5 Steps to Create an Information Strategy for Your Organization
Are you leaving your information strategy up to chance?
To move your nonprofit organization to the next level, you need to create and promote an information strategy that defines how information supports your mission.
A good information strategy includes 5 important steps:
- Leadership must be engaged in data governance—if leadership doesn’t support the proper use of the right systems, your information can’t reliably support your nonprofit mission.
- Your organization’s operations must be prepared to implement and use your information systems—if you aren’t ready, then you can’t successfully implement an information strategy.
- The processes used by your nonprofit must be clearly defined and mutually understood by all stakeholders—if you aren’t speaking the same language, your information will continue to fall into the cracks.
- Data must be structured and managed in a high-quality and easily accessible manner—if you build it, maintain it.
- The right technology must be selected to support your nonprofit’s needs—but no technology can overcome problems in the previous four steps.
Community IT Innovators is proud to present this webinar with Peter Mirus at Build Consulting, who expands on these five essential aspects of a good information strategy.
He provides real-life examples of organizations that overcame challenges in these areas and were able to change their strategy and improve their fundraising and mission effectiveness.
Using the practical information presented in this webinar, viewers will be able to identify areas to strengthen their organizations’ current approaches to information strategy.
Peter Mirus, Partner at Build Consulting, is an expert at helping organizations and people to learn, communicate, and grow through the use of technology. He has over 20 years of experience helping nonprofits of all sizes create and implement successful business improvement and technology projects. He is a frequent speaker on technology and nonprofit topics, and presented two sessions on data and information strategy at the Good Tech Fest in Chicago in May 2019.
Transcript of slides:
- 5 Steps to Create an Information Strategy for Your Organization
- Continue the conversation via… @buildconsulting linkedin.com/company/buildconsulting buildconsulting.com/contact
- Next month’s Community ITwebinar: “Nonprofit CyberSecurity Awareness” Sept 18 from 3-4 PMET
- Interact Ask questions via chat. Connect on Twitter. Focus Avoid multitasking. You may just miss the best part of the presentation! Webinar Recording and Slides Links to the recording and slides will be shared after the webinar.
- Invested Work exclusively with nonprofit organizations; have served over 1,000. Strategic Help our clients make IT and IS decisions that support mission. Collaborative Empower you to make informed choices.
- How Build leads in the social good sector. Build Teams Build Projects Build CIO
- Peter Mirus Partner, Build Consulting
- My background by the numbers Years serving nonprofits 20 Clients 100+ Primary areas of expertise 3
- Tomorrow’s best nonprofits will use technology to transform themselves… and the world.
- More than 50% of nonprofit technology projects fail.
- The technology moves forward… but the organization does not.
- Transformation is critical to your success.
- Build’s Information Strategy Framework Leadership and Governance Data Operations Process Technology TM
- The Five Keys to an Information Strategy Engaged, set the vision/strategy, make key decisions. Leadership Data Operations Processes Technology
- The Five Keys to an Information Strategy People, project management, communications. Leadership Data Operations Processes Technology
- The Five Keys to an Information Strategy Design, document, execute. Leadership Data Operations Processes Technology
- The Five Keys to an Information Strategy Collect, organize, maintain, use. Leadership Data Operations Processes Technology
- The Five Keys to an Information Strategy Technology aligned to the four prior keys. Leadership Data Operations Processes Technology
- Operations Data Technology Leadership Processes The Five Keys to an Information Strategy
- Unlock Your Organization’s Hidden Capacity
- Actively engaged executive sponsors
- Identify business benefits and performance measures
- Project planning and direction
- Change management
- Risk assessment
- Collaborative, iterative approach
- Supportive tools
- Professional skills development
- Requirements definition
- Operations Data Technology Leadership Processes The Five Keys to an Information Strategy
Peter Mirus: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the August webinar for Community IT Innovators presented as a partnership with Build Consulting. Today’s topic is five steps to create an information strategy for your organization. And again, we’re sorry for the delayed start. We were having some trouble with GoToWebinar, but now everything’s working properly. So we’re looking forward to digging into the information that we have to present to you.
We received a number of excellent questions in advance from registrants, you guys, which we tried to take into consideration when creating this presentation’s content and if we have extra time at the end, we’ll take additional live questions from the audience. If you would like more comprehensive answers to a particular question or something that speaks more directly to your individual situation, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to have a dialogue with you.
