Monday, February 18, 2013

Tech Priorities sabotage strategy.

"Our database needs to be replaced."

"Our website needs a redesign immediately."

"Our network is down."

Typically followed by:

"In the best interest of the org we need to make this a priority and focus only on it."

All of these projects would need to be made top priority and would require the highest attention. I am not denying the simple fact that IT is often required to focus on a single project or drop everything to fix something.

But as I think through my experiences and so many stories that I have heard, I hear a common theme. "The project we were working on was so critical to one team or goal...... but somehow we missed how it would impact the full org or other goals."

Software is a classic example of this.

  1. How many times have we heard about a single department or program area running out to get software to meet their needs without first checking with IT to see if it was the right choice? 
    • This meets the immediate needs and may be the best solution. But a good discussion of how the data will be created, stored, used and shared is critical.
  2. Or how many times have we changed software packages only to realize that it was our process that was broken not the software and our old software actually did have the functionality we needed?
    • Often we blame technology for our ineffective processes 

Websites carry the same issue.

  1. We spend time defining the audience, the design, the functionality, the goals we hope to accomplish and are very deliberate about everything.  But then once the website is implemented we suddenly realize that it isn't integrated with our core database, we have created manual work-arounds to collect email signups from the website or includes tools that overlap existing ones used internally?
    • We don't always take time to understand the tools used to build our website or to explore other options.
  2. We often also forget to think through what we will do with the data, analytics and transactions that happen on our website and what the follow up process will need to be.
    • How does what happens on our website impact our work and what will we have to do as a result?

Often we do everything we are supposed to within a project to ensure it's success! But without a dedicated resource that reviews all tech projects as a whole, you will miss opportunities to evaluate the impact on the overall org.

Every nonprofit should have a resource, whether internal or external, helping them develop a technology strategy that can be used as a decision framework for technology projects.

Don't let the immediacy of a need or the lack of resources dictate your technology strategy. You will pay for it in the short and long run.


Brendan Blaine said...

I have noticed this trend, particularly with technological improvements. Unfortunately to do them right, the right-now mentality can be detrimental.

Steve Heye said...

Thanks Brendan. I have been noticing this for years, but couldn't put it to words. Then just recently the thought really clicked in my head and became clear.