Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Technology Committees - Meetings can have Value

I have long been a fan of Technology Committees, but I don't hear a lot of others talking about it. In my role at The Cara Program, we have a fantastic Technology Steering Committee. I can't begin to state all of the benefit this group has brought. They have provided assistance, advice and insight, but have also helped us make connections, find resources and accomplish things we couldn't do alone. But before I go into a little information about our Technology Advisory Board, a few thoughts about committees.

Purpose. I suggest starting with defining a purpose for the committee. You have to come up with something meaningful for the group to work on. This needs to be bigger than just whatever comes up and you need help on immediately. There should be a tie to a real need in the organization and if possible, a long term set of goals.

Structure. What type of committee will you have?

  • Policy - similar to the Board of Directors where they will set policy and make decisions. This could be called a review or approval committee also. But the key is you make the recommendations, they make the decision.
  • Budget - this group is really meant just to help guide what is feasible and what is the best use of your funds.
  • Steering - this type typically drives the process and comes up with the recommended solution, but brings it to another group or person to make the final decision.
  • Advisory - this role is more about opinions, advice and collaboration. The group comes in knowing they are there to help, support and be involved in a meaningful way, not drive and decide. There is still great value and involvement for everyone, but the decision stays inside the org.
I prefer the later of these (Advisory) for my technology committees. There are many times when I don't have all the answers or where technology decisions are just too complex for internal staff. I Plus with outside input, real innovation is even more likely.

Regularity. This group needs clear expectations and a regular schedule, but you can set the schedule. Our committee meets each quarter for our full meeting, but is in regular contact between those. And sharing updates with the group, without a request for help, can go a long way.

Commitment. Before you begin, make sure you are ready to do it for the long haul. You will need to put in the work to keep the group alive and active, but the payoff for them and your org is worth it.

Return on Investment. No, I don't mean for the org. I mean, make sure there is return on the investment of the time of your volunteers in the committee.

Further Reading!