There are also a variety of different samples of deliverables or different aspects of an information strategy, different kinds of plan pieces or other resources that might be of advantage to you. If we have time, we’ll get into those near the end as well. But we may not have time to do that today and we’ll be happy to provide them as follow up resources.
And just a quick update on next month’s Community IT Webinar, it’s going to be on non-profit Cyber Security Awareness. It’s on September 18th from 3 to 4 p.m. It’s going to be presented by Matt Eshleman, and he’ll be covering the basics a security plan should include giving updates and a synthesis of our recent security webinars on understanding risks, considering cyber insurance, security incident response, best practices, and some other related topics.
Before we get started, here are a couple of quick housekeeping notes. Feel free to connect with us on Twitter and ask questions via chat. Especially towards the end of the presentation we’ll get into your questions if we have time. Avoid multitasking, you may just miss the best part of the presentation and as always, the webinar recording and slides as well as any associated resources will be shared after the webinar, and be emailed to all registrants. A little bit about Community IT and Build Consulting so you can understand a little bit more about why we do what we do in this space. We both are mission committed to serve non-profit organizations exclusively. We help them to make the best information technology and information systems decisions that support their mission. We have a collaborative approach, which empowers our clients to make informed choices for their organizations.
Community IT is focused on providing outsourced network management technical support services and Build Consulting leads in the social good sector by providing three different types of services and we serve as part-time or interim CIOs for non-profits. We perform business process technology and data projects ranging from strategic assessments and roadmaps to system selections and implementations and we also provide outsourced data managers for the Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce with deep development operations experience and non-profit CRM expertise.
My name is Peter Mirus; I’m your presenter for this webinar. A little bit about my background by the numbers, I have 20 years of experience serving non-profits, all manners of non-profit organizations, ranging in size from small or local to enterprise global non-profits across a variety of different industry categories and mission orientations. In over the past seven years, I’ve worked exclusively with non-profit organizations. During that time, I’ve worked with over 100 clients in both the non-profit, government and for-profit spaces over the course of my career and roughly 30 to 40 of those have been non-profits and I have three primary areas of expertise: marketing, constituent relationship management, and information strategy, which is the subject of today’s presentation.
So Build Consulting was founded on the premise that tomorrow’s best non-profits will use technology to transform themselves and the world. And the reality though, is that more than 50% of non-profit technology projects fail. Build’s analysis of industry statistics, combined with our observations of hundreds of organizations in the non-profit sector indicates that the success rate for non-profit tech projects is under 50% and you can find summaries of the relevant studies and their findings on one article on our website buildconsulting.com.
Our experience is that most non-profit technology projects fail because of other factors than technology. What do we mean by that? Simply that in today’s market, non-profits have access to a broad range of quality technology solutions, there’s a good or at least a good enough solution for the vast majority of needs. So what’s the challenge then? Well, it’s often not the technology, but the fact that organizations don’t first identify and make the organizational changes necessary to successfully select and implement new technology or make significant improvements to the existing tech. So the technology moves forward as its selected and implemented, but the organization does not.
In one way that we represent this to our clients and to non-profits in general when we’re making these kinds of presentations, is just to emphasize the transformation is critical to your success. This formula OO+NT = EOO stands for old organization plus new technology equals expensive old organization. And the whole purpose of creating an information strategy is to make sure that you’re connecting technology to the strategic mission of your organization in ways that are practical, tangible, and help to ensure that you’re going to be successful with your technology investments.
So what does an information strategy for your nonprofit look like?
(6:08 if you want to find your place in the video or MP3) Well, this is Build Consulting’s Information Strategy Framework and it emphasizes that the challenges are largely cultural orienting around leadership and governance, operational capacity, business process, and data modeling, before you get to technology, and we created this framework to help clients explore these considerations and there’s the white paper that’s available on our website that’s aligned to the topic of this webinar. It’s titled Build an Information Strategy for Your Organization and you can go to the resources section of the site and download it. So that’s an available resource.
So yes, there are technological problems to be addressed, but as one study reported 48.5% of executives said the problem was related to the people in the organization, while 32% blamed processes and 19.1%, pointed the finger on technology. So we just want to underscore that, yes, technology is extremely important. It can be a catalyst or for transformation at an organization, but it is not going to create the transformation on its own and all of these other aspects of the information strategy that you put together really need to take place upstream of when that technology is selected and implemented.
