Friday, June 17, 2011

Mission Critical or Impact? - Life Gets in the Way part 3-a

I was going to move on to part 4, but decided I can make my own rules and decided to have a part 3-a. It's my blog so I can do what I want.

In the last post I talked about the role technology can play in meeting your mission. Since I posted it though I can't stop thinking about mission critical technology versus mission impact technology.

For years we have talked about the importance of planning for disaster recovery and business continuity on your mission critical systems. My definition of mission critical is a technology that dramatically impacts your ability to meet your mission. But I think the key to that phrase is "your ability". A mission critical technology changes the way you work or improves a process in such a way that it helps you meet your mission.

But when I talk about technology helping you meet your mission, I want to focus on mission impact technology. Meaning that you implement technology in such a way that it directly meets your mission, not just improves a process or assist you, it actually makes touches those you serve.

I think the distinction between a technology being mission critical and having mission impact is an important one.

An example within the YMCA is our membership databases could be considered mission critical. But our use of tools like ActivTrax to plan workouts, track nutrition and provide guidance directly impacts our members goals and our mission of healthy lifestyles.

Another example could be our website and email blasts as mission critical. But if we were to adapt those tools or social media to connect our members together in order for them to support and encourage each other on their fitness goals, it gets closer to mission impact.

It is not always clear cut, some technology can be both but only when used correctly.

There are other examples, what are yours?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Forget the Tech - Life Gets in the Way part 3

In our last post our heroes were too distracted with fighting fires and "she can't give much more, I'm an accidental techie not a miracle worker," were themes.

This time we find our heroes have finally built a stable infrastructure of technology and are now looking to have a real impact, not just be effective. We are looking to meet our mission.

WOOHHH, hold on there little horsey before I buck you right off. How can we jump right to the mission like that? Well actually if you don't have the mission as your goal, how do you know you will get there? And why bother doing something if it doesn't lead to meeting your mission.

Yes, there is a lot of technology that is just there to help us work and doesn't directly impact our mission. Well here is my thought about that. If technology doesn't tie directly to your mission, let someone else manage it. John Merritt likes to call that non-mission impact technology your commodity technology.

Why should you spend any of your time coming up with strategies and plans on your commodity technology when that just distracts you from doing these awesome steps below that transforms your technology into an ART that helps you meet your mission?

Below is an excerpt from an amazing blog post from John Merritt on his blog, be sure to visit and read the whole thing.

Matching Tech to Mission ~ Read and Understand the Strategic Plan

Knowledge is power and one of the best places to seek knowledge about your organization is by reading the strategic plan. Techies often feel the strain of being "misunderstood"; I would challenge each and every nonprofit technologist to begin by first understanding their organization.

It's All About the Relationship ~ Getting Connected Even if You're Not Wanted

How do you build a lasting and functional relationship with your organization even when you're rejected by the very people you struggle to support? You keep trying and you change your approach to meet each situation.

What does a Strong Relationship Between Tech and Staff Look Like? ~ Metrics

So, you've done your homework, read the strategic plan and your questions and relationship building have begun to bear fruit. What, then, does the tech/mission aligned organization look like? Have you really attained higher function? Here are a few examples in support of alignment and tech working in partnership with staff.

The Organizational Chart ~ Look for Obstacles

The way in which mission focused technology comes to be is largely based on the organizational chart, that funny diagram made up of boxes and lines that either puts tech on the path to success or the highway to, well...


"Forget the Tech, Let's Talk Mission" is about using the information and resources readily available in each of our orgs to develop questions and talking points to move technology closer to supporting the mission. Using available information and resources -- strategic plans, org charts and staff knowledge -- what questions can you ask that will bring better mission support and extension via technology?