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. 


Anonymous said...

Steve, thanks so much for the shout out!

I love what you say about picking one thing to work on - a single step is progress.

I also agree that sacrificing the good for the perfect isn't helpful!

Peter Campbell said...

The "perfection is the opposite of done" quote is similar to a line from the manifesto I (try to) live by: The Cult of Done Manifesto, It's line is "laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done." Full manifesto is here: http://www.brepettis.com/blog/2009/3/3/the-cult-of-done-manifesto.html