Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Technology Committees - Meetings can have Value

I have long been a fan of Technology Committees, but I don't hear a lot of others talking about it. In my role at The Cara Program, we have a fantastic Technology Steering Committee. I can't begin to state all of the benefit this group has brought. They have provided assistance, advice and insight, but have also helped us make connections, find resources and accomplish things we couldn't do alone. But before I go into a little information about our Technology Advisory Board, a few thoughts about committees.

Purpose. I suggest starting with defining a purpose for the committee. You have to come up with something meaningful for the group to work on. This needs to be bigger than just whatever comes up and you need help on immediately. There should be a tie to a real need in the organization and if possible, a long term set of goals.

Structure. What type of committee will you have?

  • Policy - similar to the Board of Directors where they will set policy and make decisions. This could be called a review or approval committee also. But the key is you make the recommendations, they make the decision.
  • Budget - this group is really meant just to help guide what is feasible and what is the best use of your funds.
  • Steering - this type typically drives the process and comes up with the recommended solution, but brings it to another group or person to make the final decision.
  • Advisory - this role is more about opinions, advice and collaboration. The group comes in knowing they are there to help, support and be involved in a meaningful way, not drive and decide. There is still great value and involvement for everyone, but the decision stays inside the org.
I prefer the later of these (Advisory) for my technology committees. There are many times when I don't have all the answers or where technology decisions are just too complex for internal staff. I Plus with outside input, real innovation is even more likely.


Regularity. This group needs clear expectations and a regular schedule, but you can set the schedule. Our committee meets each quarter for our full meeting, but is in regular contact between those. And sharing updates with the group, without a request for help, can go a long way.

Commitment. Before you begin, make sure you are ready to do it for the long haul. You will need to put in the work to keep the group alive and active, but the payoff for them and your org is worth it.

Return on Investment. No, I don't mean for the org. I mean, make sure there is return on the investment of the time of your volunteers in the committee.

In my next post I will share some thoughts on who to include and what to do at the meetings. But you can see the overview for The Cara Program Technology Advisory Board on Slideshare.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I learned at #14NTC (NTEN Nonprofit Tech Conference)

People were the best part of #14NTC, which always seems to be true. I met so many new people and got to see so many I have known for years!

Kudos to the NTEN staff for a great event and for keeping a smile on their faces the whole time! (or close to the whole time)


Weds, March 12

Pre-Conference: How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading (check out the slides)
I was on the panel for this session, but learned a bunch of things before and during the session from the other amazing members of the panel.
  • Awesome report from Standish group on project success\failure
  • Creating a shared vision of success: • Everyone must have a shared understanding of what success looks like • Without it, you cannot get to a successful outcome • Senior leadership with tech fluency and IT leadership with mission fluency • The entire organization must be involved 
  • If leadership manages technology like Captain Picard where there is no discussion, it is just "Make it so," your tech staff will stop being creative and innovative.
  • If tech staff doesn't take the time to learn the business, programs, mission, etc., they won't be able to help the org's goals.
  • Investing in your tech staff is key. Don't spend all of your budget on an outside consultant and leave your staff without any training. I added a quote I heard about investing in staff: "What if I invest in staff and they leave? The real question is: What if you don't invest in staff and they stay?"
  • Rose shared how she used the IT Alignment Model I had a role in creating, plus talked about the value of doing an alignment assessment.
  • Great conversation between the leadership staff in the room and the IT staff in the room on how to improve communications-collaboration. Leadership should give IT seat at the table, give authority, share mission information, involve tech early, learn to involve tech in problem solving instead of order taking, etc. Techs should stop using geek speak, learn about the business, stop over-complicating policies, involve users in decisions, 
  • Talked about how to fail without collapsing the whole org. Learn to identify level of acceptable risk, do pilots, control the scope, build in go/no go checkpoints, set realistic expectations, etc.
  • Accountability and Authority are key elements to a successful project, consider using a decision making model like RACI.
  • Good quotes:
    • “Unfettered Quasi-Illuminati Fueled Social Engineering Conducted by Out-of-Touch Foundations Seeking Self-Aggrandizing Strategies.”
    • "Obfuscate stuff with Gobbldy Gook"
    • "Reviewing old tweets is not the best way to figure what staff knew after they leave"
    • "Funders need to leave room for failure to allow for success"
    • "IT Alignment doesn't happen because it is too easy for nonprofits to say "We Don't Have the Resources" or "I Don't Understand the Tech""


