Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Using Tech Effectively - Life gets in the way part 2

"The servers can't take much more...."
"But we need it now!"
"If we push them too much they will blow, I'm a techy not a miracle worker! Give me some time and a tech budget and I can make it better."
"We don't have time or money, just do it!"

(In case you didn't catch it, that was supposed to seem like Star Trek.)

How many times do we sacrifice effectiveness in order to make it happen? How many times do we give on working better just to get through the day?  We all know there are better ways to do things, but do we have the time to make the change?

One trick to making this change is to pick a priority and start there. Dedicate some time each week to that priority. And when that time comes, turn off the phone, email and everything. Just focus on that priority.

But don't shoot for perfection or finishing everything. Rather pick something that can be accomplished and implement it. Perfection can be the enemy of done. If you always wait until everything is spotless, you may never finish.  Get it out there and keep moving each week.

Once you have made some progress, look to add in another priority or switch for a while.

One of the things that can trip you up though is picking the priority.  Many people jump to getting a group consensus on the priorities, which is good some of the time. However if you are fighting fires, laying a foundation and just getting started, you may end up just wasting time getting the group together. When numerous technology problems exist, just get it working right first. People will be unable to think strategically about technology when they cant get their technology to work right.

Once you have the tech working, then you can move on to some of the organizational needs. Once you get past those levels, then you can look to use technology to make an impact.

SO in that thought pattern, this is #2 in my life gets in the way posts. This one is inspired by John Kenyon and the Ten Nonprofit Technology "Commandments," that he wrote back in 2003. And why does this fit in this blog post? Well this is where I would start if I was trying to pick a priority in the midst of a fire. This list will help you focus.

Here is a an abridged list of the commandments from John Kenyon's post. Be sure to go visit his blog and full post.

After people, Data is your Most Important Resource
Act accordingly in planning and allocating resources. 
Your Results Depend on your Investment in Data
Dedicate staff time to collecting, maintaining and understanding it.
Define and Know your Data Needs and Uses
Define the data that your organization needs to fulfill its mission. 
Seek out Data and Keep it Flowing
Actively seek out data that could help you succeed – include data on clients, funders, members, donors and employees. 
Define your Needs in Detail BEFORE tool selection
Define and create the best system you can to hold and manipulate your data. 
Honestly Look at your Information Systems
Take an honest, detailed look at how your systems do – and do not – work. 
Maintain Commitment of Board and Staff
Get agreement from staff, management and the board to make an ongoing commitment of resources to improve operations.
Have an Ongoing Conversation about Data
Have an ongoing discussion in the organization about the best ways to use your data, and what you can learn from it. 
Keep in Touch with other Organizations
Keep in regular contact with other organizations and the nonprofit technology community in order to keep up to date with tools and solutions. 
Knowledge Eases Fear, Gather/Share Knowledge
Identify and confront techno-phobia in all its forms. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life gets in the way.

What is the latest trend? What is the new thing in Tech? How are nonprofits using these new tools? So many times, the best answer to questions about your future is to look at your past and go back to the basics.

We tend to complicate our decisions out of fear of the unknown, fear of failure or fear of change. But I would actually challenge that statement, is that really true or are we all just nodding our head because we all say those things so much.

Anyway, I am only two paragraphs into this post and I have already lost my focus. Isn't that really what the problem is for so many of us? We sit down to think strategically, look at the big picture and dream, but we end up getting buried in the stuff that is happening now, doubt creeps in, we question the possibility of success and we get distracted.

It is hard to separate yourself from today and your worries to think about five years from now.

I have found that the best way for me to get past those road blocks is to step back into the past or to shift the focus back to the basics.  History teaches us about who we are and the basics remind of us of what is really important.

For years now I have written this blog, but I have never been able to keep it going consistently, life just gets in the way. And that is exactly what happens at work too. I always mean to go write that integrated communications plan, create a vision statement for our website, build a storytelling culture, etc, but life gets in the way.

Over the next couple posts I am going to explore some of my favorite old posts from NPTech Rockstars that may help all of us to take a minute and reflect. (Special thanks to John Kenyon for the inspiration for this, he just reposted his Ten Nonprofit Technology "Commandments" which made me think about this).

My "back to the basics" list:

Ten Nonprofit Technology "Commandments" by John Kenyon

Forget the Tech, Lets Talk Mission by John Merritt

IT Alignment History by Steve Heye (I know self promoting, but I said review YOUR history)

Keys to the Kingdom by Peter Campbell

The Silo Situation by Peter Campbell (WHAT@#%$@ Peter gets 2? He is just so smart.... John Merritt would get 2, but he just doesn't blog enough)

How to Become a Technology Change Leader in Four Easy Steps by Dahna Goldstein

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Future of Nonprofits

Innovation is one of those words that is overused and misunderstood. It is slapped on a product, an advertisement and idea in order to convince us that something really is different and better. It isn't just new it is "INNOVATIVE." It just makes you want more.

When innovation is understood and encouraged it can become an unending well of ideas.

So every know and then I pick a book to blog about. The next book that has caught my attention is "The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age." David J. Neff and Randal C. Moss offer insight into innovation within a nonprofit, but more importantly the offer a structure to make it real.

Here is a short video as a taste of what is in the book.