So what are the five steps to building an information strategy or what are the five key aspects of an information strategy? (7:18) Well, we just saw them, but we’re going to step them a little bit and turn here. So when good leadership is engaged in setting the tone for an initiative, it typically goes much more smoothly. Even seemingly small information management initiatives benefit when leadership participates. So one example is over 18 months of working on a major Information Management Initiative, progress and success related in this case directly to leadership’s commitment to participating and making key decisions at critical junctures. So you want to make sure that leadership is engaged, it’s setting the vision or strategy and making key decisions on policy, and what the outcomes of the organization’s processes are going to be directed towards.
The next key thing is operations, you want to create an operation strategy and plan that gets the right people on the bus. Resource and capacity planning are critical. Good project planning and management are critical, particularly time management, having the communication tools to communicate with all of the audiences that need to be involved in a project or process and you got to make sure that you have all of those aspects in place. The operational capacity around people, project management communication, specifically, to make sure that the technology projects that you engage in can be successful that they have all of the supporting resources that are needed.
It’s not just about finance, although, but having necessary budget is important. A lot of organizations don’t consider the true cost of implementing technology from an available resource capacity standpoint and so even if they develop a budget for getting the technology implemented or even getting it adopted, initially, the resources aren’t available and the operations of the organization help secure the adoption of that technology over a prolonged period of time, which is what you want, you want your technology investments to last multiple years not to be just one shot and then the 18 months later, you’re looking for something else to replace it. So having the operational capacity in place to do that is very important and we’ll get into some greater elaboration on leadership and operations in a couple of minutes.
Next, in the information strategy keys is processes, you want to design document and execute the processes that your organization is undertaking, because the technology is really there to serve the processes. So designing effective processes means more than just coming up with the best way to do something, it means developing sufficient documentation of the processes and above all, executing those processes consistently. It’s one thing to agree to a standard process while in the conference room and another to actually put it in practice at your desk and so we really want to make sure that when we’re engaging with technology vendors, whether software solution providers or implementation partners, or even managed service providers, that you can clearly articulate the processes in which the organization engages on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and that everybody internally is on the same page with that before going out to the market to select and implement technology solutions.
Flowing from processes is data because as you execute those processes, there are different data points that you need to collect, organize and maintain, and use in order to fulfill your mission. So you really need to make sure the data is consistently collected, organized, and maintained to have an effective information management environment and so the processes and data aspects really go together. They help ensure that you can actually make good quality decisions based on the data that you have, that data is collected via reliable processes and analyzed via consistent processes, stored reliably, etc.
And then finally, you get to technology. It can be viewed oftentimes as the simple answer to just problems with leadership operations, processes, and data. But for the most part, technology is supportive of how organizations behave; it doesn’t drive how organizations behave. So new technology, will for the most part, not make up what is lacking in the other areas. So we often say, “technology comes last.” And that’s because you really have to have all of that components upstream, working together in order to make technology effective at your organization.
So you want to come up with a strategy that encompasses how leadership is going to engage in technology initiatives and support them, how operations are going to be aligned to support the needs of the projects and the technology use over the long term and to make sure that the processes, the data, and technology management won’t be hampered by something lacking in the leadership or operations area. So if you don’t have good leadership operations and process which are more organizationally focused, success and data and technology management won’t happen. That’s just the plain and simple of it.
So with these keys or steps to an information strategy, we want to make sure that you’re unlocking your organization’s hidden capacity and it takes all five of those aspects working together.
Keys to Success
So I’m going to talk about nine different keys to success that are primarily focused on elaborating how you build the information strategy out in regards to leadership operations and then some aspects related to process data and technology. These are sort of to elaborate on the five key areas and help you to understand how to get some sense of operationalizing them within your organization, how are you actually going to go about building this.
So the number one thing that you can do is make sure that you have actively engaged executive sponsors in your technology projects and that you plan for that consistently. (13:44)
Executive sponsors should provide visible participation and regular communication with the audience that you’re working with on the project and those who are impacted or benefited by it and they should also assist with the prioritization of resources towards the effort, providing guidance and support and ensuring accountability.
Particularly for major projects that require extensive reallocation of staff time to complete successfully, such as a broadly used CRM system. Actively engaged executive sponsors may by itself be the difference between being successful with the project and not. And we frequently see non-profit orgs start with strong executive interaction in the project, but then that attention wanes over time. There is a strong correlation between losing executive focus on the project and project performance setbacks.
