Why your chief executive doesn’t need to ‘speak geek’
By Lasa Information Systems Team
Information, communications and technology (ICT) is often the engine that powers a charity. Whether it’s keeping client records, managing finances or using social media to campaign, ICT is a very powerful tool. Like any engine, ICT sometimes needs fine-tuning to ensure it is running well. This article describes seven steps for making sure technology better helps your organisation to deliver its goals.
For not-for-profit organisations to get the most from ICT, chief executives and leaders need to see it as a strategic tool. So how do you make a good business case to persuade your chief executive to do this, particularly if you don’t think they are interested in technology?
What if the CEO doesn’t “speak geek”?
The good news is that a chief executive doesn’t have to understand exactly how technology works to realise its strategic potential for their organisation. After all, a chief executive of a hospice does not need to be a qualified nurse to understand the importance of providing high-quality care.
Technology enables an organisation to deliver its mission, and all good chief executives are focused on making that happen. They don’t need to understand exactly how technology works, so long as the outcomes and impact are clear and measurable.
Barriers to a strategic approach
Of course, there can be barriers to this strategic approach. From our own experience in technology consulting we know they can be caused by a combination of factors. We might assume that technology cures everything, or that IT staff need to report to the finance department. ‘Non-techies’ can get put off by impenetrable technical jargon, or managers might not have the time or desire to understand ICT. IT staff can forget they’re supposed to be technology enablers, not just maintenance engineers.
Our top tips will guide you through the process of overcoming these barriers and help you work with senior managers to integrate ICT into your organisation’s mission and goals. We can help you maximise your use of technology to deliver the outcomes and outputs that funders love.
1. Understand your organisation’s mission and goals
Problems here are usually caused either by management not clearly defining or communicating the business plan and the role people play in delivering it, or IT staff not thinking at a strategic level. Make sure your ICT approach reflects and clearly delivers your organisation’s mission and goals.
2. Manage expectations of ICT and define goals
We frequently find organisations feel frustrated by ICT because they have unrealistic expectations of what it can and can’t do. Once the role and scope ICT plays in helping to achieve goals is agreed, ensure this is understood by everyone. Put in place measures of success so you can track your progress.
3. The ICT strategy - focus on the ‘how’, not the tools
Focus on identifying the right technologies and practices to deliver what your organisation does. If you’re an organisation whose goal is to campaign for policy changes, you’ll probably focus on social media technologies to help you organise communities and communicate your message. This may not be so true of an advice agency whose main goal would be to log casework and track outcomes and influence policy.
4. Manage ICT related risks
Our increasing dependence on technology needs careful identification and assessment to deal with ICT related risks. It’s important to know how you would deal with scenarios such as: how old is your IT hardware and what happens if it crashes? Have you backed up the data? If you have a membership database, is it secure? Do you have a contingency plan to manage the risks of outsourcing your technology to a “cloud” service provider such as Google Apps, Microsoft 365, Dropbox or Salesforce?
5. Evaluate your ICT investment
Many organisations will spend 80% or more of their IT budget on running IT systems, devoting very little resource to growing or transforming how they do things. If your investment in ICT doesn’t match the role it plays, you’ll need to revisit the strategy and reallocate resources accordingly.
6. Maximise the potential of your current technology
We often find outdated systems and processes soak up staff time and effort. Look at subscription models, or cloud based solutions like Amazon’s EC2, which allow you to buy computing power and storage as and when you need it.
7. What about outsourcing and cloud computing?
Things like maintenance, email, file storage and telephony lend themselves to outsourcing. However, every organisation is different and you need to carefully consider if the cost of outsourcing outweighs the benefits. Read our Knowledgebase article on ‘cloud’ computing for two different views on the pros and cons of outsourcing your technology.
You’re now ready to use this advice to implement a technology project and gather the facts you need to make a strong business case for it. Identify what need your project is meeting and how it helps your organisation to achieve its goals. Will it help people work quicker and smarter, transfer risk, or improve reports? Once ICT becomes everybody’s business, it is good news for the whole organisation. Most importantly, it can mean better services for the people who your organisation supports.
- ICT Risk Assessment
- Increasing impact through technology
- Making Decisions on ICT: roles and responsibilities
- What Does Cloud Computing Mean to You? - An Interview from Two Perspectives
Published: 1st July 2011
Copyright © 2011 Lasa Information Systems Team