#NTCBeer!
I learned about the value of taking time to be social, this may seem easy for me, but it often isn't. I find ways to stay busy and avoid social events. It was proven worth while when a couple people from #13ntc approached me and we both immediately remembered a personal connection we had shared the year before.

Thurs, March 13


IGNITE! Plenary
I heard so many people just loved the Ignite Sessions! It was a fantastic way to kick off the conference:

My heart went out to Sue Anne Reed in the Ignite session! She showed amazing bravery sharing her personal stories of hard challenges, life lessons and outlook on life. She really stole the stage and engaged the audience, plus provided great thoughts for everyone to consider in their own life.

Huge THANKS TO Peter S. Campbell and Dahna Goldstein for being brave enough to bring part of Scope
Creep The Band into reality!

Here is a portion of my ignite session in a pre-recorded format:




Head in the Clouds: Real world experiences and recommendations for moving technology infrastructure to the cloud. 
Whether you’re working with a provider or building your own, moving to the cloud is an important step that takes planning, staff and dollars. This panel discussion looks at the whys and hows of moving to the cloud, as well as how two organizations approached their moves to the cloud.  Session specifics will include strategic planning, cost-benefit analysis, infrastructure planning, migration paths, best practices and more.
  • The cloud is not just one thing, need to understand some of the different models out there -- public, private, hybrid. Public are outside your network, often big services such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure. Private cloud is a function provided within your own firewall. Something you manage and control. Hybrid - moving to the cloud isn’t a binary choice. Can combine some services in cloud and others on-site, and integrate them.
  • Meeting user expectations are good reasons to consider cloud services: availability / access / mobile
  • Cloud combined with virtual desktop can create equal access to all tools across staff & org.
  • Cloud contracts are CRITICAL to read! When you migrate off, how do you get your data, in what format and when?
  • A few things for smooth cloud move: do homework, build a team, communicate vision, plan, test, distinguish need v want,

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together
From strategy planning to case studies following implementation, gain insight into how a strong partnership between IT and Communications can create a smarter, more sophisticated approach to your communications. (The Amazing Peter Campbell playing the role of IT)
  • Leadership must take a role in breaking down silos between IT & Marketing. Too often org chart & leadership builds tension.
  • Create a regular format for Communications and IT staff to meet on an ongoing basis
  • focusing on business goals gets everyone pulling in one direction. Take out the personal and advance the mission.
  • Make help desk process as easy & fast as possible to make tech friendly to mktg & more
  • View tech support as relationship not as service to users
  • Tip to have better relationship with IT  -  don't wait for computer problem to be in touch


Fri, March 14


Disrupting the Nonprofit Sector
 If we are going to truly solve the world's toughest social problems and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, we need to examine how the nonprofit sector can evolve to create more innovative and efficient organizations. This involves disrupting the nonprofit sector as we know it today.  Drawing from Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward's book Social Change Anytime, Everywhere, topics will range from 'Thinking Like A Start-Up' to exploring 'Reducing Competition and Consolidating Resources.'
  • Interesting idea: charge for a service, but refund the money if they show up. 
  • Striking that most orgs invest less than 3% in #nptech
  • Disappointment=reality minus expectations. A key to innovation is realistic expectations & know when to quit
  • Grow a culture of "we all succeed together" & "we all fail together." Don't allow all compliments to go to any one staff person, nor all of the blame (including leadership).
  • Need to delineate between Fail & Screwing Up. Accountability still needs to exist. 
  • Be purposeful on how much you experiment. Create innovation budget (not just dollars, but risk tolerance too)
  • Using run, grow, transform is a good budgeting framework to distinguish operations from innovation http://shar.es/RZndS 
  • Saying no to an opportunity, even when money is tied to it, let's you say yes to a better opportunity
  • If you want to spur change in your org, but you have no authority, figure out who influences the influencers in your org
  • Leadership should be cheerleader of staff ideas, not be the creator of all ideas.