If you’d like to read more on how executives can best support technology projects, there’s an extensive post on our blog, written by one of our partners, David Deal, who’s a lead strategist at Build and he’s also an experienced CEO, a non-profit CIO and non-profit board member. If you’re struggling with getting leadership engaged in policy creation and in technology project participation, this post on our website could be an effective tool for getting the right buy in and engagement from senior execs because they’re more likely to absorb the message of actively engaged to leadership from someone that’s been at their level within an organization than they are to absorb the same message from a director, manager or staff member at a lower organizational level. So we’ve just found, that when a CIO or CEO or experienced senior executive leader goes to an executive within your organization and says, “This is what we’ve observed needs to be delivered by you in order for this initiative to be successful,” that’s often what it takes to get that individual within your own organization to make the time and prioritize commitments to it.
We often say that when you’re undertaking a major systems project inside your organization, such as a major CRM effort, as envisioned earlier, that can be a very disruptive process for an organization and it should be a top three priority for your organization for the duration of that project and that includes being top three in terms of the engagement and time commitment of one or more executive sponsors. So it all starts with leadership.
And then a significant thing that leadership should engage in is identifying business benefits and performance measures. (16:19) It should be done as a collective effort, including all necessary stakeholders, but it should be led by leadership and as part of creating the strategy for how your organization is going to engage with information and technology everybody should agree on what purposeful actions during technology implementations and beyond will ensure that the benefits that were envisioned for the technology are realized and sustained after that project ends. That really requires saying, “What are we shooting for?” and then developing clear structures and models for performance measurement.
An example of business benefit would be if you were going to try to increase sustaining members or sustaining donors for your organization by 10%. Technology can help support this, particularly if it predicts which donors will become sustainers and helps automate the outreach campaign process. But technology alone will not address the issue and this is where the purposeful actions that I mentioned come in. So purposeful actions during the implementation might include effective training of staff on how to use the features, documenting new business processes to make sure that they can be sustainably performed over time, including surviving potential employee turnover and really measuring the success of the implementation itself, user adoption over time and then ultimately, the business benefit of that 10% increase in sustaining members. So these are all things that require engagement of leadership in order to be done effectively and so the organization should plan for how to engage leadership in that way and for leadership to drive these initiatives as part of the information strategy that you’re going to create.
Now to talk a little bit about operations and what that means from a practical level in an information strategy. (18:15) So you really want to make sure that you have great project planning and direction that your information strategy for all that encompasses all of your say, plan technology initiatives over the next 24 to 36 months, is supported by good planning and direction and experience here is key.
You need to choose someone to lead the projects that has already successfully performed similar work in similar situations, whether that be in another organization or environment or in your own organization. That individual or individuals that are doing that project direction, must be empowered. It’s very difficult for an under empowered project director or manager to be successful when stakeholders feel free to ignore or disregard that individual or if–and this is a direct relationship to leadership, because leadership has to be engaged in order to consistently provide that message of empowerment to the project leader.
Another critical aspect of this or a primary challenge is that successful time management at non-profit orgs is not often arrived at and the employee time is often not budgeted or tracked for the project that’s being engaged in currently or other projects that are competing for time and attention with the employees. Oftentimes, what we see in non-profit organizations is without this time management aspect, the behavior is that all staff time is considered infinitely flexible and of course, we know that’s not true. So as a consequence of this, staff are often given new responsibilities associated with the technology projects and managers don’t do anything to take anything off their staff’s plate so that they have the time available to commit to the effort. Because there’s no clear idea of what time is currently being utilized in which direction, no clear, comprehensive picture of that. And that results in many technology efforts underperforming or failing outright as well as morale problems and increased turnover during lengthy projects. So project planning and direction is key, you really want to lay out solid project planning and direction guidelines for your information strategy, so that all of the necessary aspects of experience, empowerment, and good task and time management are present in order to be successful.
Change Management is Critical
And going along with the project leadership and power project leadership and direction, you really want to take a look at change management. (20:44) Technology change always requires some sort of behavioral change and the practice of change management helps define the change that is coming, assessed its impact on the various roles within the organization, and helps prepare those roles for the impact.
And here’s another area where we have tools available on our buildconsulting.com website to help you. We have a change impact analysis, how-to tool and template in the resources section of our website.
Effective change management incorporates leadership alignment, communications, training and support and so this is an area that is necessary for every implementation project at some level. So having a theory of how you’re going to deliver change management in the course of implementing your technology efforts, as part of your information strategy is key.
