David Deal: If you work at a nonprofit, this topic may lead you immediately to thoughts about online/digital strategies – engaging constituents through social and online channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
I believe that social change happens through effective organizations, and that technology plays a large supporting role in making them effective. To that end, my sharing focused on achieving social good by enabling effective organizations with technology. Here at Community IT we focus on IT guidance and support, and our guidance focuses on the internal technologies that help your organization to achieve its mission effectively and efficiently.
To that end, I offer four tips for enabling effective organizations (social good) with technology:
1. Make effective use of technology an explicit focus of the organization. Senior leadership needs to be engaged in how the organization is using technology, including both online and internal technologies. The organization needs to be clear on who’s responsible – for both the IT and digital strategy and for the various systems in use. This is rarely an easy question, especially as more technology decisions and purchases have moved away from centralized IT and to individual business units in many organizations. Broadly speaking, many organizations are not clear on this realm of IT governance. Getting clear on that and the importance of technology for the organization’s strategy is an important first step that either hampers or supports all other efforts with technology.
2. Keep it simple. The graveyard of information systems initiatives is littered with systems that were too complex. Most nonprofits are in the nascent stages of effective internal collaboration outside of email, despite the fact that this remains a desire for many, and so the capacity for using other information systems effectively among groups is often relatively limited. Consumer technology in the form of smartphones and apps has become relatively simple to use, yet our experience of enterprise IT is often the opposite. As organizations seek to build the ability to work together in systems other than email, it’s important to keep it simple – narrow down the functional areas, processes, and data you take on to the essential core, and build from there over time. As an endurance athlete, the analogy that comes to mind is that your team should train for a 5k together before taking on an Ironman relay!
3. Spend time talking about how you work together. Staff members change, processes change, technology changes, and business needs change – so it’s important to spend time talking within your organization about how you work together, and not only in the planning stages of an IT or information systems initiative. Talk about it regularly as you use the system, and maintain practices that support the intended use of the system including regular meetings that rely upon the data in the system, end user training, and more.
4. Invest. It’s tempting with so many free and discounted resources out there for nonprofits to underinvest in the tools and support necessary to make effective use of that technology. Staff need good devices and good Internet connectivity. Don’t pay a $50k annual salary and seek to save a couple hundred bucks on the computer equipment they’ll use 40+ hours per week. People need good software, but more importantly they need sufficient guidance and support to use it effectively, whether that’s guidance and support from outside consultants or staff who are focused on the effective use of technology as their primary role.
If your organization could use help with guidance or support for its internal technologies, please feel free to contact us here at Community IT.