Network Security for the Non-Profit: Beyond PCI Compliance
This session is for nonprofit tech professionals who have an interest in network security. Learn about various security options that scale keeping in mind limited time, expertise and budget.

  • Security matters b/c "damaged reputation/donor lack of confidence in organization could be catastrophic"
  • “you can transfer risk to a vendor…but you can’t transfer responsibility for your data”
  • Look for ways to tie your security plans to ongoing strategic & capacity needs.
  • Patching is 95% of the battle
  • definition based security is on its way out b/c threats are so dynamic, that means heuristics are the new it.
  • Ken shared a ton of tools and ideas on setup as well, but it is impossible to show without his presentation. (Here is a link, but not sure it will work)


Requests for Proposals: Making RFPs work for Nonprofits and Vendors
This session is for people who either purchases software and services as well as people who provide such things. RFPs are controversial, with good reason: a poorly written RFP does little to help the buyer or seller forge a successful transaction or engagement. (The Amazing Peter Campbell Presiding). Read the great session notes to see more, bunch of my notes in there.


Sat, March 15 (how did both of my sessions end up on Saturday?)


Balancing Project Management and Business Process for Long Term Success - I Presented
Business Process has invaded my career, my life and now my dreams. I will be sharing my experiences plus a lot of thoughts on Methodology, plus Betsy will bring her PMO skills to the table. I don't think I have ever seen a session like this one at NTC, it will rock.

Read the good session notes for this one too! To get an example of part of my session, you can take 10 minutes and watch the video below or check out the slides. NOTE though, the video misses our main point of the session, which was how to make Project Management and Business Process a part of your everyday work, not just during projects.

View the slides!



Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical Vs. Strategic Vs. Missional - I Presented
THIS WAS FUN! I haven't presented with Lindsay in YEARS, but we make an awesome and fun team, this will not be boring or a slideshow! This will get you thinking and involved. Seriously though, you will learn all new ways to approach your boring, old tech plan.

View the slides.

Read the session notes, but they can not accurately describe the amount of fun we had in this session. Nor can they accurately describe the type of thinking we encouraged in the audience.

SUMMARY

All in all, it was a great conference! I was so excited to hear so many people talking about how to match technology to the mission throughout the conference, it's like music to my tone deaf ears. I think the key point I learned this year, was to keep pushing to learn more, each time I feel like I get comfortable with a topic I find out there is so much more to know. NTC serves to solidify my love of the #NPTech community, so many knowledgeable, generous and passionate people! Let's get out there and use the tech to meet the MISSION!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where I'll be at #14ntc

Each year I follow in the inspiring example of Peter S. Campbell by sharing where I'll be at the Nonprofit Tech Conference.  You should read Peter's post to see where he will be! (I feel honored beyond compare to have been mentioned on his blog with a reference to my "inspired antics", love it!)

The annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference is something I look forward to all year long! This event has helped shape my career and the orgs I have worked for, plus it has impacted a number of orgs and staff I have collaborated or shared with. I love it. Anyway, here is where I will be at #14NTC.

HELP! Last year I made awesome plans to connect with people at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, but I don't have any of those plans yet, hit me on Twitter at @steveheye if you want to connect or leave a comment.

Or you can read what I learned at #13NTC to see if it helps you want to go!

Weds, March 12

Pre-Conference: How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading - I'm Presenting
Too much to say about this session! Highly talented, expert panel combined with a topic we all need help with, including me. Read my full blog post on this session! (NOTE you have to register for this)

#NTCBeer!
A mix of nerds and brew, need we say more? Celebrate the 6th annual #ntcbeer, the pre-conference party known for good refreshments and better conversation. Catch up with nptech friends old and new over a few brews or whatever. Visit us on Facebook!

