Thursday, April 18, 2013

What I learned at #13ntc

#13ntc was different than any other conference for me. With my new role as Manager of Technology at The Cara Program, I really focused more on the IT track at the conference. So here is what I got out of the conference this year! NOTE, I learned more than can fit in this single blog post, so watch for a series of posts after this with further thoughts.

#13NTCfoodie - Weds, April 10
At dinner I learned about the crazy things that Locale (an android app) can do. Detect where you are and redirect your Google voice number. Turn off notifications if face down. Basically you program it to take different actions based on your location or phone functions.

#13NTCbeer - Weds, April 10
OK, not sure I learned a lot. But got to reconnect with numerous great NPTech staff.

Breakfast Meeting - April 11
My wife and I met with Marc Pitman on a suggestion from John Haydon. Marc is famous for his book, Ask Without Fear, which I hope to buy and read. Marc is a fellow Christ Follower and has some amazing resources that tie stories in the Bible to fundraising strategies! We really hit it off and plan to connect again soon.

Welcome - Thurs, April 11
Some fun Minnesota facts, info and sayings, dontcha know. Minnesota had the first indoor mall? Nice because of all of the crazy snow. Don't they know it is spring?

IT Director Meet up - Thurs, April 11
Good conversations about challenges that IT Directors are facing. There was a lot of discussion around migration to the cloud and Office365. Interestingly enough there were staff in the room moving to the cloud and those moving off. It seemed that those with more custom needs and larger IT staffs wanted to move tech back in house. While those with limited staff were willing to live with the limits of the cloud to allow staff to focus on other needs.

We also had conversations about BYOD. There are real challenges with network security when you don't manage the devices. But another challenge is that if the device gets lost, we will want to wipe the device clean to avoid losing data\confidential information. Many orgs were having staff sign an agreement about wiping the device if lost. But when you actually do wipe it when it gets lost, then they find it, they aren't so happy.

Filmed a Movie Monday - Thurs, April 11
I was asked to be filmed for a Movie Monday about the role technology can play in fundraising.   I went on a bit of a RANT about how we throw people resources at some of our fundraising challenges because we either don't have or don't know about the technology that can do it for us. For example, we spend a lot of time on email segmentation and email list creation. There are tools that can automate that whole process. But we don't buy the better email blast solutions because they are too expensive. So we just continue to miss opportunity or force staff to waste time on work-arounds. I will let both of my blog readers know when mine is posted.

IGNITE! - Thurs, April 11
I gave an IGNITE session about how the Cloud is trying to KILL tech strategy. And for the first time ever... I sang it! These are 5 minute presos with with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. NOT AN EASY TASK TO PRESENT, but so fun to watch. Watch mine on YouTube!

Opening Plenary - Fri, April 12
Quite controversial. Stirred a great conversation across the conversation.There were so many key points that Dan Pallotta made that I loved, I  paraphrased a couple below.

  • Why don't we have a visceral reaction to, "it is good to make a salary while not helping people." But a NPO CEO with a big salary is a problem?
  • NPOs criticized for spending on ads & taking risks and all failure is bad! How can we innovate within that?
  • The concept of too much overhead NPOs limits the ability to have the overhead needed to grow to the scale needed for real impact!

I did not agree on the overall premise of his presentation. I would offer my opinions on this, but I am still thinking them through. But my gut reaction is that I do not like the glorification of Capitalism and make as much you can applied to social good.  Here are some smarter summaries and reactions:

But regardless of whether you agree with Dan, the plenary did the job of spurring buzz and conversation.

IT Governance - Friday, April 12
This session was one of my favorites in years! IT Governance definition - The essential organizational structures and processes that ensure that the organization’s IT sustains and extends the organization’s strategies and mission. (revised ITGI, 2012)

As IT gets more complex, tech ownership becomes disparate and information increases in value, you will need IT Governance to manage the structures and processes. 

Fantastic conversations about the changing role of IT, Mission Alignment, Process, Risk Management, Resource Management, Performance Measurement, Accountability and Value Delivery! The slides and the speaker, Matthew Eshleman - @meshleman, were great, but the conversation in the room was Awesome! Check out the slides!

