Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I learned at #14NTC (NTEN Nonprofit Tech Conference)

People were the best part of #14NTC, which always seems to be true. I met so many new people and got to see so many I have known for years!

Kudos to the NTEN staff for a great event and for keeping a smile on their faces the whole time! (or close to the whole time)

Weds, March 12

Pre-Conference: How to Succeed in Technology Failure without Really Leading (check out the slides)
I was on the panel for this session, but learned a bunch of things before and during the session from the other amazing members of the panel.
  • Awesome report from Standish group on project success\failure
  • Creating a shared vision of success: • Everyone must have a shared understanding of what success looks like • Without it, you cannot get to a successful outcome • Senior leadership with tech fluency and IT leadership with mission fluency • The entire organization must be involved 
  • If leadership manages technology like Captain Picard where there is no discussion, it is just "Make it so," your tech staff will stop being creative and innovative.
  • If tech staff doesn't take the time to learn the business, programs, mission, etc., they won't be able to help the org's goals.
  • Investing in your tech staff is key. Don't spend all of your budget on an outside consultant and leave your staff without any training. I added a quote I heard about investing in staff: "What if I invest in staff and they leave? The real question is: What if you don't invest in staff and they stay?"
  • Rose shared how she used the IT Alignment Model I had a role in creating, plus talked about the value of doing an alignment assessment.
  • Great conversation between the leadership staff in the room and the IT staff in the room on how to improve communications-collaboration. Leadership should give IT seat at the table, give authority, share mission information, involve tech early, learn to involve tech in problem solving instead of order taking, etc. Techs should stop using geek speak, learn about the business, stop over-complicating policies, involve users in decisions, 
  • Talked about how to fail without collapsing the whole org. Learn to identify level of acceptable risk, do pilots, control the scope, build in go/no go checkpoints, set realistic expectations, etc.
  • Accountability and Authority are key elements to a successful project, consider using a decision making model like RACI.
  • Good quotes:
    • “Unfettered Quasi-Illuminati Fueled Social Engineering Conducted by Out-of-Touch Foundations Seeking Self-Aggrandizing Strategies.”
    • "Obfuscate stuff with Gobbldy Gook"
    • "Reviewing old tweets is not the best way to figure what staff knew after they leave"
    • "Funders need to leave room for failure to allow for success"
    • "IT Alignment doesn't happen because it is too easy for nonprofits to say "We Don't Have the Resources" or "I Don't Understand the Tech""

I learned about the value of taking time to be social, this may seem easy for me, but it often isn't. I find ways to stay busy and avoid social events. It was proven worth while when a couple people from #13ntc approached me and we both immediately remembered a personal connection we had shared the year before.

Thurs, March 13

IGNITE! Plenary
I heard so many people just loved the Ignite Sessions! It was a fantastic way to kick off the conference:

My heart went out to Sue Anne Reed in the Ignite session! She showed amazing bravery sharing her personal stories of hard challenges, life lessons and outlook on life. She really stole the stage and engaged the audience, plus provided great thoughts for everyone to consider in their own life.

Huge THANKS TO Peter S. Campbell and Dahna Goldstein for being brave enough to bring part of Scope
Creep The Band into reality!

Here is a portion of my ignite session in a pre-recorded format:

Head in the Clouds: Real world experiences and recommendations for moving technology infrastructure to the cloud. 
Whether you’re working with a provider or building your own, moving to the cloud is an important step that takes planning, staff and dollars. This panel discussion looks at the whys and hows of moving to the cloud, as well as how two organizations approached their moves to the cloud.  Session specifics will include strategic planning, cost-benefit analysis, infrastructure planning, migration paths, best practices and more.
  • The cloud is not just one thing, need to understand some of the different models out there -- public, private, hybrid. Public are outside your network, often big services such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure. Private cloud is a function provided within your own firewall. Something you manage and control. Hybrid - moving to the cloud isn’t a binary choice. Can combine some services in cloud and others on-site, and integrate them.
  • Meeting user expectations are good reasons to consider cloud services: availability / access / mobile
  • Cloud combined with virtual desktop can create equal access to all tools across staff & org.
  • Cloud contracts are CRITICAL to read! When you migrate off, how do you get your data, in what format and when?
  • A few things for smooth cloud move: do homework, build a team, communicate vision, plan, test, distinguish need v want,