Thurs, March 13

IGNITE! Plenary - I am presenting
There are five AMAZING IGNITE sessions, plus mine. My blog readers get this extra hint of what will be in store with mine, Justin Timberlake inspired me. (oh my)

Head in the Clouds: Real world experiences and recommendations for moving technology infrastructure to the cloud.
Whether you’re working with a provider or building your own, moving to the cloud is an important step that takes planning, staff and dollars. This panel discussion looks at the whys and hows of moving to the cloud, as well as how two organizations approached their moves to the cloud.  Session specifics will include strategic planning, cost-benefit analysis, infrastructure planning, migration paths, best practices and more.

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together
From strategy planning to case studies following implementation, gain insight into how a strong partnership between IT and Communications can create a smarter, more sophisticated approach to your communications. (The Amazing Peter Campbell playing the role of IT)

FUN After Hours!
Microsoft Reception
Salesforce Foundation Party
NPO Engagement Party Hosted by Idealist

Fri, March 14

Plenary: Where Does Tech Belong and Who's in Charge?
Join a roundtable of experts to take a deep look at where technology belongs and who exactly is in charge.

Tech Tools for NPTechies
This session is for small (under 75 staff) np's and is for the IT (accidental or purposeful) staff. We'll discuss discuss specific tech tools (some free or low cost) to help you make support users, run a network, and manage IT staff. Explore tools for managing hw/sw on a network, with examples appropriate to different sized organizations and skill sets.

Network Security for the Non-Profit: Beyond PCI Compliance
This session is for nonprofit tech professionals who have an interest in network security. Learn about various security options that scale keeping in mind limited time, expertise and budget.

Requests for Proposals: Making RFPs work for Nonprofits and Vendors
This session is for people who either purchases software and services as well as people who provide such things. RFPs are controversial, with good reason: a poorly written RFP does little to help the buyer or seller forge a successful transaction or engagement. (The Amazing Peter Campbell Presiding)

FUN!
Progressive Party, but not planned yet. Need some help here people!

Sat, March 15 (how did both of my sessions end up on Saturday?)

Plenary - The Future of Technology
Watching the signs. Join Willa Seldon, leading nonprofit expert and Partner at the Bridgespan Group, for a look at the big trends in nonprofits and philanthropy, and what that could mean for nonprofit technology.

Balancing Project Management and Business Process for Long Term Success - I'm Presenting
Business Process has invaded my career, my life and now my dreams. I will be sharing my experiences plus a lot of thoughts on Methodology, plus Betsy will bring her PMO skills to the table. I don't think I have ever seen a session like this one at NTC, it will rock.

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical Vs. Strategic Vs. Missional - I'm Presenting
THIS WILL BE FUN! I haven't presented with Lindsay in YEARS, but we make an awesome and fun team, this will not be boring or a slideshow! This will get you thinking and involved. Seriously though, you will learn all new ways to approach your boring, old tech plan.

GEEK GAMES!
Rumor has it that I may be involved in some of the games and bringing my Ryan Seacrest skills back to work.

SO much Stuff! If you haven't registered, DO IT NOW! If you have registered, change your travel to be there early for the Pre-Conference (Smaller crowds and more info!)



Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading #14ntc

All of us look back and can quickly think of times when a technology project went astray. Whether it was a minor misstep or a major fallout. So it isn't a matter of if you have failed, it is a matter of when you have failed.

This is the topic of our pre-conference session this year at the Nonprofit Technology Conference by NTEN.
Technology implementation is becoming more critical to nonprofit mission success every year. It's not just the nuts and bolts that keep your staff online, its the expansion of technology into mission, program, communications, development, and ultimately organizing that nonprofits seek to achieve. Using this broadened definition of 'technology,' we know that the failure rates of these implementations are extremely high - but why? These sessions will explore at both the strategic and tactical levels the constraints under which nonprofits must implement technology, the role strong internal leadership and understanding plays in their success, and ultimately, how to both succeed and to learn from inevitable failure to position your organization to fail in small, non-disruptive ways, learn from mistakes, and iterate for long term tech - and tech leadership - success. 

But this is more than a panel talking about why it is OK to fail. This will not be a discussion of theory, this will not be a presentation. You will come out with a set of tools to help ensure project success, but also be able to react and correct the course if things start to go wrong.