And so to give a good example, I’m currently working on a Salesforce community-based client case management system that’s being rolled out to 10,000 volunteer mentors across 300 chapters nationwide and in that scenario, leadership alignment includes not only the leadership but the national office, but also regional vice presidents, district directors, and chapter leaders. So there’s a lot of different people that need to be involved and making sure that those in leadership at every level are aligned to the business goals and performance metrics for the new system is very critical. Communicating the phase timing of the rollout as well as value props for the new system across the entire volunteership of 10,000 plus individuals is highly critical and training all expected users in the new system is of course highly important as is planning for and delivering Help Desk Support to support these new users.
And these things: leadership alignment, communications, training and support need to be taken into consideration for all technology projects from the earliest stage regardless of the project size. But of course, the level of change can make capacity needs to be scaled for the size of the effort and will be at its greatest scale for large and complex projects. So you really need to make sure that change management is a part of your organization’s vocabulary, that there are clear steps for doing change impact analysis for considered technology improvement efforts or data transformation efforts and you really want to make sure that the organization is prepared to deliver on that as part of its operational capacity. This is very key for all non-profit organizations and often not budgeted for. So it’s good to think about it within the context of your projects as early as possible, such as for example: if you’re creating a three year information strategy and technology roadmap for your organization.
Risk assessment (23:35) as an aspect of operations is another organizational sort of operational capacity that a lot of non-profits don’t have and it’s particularly necessary for larger complex projects, but it’s good to just do a small cursory risk assessment for small initiatives as well and what it includes is to say, “Here are all of the potential challenges or risks for this project that we’re considering. What is the source of the risk, the probability of its occurring, and the potential impact on the project cost scheduler performance?”
It also introduces what might be called a mitigation or response plan for each risk. And the risk assessment is not a one and done proposition. It has to be revisited and then updated to track the status of existing risks and add new ones as they enter the picture. We all know that technology projects don’t just go perfectly smoothly, especially over long time frames and there are new considerations or opportunities and challenges that need to be considered and some of those might go into the risk category. One typical example of a risk that is inherent to all projects, particularly ones that have long time frames associated with them, is lack of stakeholder availability to participate based on conflicting priorities or events. And depending on the degree, this risk could have a high impact on the project cost, schedule, and performance. And a good example of how to mitigate such a risk would be to take steps to make sure that team members are free from responsibilities that conflict with the progress on this project.
So if you have a group of people that are working on changing management for a major CRM implementation effort, but their time is competed with for an accounting initiative, for example, and you didn’t properly take into consideration how the risk of those competing priorities might delay project timelines or stress levels or whatever the case may be, then you haven’t done a proper risk assessment. So it’s important again, to have this as an operational capacity within your organization that’s baked into your information strategy and not having this can make a difference between success or failure, particularly in large scale technology implementation projects.
A Collaborative Approach to Building an Information Strategy for Your Nonprofit
Another thing you want to have in your operations toolbox is pertaining to creating a good solid information strategy is a collaborative or iterative approach (26:00), because studies show that organizations that take an open and collaborative approach focused on incremental design and implementation processes show greater potential for success, and this is most commonly referred to as an agile process.
This style helps keep all of the key stakeholders engaged throughout all of the many critical decisions and review and approval processes through a technology project from the start of requirements discovery all the way through to post implementation phases. It also helps break down projects complexities into bite-size chunks.
Now, one warning is appropriate here, it’s important that when a vendor is selected to help implement a software system and that vendor uses an agile approach that they have the ability to be flexible when working with an organization that has never or never successfully been through a true agile process. Because introducing an agile process to an organization unused to working in that style can be a major culture clash and can cause projects to get bogged down or collapse entirely.
For agile projects, for example, it is very important that stakeholders are frequently available to participate in design reviews and user testing, sometimes on a weekly basis and this means committing the necessary time to make business decisions within accelerated time frames compared to what the organization is accustomed to.
So applying agile principles in a way that will truly work for each organization is very important and you have to make sure that you plan for that appropriately, you understand what an agile approach is, where you’re most likely to be able to use it effectively for your particular organization in the context of the information projects that you’re considering implementing over the course of the next several years on your roadmap.
Another thing that you definitely want to have in your operations tool set is supportive tools (27:50) and you want to understand how you’re going to use these tools to implement your technology projects over a long period of time. And successful projects most frequently create a digital collaboration environment that manages and socializes critical information related to the project.