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together
From strategy planning to case studies following implementation, gain insight into how a strong partnership between IT and Communications can create a smarter, more sophisticated approach to your communications. (The Amazing Peter Campbell playing the role of IT)
  • Leadership must take a role in breaking down silos between IT & Marketing. Too often org chart & leadership builds tension.
  • Create a regular format for Communications and IT staff to meet on an ongoing basis
  • focusing on business goals gets everyone pulling in one direction. Take out the personal and advance the mission.
  • Make help desk process as easy & fast as possible to make tech friendly to mktg & more
  • View tech support as relationship not as service to users
  • Tip to have better relationship with IT  -  don't wait for computer problem to be in touch

Fri, March 14

Disrupting the Nonprofit Sector
 If we are going to truly solve the world's toughest social problems and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, we need to examine how the nonprofit sector can evolve to create more innovative and efficient organizations. This involves disrupting the nonprofit sector as we know it today.  Drawing from Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward's book Social Change Anytime, Everywhere, topics will range from 'Thinking Like A Start-Up' to exploring 'Reducing Competition and Consolidating Resources.'
  • Interesting idea: charge for a service, but refund the money if they show up. 
  • Striking that most orgs invest less than 3% in #nptech
  • Disappointment=reality minus expectations. A key to innovation is realistic expectations & know when to quit
  • Grow a culture of "we all succeed together" & "we all fail together." Don't allow all compliments to go to any one staff person, nor all of the blame (including leadership).
  • Need to delineate between Fail & Screwing Up. Accountability still needs to exist. 
  • Be purposeful on how much you experiment. Create innovation budget (not just dollars, but risk tolerance too)
  • Using run, grow, transform is a good budgeting framework to distinguish operations from innovation 
  • Saying no to an opportunity, even when money is tied to it, let's you say yes to a better opportunity
  • If you want to spur change in your org, but you have no authority, figure out who influences the influencers in your org
  • Leadership should be cheerleader of staff ideas, not be the creator of all ideas.

Network Security for the Non-Profit: Beyond PCI Compliance
This session is for nonprofit tech professionals who have an interest in network security. Learn about various security options that scale keeping in mind limited time, expertise and budget.

  • Security matters b/c "damaged reputation/donor lack of confidence in organization could be catastrophic"
  • “you can transfer risk to a vendor…but you can’t transfer responsibility for your data”
  • Look for ways to tie your security plans to ongoing strategic & capacity needs.
  • Patching is 95% of the battle
  • definition based security is on its way out b/c threats are so dynamic, that means heuristics are the new it.
  • Ken shared a ton of tools and ideas on setup as well, but it is impossible to show without his presentation. (Here is a link, but not sure it will work)

Requests for Proposals: Making RFPs work for Nonprofits and Vendors
This session is for people who either purchases software and services as well as people who provide such things. RFPs are controversial, with good reason: a poorly written RFP does little to help the buyer or seller forge a successful transaction or engagement. (The Amazing Peter Campbell Presiding). Read the great session notes to see more, bunch of my notes in there.

Sat, March 15 (how did both of my sessions end up on Saturday?)

Balancing Project Management and Business Process for Long Term Success - I Presented
Business Process has invaded my career, my life and now my dreams. I will be sharing my experiences plus a lot of thoughts on Methodology, plus Betsy will bring her PMO skills to the table. I don't think I have ever seen a session like this one at NTC, it will rock.

Read the good session notes for this one too! To get an example of part of my session, you can take 10 minutes and watch the video below or check out the slides. NOTE though, the video misses our main point of the session, which was how to make Project Management and Business Process a part of your everyday work, not just during projects.

View the slides!

Tech Planning Smack Down! Tactical Vs. Strategic Vs. Missional - I Presented
THIS WAS FUN! I haven't presented with Lindsay in YEARS, but we make an awesome and fun team, this will not be boring or a slideshow! This will get you thinking and involved. Seriously though, you will learn all new ways to approach your boring, old tech plan.

View the slides.

Read the session notes, but they can not accurately describe the amount of fun we had in this session. Nor can they accurately describe the type of thinking we encouraged in the audience.


All in all, it was a great conference! I was so excited to hear so many people talking about how to match technology to the mission throughout the conference, it's like music to my tone deaf ears. I think the key point I learned this year, was to keep pushing to learn more, each time I feel like I get comfortable with a topic I find out there is so much more to know. NTC serves to solidify my love of the #NPTech community, so many knowledgeable, generous and passionate people! Let's get out there and use the tech to meet the MISSION!