This blog post is an adaptation of "Tech Assessment Hangover", Mike Rubio's presentation given at Nonprofit Tech Week on April 7, 2015. In this presentation he provided best practices and insights from the field for organizations engaging in a technology assessment to improve technology adoption within the organization.
by Regan Bradley-Brown
What's the difference between Outlook and Gmail? The age of thirty.
Nonprofit organizations are affected by the digital divide similarly to the people they serve, this rapid transformation of technology has presented an additional obstacle to nonprofits; the struggle of constantly incorporating new technology into the organization. Technology adoption is often overlooked by nonprofits because the allocation of funds and resources is limited. The emphasis within the organization is on the work and striving to impact communities, not technology.
Technology has increased the variety of platforms through which people communicate and access information, it essential that nonprofits incorporate technology into their daily operations to connect with their audience. Often, nonprofits do not utilize up to date or cost-effective technology tools and infrastructures which enable them to serve their constituents better. Our tech-curious Program Director, Mike Rubio, presented at Nonprofit Tech Week to express how nonprofits can benefit by constantly evolving with technology. To better help and understand their communities, nonprofit organizations should not be reactive to implement technology, technology should be incorporated into the daily operations.
5 Tips for Managing a Technology Assessment:
Who are the tech partners doing the assessment?
We recommend that you approach tech assessments like you approach drinking, prepare yourself before. Your tech assessment partners will soon be very familiar with your organization, commit to learning about the organization providing your assessment. Research the organization's previous projects, and other partners; hydrate yourself with information about them. By augmenting your organizations current technological capacity and maintaining these improvements, you improve the connection with your communities.
Determine the results of this tech assessment before it begins, understand who your partner is. Look for a technology partner who individualizes their technology adoption recommendations for each organization they work with. Every organization needs to implement varying technology platforms to benefit their work, not all technology benefits all organizations. This process is about improving the technology adoption in your organization to benefit the work you do and people you serve. Don't be afraid to ask your technology partners tough questions!
What needs to be done today so tomorrow things are different?
When you receive your technology assessment the plan should be both strategic and tactical. The assessment report you receive should identify a timeline for technology adoption deliverables. While this plan is important, it can be overwhelming for staff members who are fearful of technology. Assume the strategic plan is tequila, it is a great party starter and a dangerous drink to have daily. The strategic plan is the big picture strategy for technology adoption.You want to take it slowly with your staff, identify a simple change that can be made tomorrow to activate the transformation, this will be your tactical plan.
Our staff members are either experiencing tech joy or tech fear, everyone has a different comfort level with technology. In order to increase your technology capacity as an organization everyone on the team need to move closer to tech joy. The solutions of a technology assessment only work if people can approach them. The tactical plan should be easily comprehensible, clear visuals and less than three pages. Your tactical plan is pertinent for immediate implementation of the bigger vision, the strategic plans. A good tactical plan will outline the resources the organization needs to leverage or acquire, immediate actionable(s), and each staff member’s role in the transformation.
Now that you have a plan, what do you need to prioritize?
Understanding that you won’t be able to fix more of the recommendations immediately, there will always be things left to fix or pieces to improve. There will always be things left to fix, you are never going to accomplish everything. You can definitely accomplish some. You’ll need to get resources to do other, but you will definitely need to prioritize.
Your organization already has a clear understanding of organizational priority. That is what guides your work, your projects and impact these tasks are driven by your organization mission and values. Let your mission, vision and goals guide you in that process.
Develop a support system where your organization can share and learn from others.
When is the last time you went to a bar alone on a Friday night? Never. The same theory applies to your technology assessment, DO NOT engage in the tech assessment process alone. Implementing technology at the organizational level can be a frustrating process, partner with other organizations, use conferences to network, share your experiences to ease the pain.
Primary networks of support should also be established between members of the organization. Individuals within your organization adapt at different rates, support those who have tech fear throughout this process. Encourage the tech-challenged members to reach out for help when approaching challenging technology problems, remember you are all in this together.
Use this experience to strengthen organizational management and communication.
Have you ever experienced the emotional drunk, or worse, the drunk crier? Sober they are completely composed but, after a couple of shots they are completely a mess. During your tech assessment a similar effect occur. There are organization development or organization leadership issues that may need to be addresses, these issues will emerge during the assessment. Leadership in technology maybe be an unofficial or official title within the structure of your organization. Either way the movement toward technology adoption as an organization needs to be initiated from somewhere. It is okay to admit that some of the current systems in place designed to maintain the functions of your organization are not working, those issues need to be addressed.
“Everyone is there for the same reason, we want to see a change in the communities we are working with. We hold these communities close to our heart, the change we want to see is real. So we piecemeal, we patch things along and do our best to get by.” -Mike Rubio, Program Director