We plan to use some hilarious skits to illustrate points, dissect real examples for application, integrate methods you can use in your job and provide expert insight in topics like:

  • Setting expectations-defining the project goals
  • Managing the people
  • Communications
  • Process to manage decision making


Even as we have planned this session, I have learned a few new things. I am eager to attend and hear my co-panelists present. The team is an amazing one! Rose de Fremery, Dahna Goldstein, Tracy Kronzak, Robert Weiner and myself. It would be hard to build a more balanced team, ranging in expertise in technology strategy, change management, building staff skills, project management, business process and so much more.

I have presented many times at the NTC, but I can honestly say I have never seen a more prepared, well constructed agenda and great team.

It may seem like this is an attempt to just promote a session I am presenting in, but I really have a minor part. I just felt driven to share this session because I see the value and I know you will too.  I hope you will join us!

Read more about the session! And register for the NTC and our pre-conference session (a separate, free registration is required and has LIMITED SPACE).

Sessions like this and awesome people like my co-presenters gets me excited about the NTC! If you aren't registered yet, you should do it now!

Register for NTC before Feb 15 to save!

Monday, January 27, 2014

City of Chicago inspires my thinking around Tech

I recently attend an event hosted by LISC where Brenna Berman (CIO, City of Chicago) presented their plan to use technology to impact Chicago and it really got me thinking.

They have Five Strategies (paraphrased below from my notes):

  • Next generation Infrastructure
  • Every Community a Smart Community
  • Efficient, Effective and Open Government
  • Civic Innovation
  • Technology Sector Growth

Brenna spent a chunk of the time talking about making every community a smart community.  Smart communities is an effort already in progress with a few Chicago communities but will be rolled out to more.  The initiatives are:

  • Broadband access benchmark
  • Scale up smart communities
  • Free public WiFi
  • More low cost broadband
  • Youth tech education
  • Digital training
  • Digital excellence activities
  • Public computer access
  • Education resources

This struck a topic I love! IT Alignment. There is an understanding of the need to balance the people, process and tools in these initiatives. Making change in Chicago is an enormous task with the politics, diverse communities, unions, corruption, etc... The conversation at the event fascinated me to no end, I was surrounded by smart people with real questions, possible solutions and a desire to collaborate to have an impact.

What I really latched on to was the balance of infrastructure and policy with community needs and people. They understood the "build it and they will come" won't work. Providing infrastructure, computer labs, wifi and Broadband isn't enough, they need outreach, training and creative ways to get the tech into people's homes in ways they will actually use it.

I have just started to become aware of amazing technology innovation in Chicago through efforts of 1871 to provide space for startups, Starter League helping startups succeed, Chicago Maker lab offering 3d printing, Chicago Tech Academy build tech skills in our youth and i.c. stars focused on technology workforce development opportunities (actually I have know i.c. stars for a few years, they rock). Those are just a few, I know there are many more I am missing.

To me, much this is a great example of how to use technology directly to impact the mission. Technology can spur new opportunities, new ideas and new ways to change the world.



Read an article about the Chicago Tech plan

Or visit this set of deeper resources, including a video about the plan

Just my ramblings, sorry if this doesn't have a single point to it, just a collection of notes and thoughts I wanted to share.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical vs. Strategic vs. Missional

I am preparing for a session I will be presenting at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference.  I have been having an internal battle for 15 years on the topic of Strategic Technology Planning.  I have read books, blog posts, case studies and articles proclaiming the best practices of a Strategic Technology Plan. But as I often repeat, “Best for you, isn’t best for me. Let’s talk about Model Practices.”

This leads me to a topic I have seen bounding around recently. Maybe we don’t all need a strategic technology plan. At first, you have to focus on a stable infrastructure.

As a terrific example, Idealware has created their Tactical Technology Training, which I LOVE!

But we all know a strategic plan is needed for deeper impact of our technology. Which I would recommend the Tech Leadership Academy from NTEN.

However, the contender I want to bring to the ring is MISSION.

