Monday, January 27, 2014

City of Chicago inspires my thinking around Tech

I recently attend an event hosted by LISC where Brenna Berman (CIO, City of Chicago) presented their plan to use technology to impact Chicago and it really got me thinking.

They have Five Strategies (paraphrased below from my notes):

  • Next generation Infrastructure
  • Every Community a Smart Community
  • Efficient, Effective and Open Government
  • Civic Innovation
  • Technology Sector Growth

Brenna spent a chunk of the time talking about making every community a smart community.  Smart communities is an effort already in progress with a few Chicago communities but will be rolled out to more.  The initiatives are:

  • Broadband access benchmark
  • Scale up smart communities
  • Free public WiFi
  • More low cost broadband
  • Youth tech education
  • Digital training
  • Digital excellence activities
  • Public computer access
  • Education resources

This struck a topic I love! IT Alignment. There is an understanding of the need to balance the people, process and tools in these initiatives. Making change in Chicago is an enormous task with the politics, diverse communities, unions, corruption, etc... The conversation at the event fascinated me to no end, I was surrounded by smart people with real questions, possible solutions and a desire to collaborate to have an impact.

What I really latched on to was the balance of infrastructure and policy with community needs and people. They understood the "build it and they will come" won't work. Providing infrastructure, computer labs, wifi and Broadband isn't enough, they need outreach, training and creative ways to get the tech into people's homes in ways they will actually use it.

I have just started to become aware of amazing technology innovation in Chicago through efforts of 1871 to provide space for startups, Starter League helping startups succeed, Chicago Maker lab offering 3d printing, Chicago Tech Academy build tech skills in our youth and i.c. stars focused on technology workforce development opportunities (actually I have know i.c. stars for a few years, they rock). Those are just a few, I know there are many more I am missing.

To me, much this is a great example of how to use technology directly to impact the mission. Technology can spur new opportunities, new ideas and new ways to change the world.

Read an article about the Chicago Tech plan

Or visit this set of deeper resources, including a video about the plan

Just my ramblings, sorry if this doesn't have a single point to it, just a collection of notes and thoughts I wanted to share.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical vs. Strategic vs. Missional

I am preparing for a session I will be presenting at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference.  I have been having an internal battle for 15 years on the topic of Strategic Technology Planning.  I have read books, blog posts, case studies and articles proclaiming the best practices of a Strategic Technology Plan. But as I often repeat, “Best for you, isn’t best for me. Let’s talk about Model Practices.”

This leads me to a topic I have seen bounding around recently. Maybe we don’t all need a strategic technology plan. At first, you have to focus on a stable infrastructure.

As a terrific example, Idealware has created their Tactical Technology Training, which I LOVE!

But we all know a strategic plan is needed for deeper impact of our technology. Which I would recommend the Tech Leadership Academy from NTEN.

However, the contender I want to bring to the ring is MISSION.

Sure our Strategic Technology Plan is tied to mission via a close tie to the organization’s overall Strategic Plan. But what about stepping back to find ways for technology to directly impact the mission, not to support the org in meeting the mission. Do you see the distinction?

Here are a couple slides to illustrate this, but I would love for a few people to watch the video embedded below and give me some real feedback.  I will be refining the concept, slides and presentation between now and March 2014.  This is just a sampling of what will be discussed there, but I could really use your feedback!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

In 2014 Don't Let Tech Turn into SOS. #TechRevival

SOS - Save our Ship (ok, it doesn't really stand for that, but we all recognize SOS to mean something like it)
SOS - Same Old Stuff (or SOSDD- Same Old Stuff Different Day, yeah, I know most people say something besides stuff)

If our Tech Language and Management is centered on SOS, we will fall into the following traps.

Distress - If DISTRESSED times are the only time we talk about our technology, it will be nearly impossible for technology to have a real impact or make real change. It is seen as a necessary evil, instead of opening new potential.

Save Us - If the Tech Team is only included or called when things are broken, all we can do is treat the symptoms. In addition, IT may be seen as the creator of the problem, so they had better fix it now, which does not allow Technology to thrive.

Helpless - If SOS is called for technology and IT help always fixes it for you, how does staff ever learn from it? Give someone a fish, feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and they end up spending all of their money at Bass Pro, err, I mean they can feed themselves.

BUT the worst of all is...

Ambivalent - Once users could go either way with your technology, take it or leave it, you are in real trouble. You don't want to hear things like:
  • "Go ahead and change the tool, not like it matters, you will just change it again later..."
  • "Nice Tool!" (secretly scampers off and continues to use work-around)
  • "You are the IT group, just tell us what to do and make it work."
  • "Our technology is fine, but I don't need it to accomplish my goals."

So what are we supposed to do?

Have a Vision and Share It!
You need to be able to tell the story of how technology is benefiting your organization and how you plan to improve it.

What if you asked an org about what they accomplished in 2013 and they answered:
"We answered our phones 11,123 times, turned on the lights each day we worked, paid our bills, had 50 staff show up each day they were supposed to and shook 4,234 people's hands."

If that seems messed up, then why do we talk about our IT like:
"Network is stable, 2,456 help desk tickets completed, 4 major projects completed on budget, 99.99% uptime, implemented 7 new tools." 

Who cares.

A real strategic technology plan. I strongly believe a Strategic Technology Plan aligned with your mission can make all of the difference. Especially if you turn it into a short digestible, visual document to be shared with all staff. 

The key is to be able to express the impact on staff efficiency, process effectiveness and new opportunities which came from your technology. What changed because of the technology you implemented?

Communicate it. Change the tone of communication about your technology, get the positive message out there. Paint a picture of the potential future.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking.  We are hesitant to share our future technology plans, because things change so fast and we aren't sure we will be able to do it all. To me the key for this is to focus on the direction and strategy, not the timeline and the tool.  

Here is what I like to do:
  • Share the specific projects coming in the next year, WITH specific goals on how it will change how we work and improve our organization.
  • Describe the long term strategy by talking about the philosophy and focus over the next 4-6 years.
  • Next year we will implement a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Our goal is to replace many of the manual processes tracked in Excel and decrease the paperwork needed. We will be improving our intake process to allow our admissions team to focus on the client, limit multiple data entry points and not be as distracted by the tools.
  • Over the next five years we will be looking to move systems to the cloud to shift internal support staff to focus on users, centralize staff collaboration tools to clear clutter and improve communication and look for ways to improve our business processes to better leverage our tools.
But the only way you can do the communication above is to be able to back it up with a Strategic Technology Plan.  You need to have the conversations about priority, upcoming projects, long term vision and have buy in with your plan before you can share it.

So a technology plan is more than just a document needed to manage your projects, it is a key to making technology a force for good in your organization.

Start 2014 right with a technology plan. 

New to Tech Planning? Read this article from Tech Soup!

Ready to add mission and strategy to your tech plan?