Monday, August 11, 2014

Start with an Inventory - A Rule in Tech to Live by

When you go grocery shopping, first step? See what you have already.
Photo credit Kiri on Flickr

When you go on a vacation, first step? Well, I guess a list, but then you use the list to do an inventory to make sure you bring everything.

When you cook or bake, first step? Well, I guess a recipe, but then typically it is a good idea to make sure you have the ingredients. (Having been sent on last minute trips to spend too much on something we could have gotten cheaper at a time when we didn't really have the time, I can say... you want to make sure you have the ingredients...)

Bringing this back the tech now. Many, if not all, tech strategies and projects start with an inventory. Besides, my analogies were way too much of a stretch anyway.

Tech Replacement. First step in creating a technology replacement plan, take an inventory of your technology. Then use the inventory to determine what needs to be replaced and when. Then look for areas you need upgrades and expansions. Come up with a timeline and bingo. Of course it is a bit more complicated, but you get the idea.  Read this Article from TechSoup to learn more! Plus look at a tool like Spiceworks to build your inventory.

Security. Understand your current security, network, software and setup first. Best way to do that? My opinion is to get an outside security assessment, you can read more about my opinion in this post on Community IT.

Choosing Software. Most people would run out and look at the features or explore choices. But again, start with an inventory. This inventory is different though. It is no longer about a physical count. This inventory is best started with understanding your processes. Yep, good old business process mapping. You could try to jump to business requirements, but it will end up backfiring. The type of information uncovered and discovered when you document how you work is much different than jumping to how do you want the software to work.You must read this article from the Brilliant Peter S. Campbell on IdealwareRead this article from IT For Charities! Then dig through good articles on Idealware.

Websites. OK now you are going to say, start with the audience! Yes agreed, the audience is a key. But a close tie here is an inventory of your content. Shouldn't there be a balance of what you want to say, who you say it to, what they want to hear and what content you already have? Another good article from TechSoup.

Email and Social Media. Too many of the social media conference sessions I have gone to jump straight to the tool, seriously the tools are just tools. A real communication plan is needed first, know what you want to say to who and what you want them to do with the info.  Best place to start? Do an inventory of your current communications. Which leads me to a point going back to the website. Why have a website without a communication plan? Without a plan to communicate, your website is probably just a brochure. Another good article on TechSoup.

This probably all sounds logical and a good idea, but it still surprises me on how many times I hear about org's who skip these steps or even blog posts who just gloss over this.

Anyway, I think you get my not so hidden thought in this post. Start with an inventory. There is a reason most people know about gap analysis and how it starts with an inventory. It is because it works. And if you don't what Gap Analysis is, you might hang around and see if I post something about it next.

Please share any other good articles you have on these topics!