you eat it on its own, but then…I’m not going to complicate this debate. What side are you on?
Zak: Oh, I’ve asked this question so many times now! I’m going to say it’s its own unique thing.
Mohamed: That’s a nice approach; sit on the fence. Good for you!
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