Recently, several of us at CITI met with Paul King of Process Experts (and former CIO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). We knew there was a connection when we read his tagline, which reads “Integrating People, Process, & Technology,” which is a concept and the exact language we use at CITI in our own collateral material and conversations.
The conversation with Paul confirmed our notion that social mission organizations need an integrated, holistic, strategic approach to technology and that we should continue to offer our CITI as CIO approach to help organizations align their technology with their mission, make their existing operations more stable, and potentially reduce costs in the process.
At one point in the meeting, Paul said, “The biggest problem is that the people who know the technology are often brought in too late, rather than in the strategic planning phase.”
An organization’s leadership needs to be engaged in conversations and planning around technology.  A trusted technology adviser can help nonprofit leaders better understand how technology can solve their individual and organizational problems.
Another theme that came up in the conversation is the need for more information sharing and fewer silos both within an individual organization and between nonprofits. One real value-add that a CITI CIO could deliver is the cross-pollination and exchange of ideas, information, and best practices across nonprofits.  CITI serves as a community builder and connector, helping multiple organizations develop innovative solutions to common needs.
An article in the November 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review on Galvanizing Philanthropy speaks to the challenges philanthropic investors face when choosing between initiatives. In the article, the authors recommend a process of getting clear, getting real, and getting better to maximize impact, and they highlight some of the strategic decisions these investors face. Information technology wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the article (though data played a significant role), but IT can frequently be a catalyst and tool to demonstrably increase organizational effectiveness – and thus investments.
Paul King is a CIO who has been having this discussion with investors and we look forward to joining him!