Sure our Strategic Technology Plan is tied to mission via a close tie to the organization’s overall Strategic Plan. But what about stepping back to find ways for technology to directly impact the mission, not to support the org in meeting the mission. Do you see the distinction?

Here are a couple slides to illustrate this, but I would love for a few people to watch the video embedded below and give me some real feedback.  I will be refining the concept, slides and presentation between now and March 2014.  This is just a sampling of what will be discussed there, but I could really use your feedback!






Thursday, January 2, 2014

In 2014 Don't Let Tech Turn into SOS. #TechRevival

SOS - Save our Ship (ok, it doesn't really stand for that, but we all recognize SOS to mean something like it)
or
SOS - Same Old Stuff (or SOSDD- Same Old Stuff Different Day, yeah, I know most people say something besides stuff)

If our Tech Language and Management is centered on SOS, we will fall into the following traps.

2007 - Day 98 - Photographic SOS III Distress - If DISTRESSED times are the only time we talk about our technology, it will be nearly impossible for technology to have a real impact or make real change. It is seen as a necessary evil, instead of opening new potential.

Save Us - If the Tech Team is only included or called when things are broken, all we can do is treat the symptoms. In addition, IT may be seen as the creator of the problem, so they had better fix it now, which does not allow Technology to thrive.

Helpless - If SOS is called for technology and IT help always fixes it for you, how does staff ever learn from it? Give someone a fish, feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and they end up spending all of their money at Bass Pro, err, I mean they can feed themselves.

BUT the worst of all is...

Ambivalent - Once users could go either way with your technology, take it or leave it, you are in real trouble. You don't want to hear things like:
  • "Go ahead and change the tool, not like it matters, you will just change it again later..."
  • "Nice Tool!" (secretly scampers off and continues to use work-around)
  • "You are the IT group, just tell us what to do and make it work."
  • "Our technology is fine, but I don't need it to accomplish my goals."

So what are we supposed to do?

Have a Vision and Share It!
You need to be able to tell the story of how technology is benefiting your organization and how you plan to improve it.

What if you asked an org about what they accomplished in 2013 and they answered:
"We answered our phones 11,123 times, turned on the lights each day we worked, paid our bills, had 50 staff show up each day they were supposed to and shook 4,234 people's hands."

If that seems messed up, then why do we talk about our IT like:
"Network is stable, 2,456 help desk tickets completed, 4 major projects completed on budget, 99.99% uptime, implemented 7 new tools." 

Who cares.

A real strategic technology plan. I strongly believe a Strategic Technology Plan aligned with your mission can make all of the difference. Especially if you turn it into a short digestible, visual document to be shared with all staff. 

The key is to be able to express the impact on staff efficiency, process effectiveness and new opportunities which came from your technology. What changed because of the technology you implemented?

Communicate it. Change the tone of communication about your technology, get the positive message out there. Paint a picture of the potential future.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking.  We are hesitant to share our future technology plans, because things change so fast and we aren't sure we will be able to do it all. To me the key for this is to focus on the direction and strategy, not the timeline and the tool.  

Here is what I like to do:
  • Share the specific projects coming in the next year, WITH specific goals on how it will change how we work and improve our organization.
  • Describe the long term strategy by talking about the philosophy and focus over the next 4-6 years.
Example:
  • Next year we will implement a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Our goal is to replace many of the manual processes tracked in Excel and decrease the paperwork needed. We will be improving our intake process to allow our admissions team to focus on the client, limit multiple data entry points and not be as distracted by the tools.
  • Over the next five years we will be looking to move systems to the cloud to shift internal support staff to focus on users, centralize staff collaboration tools to clear clutter and improve communication and look for ways to improve our business processes to better leverage our tools.
But the only way you can do the communication above is to be able to back it up with a Strategic Technology Plan.  You need to have the conversations about priority, upcoming projects, long term vision and have buy in with your plan before you can share it.

So a technology plan is more than just a document needed to manage your projects, it is a key to making technology a force for good in your organization.

Start 2014 right with a technology plan. 

New to Tech Planning? Read this article from Tech Soup!

Ready to add mission and strategy to your tech plan?