A silver bullet for technology planning does not exist. There is no right way to do it for everyone, your job is to find the way which works best for you today (might be different later). But it actually goes even further, you may have to use multiple technology planning methods to build a single plan. We will walk through Tactical, Strategic and Missional technology planning.
In order for technology to meet staff and organization needs, support the organization’s strategic plan and provide innovation for program delivery and mission impact, it will need to implemented in a range of ways. Each style of technology planning requires different information, people, time, resources and skills. Each of them is also used to create different plans over different periods of time. The first key is to have an overview of each type of planning; Tactical, Strategic and Missional.
So first an overview of each type.
Tactical: focuses on using quick timelines with small teams (even one person) to get all of the technology working correctly, establish a replacement plan with improvements and begin to address problems, not symptoms.
Strategic: Shifts to meeting the operational and strategic needs of the organization. Relies on cross-functional teams with a need for business process changes, staff training and change management. As strategic technology improves it gets tied to and even can be integrated into the organization’s strategic plan.
Make It Happen
Just understanding the types isn’t enough though, you have to know how you create and implement the plan too. But the real trick is that there is no one right way to do the planning. Here are just some ideas, but you have to make it your own.
There are plenty of resources out there to show you how to do the tactical and strategic planning. I would suggest reviewing the Tactical Tech Planning course from Idealware, attending the Nonprofit Tech Academy from NTEN and reading the Unleasing Innovation paper from MAP Tech Works. You should also consider working with a consultant to run the process and bring in outside expertise.
But I have not found as many which focus on the mission focused technology. Which is why we ran a session on it at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference. So here is our idea on how to do it. (Lindsay Bealko from Toolkit Consulting and Andrea Berry from Idealware were key in planning and running this)
Who: Pull together a diverse group of people from inside and outside of your org with a wide set of experiences and expertise (including some who may not know your org well, but understands the cause). Have this group break into small teams and the activity we did in our session.
1. Mission or Vision Statement
Review your mission and\or vision statement and look for the phrases or concepts which:
- extend for many years
- exceed the capacity of your org
- requires collaboration across the sector
- reflects the big hairy audacious goal of the org
2. Identify the barriers
What stands in the way of acting on or in completing the selected part of your mission or vision statement? Create a list of these barriers.
3. Brainstorm with technology
Use a set of cards with different types of emerging and core technologies (prepare these cards ahead of time). These cards should have a range of things from e-learning, emails, websites, mobile apps, text messaging, tablets, computer labs, CRM, big data, wide area network, etc.
Have the group brainstorm possible technology approaches to each of the barriers you identified in the second step. To make it tougher we had the group pick the technology which seemed like the least likely match. Challenge the group to look for ideas which do not rely on staff intervention, extend past the reach of the org, have a direct impact on constituents, etc. Come up with your own rules for the group based on your style, culture and cause.
4. Bring it back
You may or may not come out of this exercise with a real and actionable idea to act on. But what you will get is a whole new conversation. Find a way to collect the info and then build on it.