Thursday, May 20, 2010

Software randomly creates policy where none exists & other stuff I learned

If there isnt a documented process, policies or set of standards that your organization uses to define it's best practices on how business is conducted, then by default your software may create it for you.  Software and the solutions you use will have built in policies and processes. So in lieu of you picking the best way to run your business you allow the software to do it for you. WOW! How come I had never really put that thought together in my head?

Ok, so in many cases following the rules and policies dictated by your software is a good thing. Many times these are based on regulations, business practices and audit standards.  But beyond that should you determine the most effective way to run your organization, then try to adapt those practices to your software.  Rather than seeing how the software works, then letting that dictate your process?

Slow down Steve, where is all of this craziness coming from?

I was excited to be given the chance to present my #10ntc Ignite session for a small group over at the Great Book Foundation.  My ignite session tries to relay a point about how technology staff talking about tools and solutions can kill your audience. After that I spend about 20 minutes talking all about IT Alignment stuff from the NTEN book.  Then we opened it up for some questions and answers.

There was a group of questions that revolved around determining policy, planning technology strategy and staff roles in all of this. That is when someone asked about how do you manage a multi-layer technology strategy that meets the needs of the individual staff, each department and the full organization.  If you are meeting all of those needs wouldnt that require multiple technology strategies and require those strategies to start from very different perspectives?

That lead me to try to explain how you do need to have a few parts to your IT Alignment strategy.  This goes back to John Merritt's idea of the ART of the Technology.  ART = Alignment, Relationship, Transparency.  First, have a strategy to make the technology work so well that it is transparent, second work to build relationships between IT and the rest of the org, third move technology to meeting the mission through Alignment.  So yes, it is a bunch of strategies, not just one focused on mission, but that is still the end goal.

Steve, you are so off track yet again, wasnt this post about software creating policy?  Yes, it is about that and I am trying to get back to that if you would just let me.

This then loops us back to the comment about software creating policies and practices where there are none. If you dont have a well rounded technology strategy that is focusing on all three elements Alignment, Relationship and Transparency tied to the mission it is easy to let the tools take over.

WOW! Did you see how I just tied that all together and referenced the ignite session as well? ZOINKS!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stop selling Slurpees and Lead with questions

Solutions. That is what IT Staff is good at. We see a problem or opportunity and we come up with solutions.  We have a fantastic ability to know and quickly identify possible tools or even process changes to make impact. We are quick to offer help and jump to the easy fixes.
Happy 7-11 Day!
But I would argue that this solution pushing turns us into a convenience store. We are only asked about things when a solution is needed.  Why do we need to be part of the planning when all we do is provide the solution?  People would rather finish their planning, identify what the problem or need is, then step up to the Slurpee counter and order the quick fix.

By acting under the orders of "the customer is always right" and "Service with a smile", are we really providing the best services to our organization?

Most of the Nonprofit Tech Staff that I know have much deeper skills than providing icee beverages when people need a quick fix.  We have a set of skills that complements the rest of organization very well but I dont see it used enough.  We are very analytical, process oriented, mission driven and creative with a unique perspective, plus the knowledge of tools and methods that many others dont know.  So why do we squander it?

Here is my proposal.  When a request comes in, lead with a "Yes but I have some questions..." Spend some time asking questions about what they are working on, what is the end goal, what would success look like.  And dont ask these questions in a formal document or a survey, try talking to your colleagues.

Question Mark and ArrowOr better yet, here is my ideal request.  Dont wait for people to come to you looking for solutions. Target one group of staff that is working on a great program within your organization.  Work within your IT team to come up with a set of questions about that program that would help you understand it better. Come up with questions about what the planned impact is or what long term success would look like.  Then invite a couple of those staff to your IT Staff meeting and have a conversation with them about it.  Dont even talk about tools or solutions. Just ask questions to better understand the program.  Showing interest in their program and asking questions will develop a relationship that will benefit everything you do with them.

In general, I think we all need to start leading with questions, not answers.  Try to listen and not jump to the solution.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You dont need a website, You need a web strategy! #10ntc

I was spending time cleaning my garage this weekend and I found a whole bunch of tools that I have never used. All of these tools serve a purpose and are still very useful, but at this point in my life I dont have a big plan to build anything.Without a big plan to build, the tools just sit there.

Websites can turn into those tools rusting in the garage very easily. A website, regardless of the coolest widgets, will only be as useful longterm as the strategy behind it.

Keeping this post nice and simple to hopefully make a point, so I will let the ignite video below do the talking.  I must give credit to Gregory Hellor for this post and title! Thanks for the inspiration.

Ignite NTC: Gregory Heller "You Don't Need A Website..." from GregoryH on Vimeo.