We prefer using something called Teamwork Projects to tools like Base Camp Asana or Microsoft Project, we find that Teamwork Projects is the easiest to get people into and provides a robust set of capabilities that are pretty intuitive to use by comparison to other solutions. But the key is to have a functional space that’s universally adopted by all the key project participants in which folks can be on the same page in regards to milestones, tasks, agendas, notes, files, risks, and critical conversations, any information that the project requires to be successful. The best way to make sure a tool like this remains in active use with up to date information throughout the entire project, is to use the information in the system as a live point of reference within team meetings and drive Performance Reporting to stakeholders through it.
So you really want to make sure that if you’re using Base Camp or you’re using Teamwork Projects or any other tool, that it doesn’t just become something that one person is using and reporting to the rest of the team out of. That does provide some benefit, but ideally, in order to keep multiple people on the same page, including if you’re managing multiple projects in which the stakeholders are engaged in simultaneously or at least to some degree of overlap, you want to make sure that everything’s kept in one place together, frequently accessed, and reported on by the entire team.
And just the last point around operations was capacity and this is an important point Professional Skills Development.(29:37) So technology projects, particularly large and complex ones often require team members inside the org to step into roles for which they’re not fully equipped. The most successful projects take this into consideration and take steps to make sure that the team members are provided with professional skills development that they require to be successful in those roles. Studies show that special emphasis should be given to planning, communication, teamwork, time management, and change or adaptation skills.
So this is something that’s critical that you really need to weave into your information strategy if you want your technology projects to succeed at a high level.
So to provide an example, there’s one major project in which I’m currently engaged and in that project, I have weekly professional development meetings with the active VP of technology and the project coordinator and ad hoc meetings with the same purpose towards other team members. The VP of Marketing and strategy at the client who’s an executive sponsor for the project holds regular professional development meetings with other key project stakeholders that report to her. And in this way, we collaborate to ensure that all team members have their heads up when it comes to broadening their individual visions, and equipping themselves with the perspective and skills they need to thrive in their project roles.
So this is an under considered aspect of information strategy for a lot of non-profit organizations, just to make sure that they take care of the care and feeding of the team members that are involved from professional skills development standpoint.
Information Strategy for Your Nonprofit: Requirements Definition
Now we’re going to talk about a little bit the process data and tech aspects that are downstream of those more organizational aspects of information strategy, which are leadership and operations and the thing that I want to talk about here and I could choose many things to focus on for process data and tech, but the thing I want to focus on is requirements definition. (31:35) So for both business and technical requirements, you want to make sure they’re carefully documented and prioritized.
If the organization has a poor understanding of its current business processes and data or processes are performed in consistently or data quality has been poorly managed, then thorough business requirements can be very difficult to develop. That has a direct impact on the technology that’s selected–whether the technology that’s selected is appropriate for your organization and then once selected, poor business requirements are one of the leading contributors to projects running over budget and over schedule.
So one of the reasons that Build Consulting prefers to get involved with client technology projects during the early assessment of roadmap phase is because when we first get involved with the implementation phase, it often becomes apparent that the organization needs to back up and do the requirements definition in a more deeper, thorough manner before it can have a successful implementation. And when a vendor is engaged and the implementation is already moving, it can be really difficult and costly for the organization to push the pause button and backup and do different requirements, especially since that could lead to the selection, the decision to go with a different implementation partner or a different software solution.
But the consequence of involving Build earlier or just in general, making sure that you do your requirements definition for processes and data gathering really well up front is that software vendors frequently tell Build that our clients are better prepared to have successful software selections and implementations than any of their other non-profit customers. It’s common for us to hear feedback like, “I’ve been working in this space for 15 years and this is the best RFP we’ve ever received,” and that’s because their clients have already anticipated, wrestled with and made important requirements decisions ahead of going into the selection and implementation efforts. And this results in selecting software that matches the needs of the organization, as well as a much better mutual understanding between the non-profit org and the vendor about what it will take to successfully complete the project, including a much more accurate projection of the total cost.
So requirements definition is kind of a theme that unites processes and data together as well as technology sort of building those business requirements. The processes all of the individual all activities are associated with those processes. The deliverables those processes produce, the roles and responsibilities of different functions within the organization in terms of fulfilling those processes, how that relates to data collection, and then technology requirements.
So we just covered a lot of information really fast and I want to just do a quick recap.
The five keys or steps to building an information strategy starts with leadership everything downstream will prosper if leadership is engaged in the right way and helping to prioritize resources for the organization’s operations that will truly support transformative change efforts when it comes to technology and the management of information.