Project Management - Friday, April 12
Battle Royal - Agile vs Waterfall! OK, not really, because at the end of the session there was a general consensus that both are valuable in the right situation.  And we came to the same consensus around the best Project Management tools, it just depends on your situation.  Here are a few key points:

  • Project management is 90% communication. Best PM knows their audience & targets them with the right info. Project plans are just about managing steps, more importantly they help define what the project is. Project charters are a key. Boil the project down to the 2-3 key outcomes\goals. Expectations are everything in PM. 
  • If I know exactly what the end product looks like, I use traditional project management, waterfall. If I see a lot of iterations, then agile. 
  • Key to waterfall project management is the work-breakdown structure. Think about it in term of deliverables, those are your milestones. Agile project management prioritizes communication, constant review and collaboration over steps\dates. 
  • RACI - Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Create a decision making process. 
  • Sharepoint has many decent project management tools, task list, wikis, doc mgmt, calendar, communicate. Jira is an open source project management tool, from the makers or confluence. Hosted tools available. Greenhopper, Q&A are good add ext. Basecamp is cloud based agile tool. elegantly simple-but many of us need deeper tools. Match the Project Management tool to the audience, scope, size of team, detail needed, size of project. 
Morning Plenary - Sat, April 13
Fail Panel. Beth Kanter hosted a panel to celebrate embracing failure. Last year this panel talked about innovation and they ended it by talking about the need to allow for failure to be able to innovate.

I really enjoyed the concept of learning from failure and not hiding it. I loved the concept of budgeting for failure, set up a specific amount of your org's time to experiment in ways that are more risky but could have big potential while still managing that risk.  Love these phrases:

Failure is not the opposite of success, failure is a step in the process of success.
Embracing failure is not the same as accepting failure.
There is a difference between failing and being a failure.
How long before failure is connected to PUPPIES? How do puppies learn? Lots of accidents.

I am not a complete convert to Celebrating Failure though. New word for failure: my thought, not the optimal result but success is clearer now.  At some point in the panel I just felt like they turned a corner where talking about failure so much really seemed like success wasn't possible.

Nonprofit Leadership and IT - Sat, April 13
The only constant of technology and the role of IT is constant change.  The panel in this session rocked the house with their experience, thoughtfulness and expertise.  Here are some key points:

IT should represent the full org.  The role of IT is to change the way we work and the way we deliver our services. Bring insight into the unknown that tech brings. Everything is radically shifting as mktg/comm, fundraising, program service & full org collides w/tech! We work to integrate it. IT can see business processes that existed forever, that just don't make sense. But you have to carefully change, no blame.

IT should have vision.  Data, systems, infrastructure, communication tools, tech impacts everyone, so why not include them in planning conversations. The role of IT is often being the person in the room that says:"hey did you think about? Vision. If nothing else IT director needs to be known for having vision. Earn the right to be at the table.

IT should be at the leadership level. IT needs to be at the "C" level because so many IT projects require org change, peer support & policies. ALL organizational change REQUIRES technology to support it. So why would you not have tech represented at the "C" level? If IT isn't at the "C" level then they may not be seen as peers in leadership and may be given the same access and authority to have impact.

How can you have a Brand Voice without and Internal Conversation - Sat, April 13
Dan Michel from Feeding America and myself presented on the need to provide resources to your staff to enable them to use the brand voice. It was a fun session! Dan kicked it off sharing the new brand voice that Feeding America is launching for all of the Food Banks in the network. They did a lot of research on the right voice and are making every effort to get buy in.  They are using their extranet, webinars, in person events, emails and more to get it out there.

I then shared some information about the recent YMCA rebranding. There was some unknown work that was created to change the image of the YMCA from a place to go to a cause driven org. We worked at the Chicago Y to use the rebranding to enable the membership and program staff at our Ys to create digital content. But to top it off, I ended with the amazing passion and buy-in that the staff at The Cara Program. They have taken every effort to put the mission first, share stories consistently, live by mission metrics and so much more! I LOVE it!

Read the session notes

Geek Games! - Sat, April 13
Dodgeball. Karaoke. Legos. The conference ended with me and Shannon hosting the Karaoke at the first ever Geek Games. I was fearful of noone singing and I would have to do it, but WHAT! WHAT! NTC got talent! So many awesome singers and we had a blast! And only 1 injury in Dodgeball, Shannon got to fulfill a dream by asking "is there a doctor in the house?" on the mic. Kudos to the singers!


Beth's Blog said...

Steve, wow, thanks for sharing all you learned at NTC and for the mention about the failure panel. I missed the puppy quip and just love that. Hmm .. that's a whole blog post right there.

Steve Heye said...

Hey Beth, My wife actually saw that puppy tweet first. I was showing her the cool factor of watching the #13ntc tweet stream during the keynote. So fun to see others thoughts, be able to interact and share immediately. You were great as the moderator! Always the best from Beth! Thanks.

Julia Smith said...

"The not your hero...just ones and zeros..." Steve, the others on staff and I keep coming back to this post and your magnificent song when we want to re-live the NTC magic! Thanks for the rich recap, and for bringing your trademark energy to the conference, down to the very last strains of karaoke.

Steve Heye said...

Hey Julia, Glad the NTEN staff like the song, you guys rock! And as I say in the song, lets all party the NPTech way!