You want to make sure that your processes are well defined and as well as your data gathering requirements and requirements and methodologies because those are critical to defining your requirements in such a way that you’re going to have the right technology on board and that technology is going to really meet the needs of your organization for a long period of time.
So again, technology comes last and everything upstream of that needs to be done right in order to have a really productive information strategy should work for your organization.
Now, I just want to show a few examples of different work that we’ve done in the information strategy area for clients in the past. So you can get an idea of how to convert these five steps into actual products or strategy documentation for your organization and the needs of every organization vary based on its size and complexity, but these are just some practical ideas.
An Information Strategy for Your Nonprofit: Executive Summary
So this is an example of an executive summary that was produced for an information strategy. (35:49) It just basically points to the large opportunities and challenges that present themselves to the organization from the ability to take on data and technology related projects. And you can see here that these recommendations are, yes, the non-profit org stands to gain from an improved technology environment, but there are gaps in leadership operations, business process, and data management capacity, that’s prevented it from using technology at a high level in the past and we’ve recommended these gaps be remedied before approaching any significant technology change and that there’s going to be cultural change in order to do that. So this is an example of how we would approach sharing the opportunity with a client and recommending that the gaps be met.
You could do a similar thing for your own organization, working through the information strategy, say, “Here are the things that will work and won’t work for our organization, here are the specific areas of leadership operations, business process and data management that require improvement.”
And then you can break that down in terms of leadership and governance, you can say, “Well, here are the challenges that we faced here are the opportunities, we’ve had shifting strategies and leadership. We need to shore that up. System data is difficult to mine and leverage because of the directional changes. We lack in IT governance framework…” just to sort of organize some things that we typically see it in non-profit organizations from a leadership and governance standpoint, operations things that we commonly see organization under resource for technical and business operations. Replacement technologies are often provided with adequate requirements gathering – that we discussed – and staff show reluctance to ask for system support. (37:37)
So you want to organize your observations of the organization into the areas of the information strategy and really say, here’s what the current status, here’s what we’re observing today, in each of these areas, here’s how we need to adjust that in order to move forward clearly.
You want to document your process areas (38:00) and say here are the areas of key challenges and opportunities within that – sort of present the theory of how your organization’s business lifecycle is managed in this case, starting with marketing, moving forward into development, establishing relationships, maintaining relationships, and so forth, and the lack of the challenges that are presented in those processes today, and how those need to be shored up in order to take advantage of technology and so forth for the other areas.
What are the current states of the data landscape at the organization and what are the information systems that are currently in place? And how can we improve this in order to deliver to the needs of the organization.
So these are just some examples of what the deliverables look like and the level of complexity associated with them.
And then you want to create a vision of the future that really says in each of these areas of information strategy, here’s what we’re looking to achieve. In this case, leadership that integrates information strategy into organizational strategy and creates a culture of accountability for proper business practices and Information Management and we have one key critical focus point for each of the different areas of the information strategy here and then we get into additional detail about how those things need to change or be augmented in order to be successful in defining the path to the future. (39:38)
What’s the case for change? Why should people go through the cultural change necessary in order to perform in Information Management set of practices effectively? What’s the benefit and then when you actually get to the roadmap, you are defining it in terms of setting the stage for change, knowing that change will need to take place in order for technology and data projects to be successful. We’re going to begin the change in maybe the second year, in this case, by doing system vendor selection, implementation planning and then during this case of this particular client, years 3 and 4, working through subsequent implementation phases.
This just provides additional detail for all the leadership operational business process and data and technology requirements for the first year and this is where you get into your super practical areas of recommendation. You want to make sure that, for example, focusing on technology requirements that you want to document technology requirements and principles that should be applied across all technology systems.
Thinking about data security feature configurability, integration, and user experience, and so forth for the next two for how far the duration of the Technology Roadmap is and then as a part of your information strategy, you want to indicate how those–the roadmap- is going to play out over time and this is just a visual of what we’re looking at a minute ago. (41:13)
What Does an Information Strategy for Your Nonprofit Include?
So an information strategy document should clearly address all of the areas of the information strategy, leadership, operations, processes, data and technology, and apply those to how the Technology Roadmap transforms the organization over a period of time and space with timelines and budgets.
Some other things that organizations might develop as part of an information strategy project may include very specific information management policies, where you really get down into how the organization is going to manage organization from a policy and process standpoint in terms of governance, management of information, who owns that information inside of the organization, and user acceptable use policy standards and processes for data archiving and data backup.
You might want to do load projections in terms of operational capacity across major projects. (42:22) So you know how you’re going to need to scale up or down in various areas to have the resources necessary to support your technology change initiatives. You might use things like constituent journey maps to make it clear to everybody what you’re–at a high level what your business processes are within a particular area, as you create your business requirements. You can then take that to the next level by saying: within that constituent journey, here are the detailed process maps, including the data collection points, key decisions, etc. So this is how you would visualize for everybody what your business processes were, in regards to creating business requirements and having the capacity to do this is an important aspect of your information strategy.
Talking about something that you might see in terms of data mapping or you might create an object relationships mapbetween your data points in order to get a comprehensive and mutually understood view of how to manage data inside of your organization and translate that also into data, business and technical requirements.
You might need to do a detailed data inventory, in this case, says for this particular data, what is its collection point, what data object is it contained within, how does that represent itself in a form field and the system that needs to be created, etc.
You might create technology systems integration maps that shows how your organization is currently handling data integrations and so those integration points can be taken into consideration in the planning of future technology enhancements or new technology adoption projects.
So we’ve covered a lot of information very quickly. Again, I apologize for the late start. I think the main thing that I want to communicate today is that information strategy is the process of dovetailing technology and data planning into the organizational strategy of your non-profit, and it really helps to make sure that as you’re planning for strategic initiatives that your non-profit, whether it’s in regards to development goals, whether it’s in regard to program development or creation of new programs or doing better monitoring and evaluation on existing programs, whether it’s in regards to setting up a new AT process for your ERP or accounting system, new grants management system, whatever the case may be, that you’re saying,
“This is how technology is going to support the mission of the organization. This is a framework that we’re going to use to make sure that our leadership is aligned and participative in those kinds of changes that start at the organizational level and then mature down through the technology. This is how we’re going to make sure that our operations are aligned to take the mission of the organization and those program imperatives and use technology to support those initiatives.”
So we have a little time for Q and A at the end here. And again, if you have any questions about anything that you’ve seen today, you can reach out to us using the information provided at the top of the webinar, you’ll also get a follow up email about this presentation with links to the slides and the recordings. Eventually, a transcript will be made as well after we can get that done and you can feel free to respond to that newsletter email with your questions or any desire that you have for follow up.
So feel free to chat your questions in. I got an early one in the process that said, could you share an example of an information strategy that your firm has produced? I just went without going through an entire information strategy, I just went through some of the examples of what that deliverable might look like in terms of saying, here’s the current state of what we’ve observed from leadership operations, process data and technology standpoint, here’s what we’re seeing today, here are the challenges or the roadblocks that are in place and how it relates to our organizational strategy and then here’s a future vision, a case for change and a roadmap of how recommended projects would take place over a period of time.
So hopefully, that was helpful. I can provide a detailed walkthrough of one or more deliverables to then individuals, that would be helpful, you can follow up with me after the fact, happy to do that.
And I also frequently get the question, well, how can we make this operation for our organization? It sounds like a good thing in theory, you present a lot of information for us to consider. How can we right size that for our organization? How can we get the help that we need if we want to get outside help?
I mean, this is something that the only way to address that question for each specific organization is to have just start with a half hour/45 minute conversation where we can listen to your needs and make some recommendations about how you might move forward, either independently on your own or with some input from a consultant or third party such as Build Consulting or Community IT. It’s definitely an area where we’re happy to have a complimentary conversation or a little upfront consultation with you at any time.
So whatever your questions are, however they might be formed or whatever state of baked-ness they are in, feel free to just shoot us an email or connect with us on LinkedIn or otherwise get a hold of us and say, Hey, can we schedule some time to chat or can we get together for coffee? Oftentimes, you know, maybe we’ll just be able to give you a direction to point you in or a couple practical things that you can implement at your organization right away to start getting things moved in the right direction and then maybe if it’s not possible for your organization to engage in a full scale information strategy, it would be possible just to take those next couple steps to get things moving in the right direction, so you don’t feel like you have to bite off everything in one big chunk and with that, it’s at the end of our time.
So thank you again, everyone for participating today, it was great to spend time with you. I hope you benefited from this presentation and again, look for the follow up email messages from us to all registrants with the links to the slides and the recording and in a week or so you should also be able to find the full transcript of this conversation on our website. And again, you can visit buildconsulting.com to download any, or read any of the resources that were mentioned during our conversation today. So thanks, everyone, I hope you have a great rest of your day and I’ll look forward to connecting with you in the future. Bye.