Welcome to the first of three blog posts in our technology planning series. We’ll be discussing how to maximize your resources with a well-thought-out plan, how to conduct a technology assessment, and technology planning for disaster preparedness.
For now, let’s start with:
What’s involved in Technology Planning?
It’s been said that “people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.” The same is especially true for nonprofit’s technology – without having a plan in place, it’s impossible to spend limited resources wisely. Why? Because technology has a very short life span – it changes and becomes obsolete very quickly. For example, new iPods come out every September. And updates to software and hardware continuously improve the tech experience.
Another issue nonprofits succumb to is what we call “technology by accident.” That’s when well-meaning donors give you their old computers when they purchase new ones. Before you know it, you’re surrounded by old technology that you may not know what to do with.
So how do you decide where to spend your limited resources? Having a technology plan in place will help you focus on where your technology is now, where you want to go in the future, and how you’re going to get there.
A technology plan is important because it:
- Helps you align technology with your mission and accomplish more.
- Saves money on technology since you only buy what you need.
- Is helpful when writing grants and requesting funding as it clearly defines goals and needs.
- Avoids mistakes by planning ahead and makes your nonprofit more productive.
- Allows you to anticipate equipment failure before it becomes a crisis.
- Enables staff to use their time more effectively.
- Provides documentation of existing systems, which is valuable organizational intelligence that is often lost due to staff turnover.
Start by looking at your mission statement and organization goals and determining how technology can help get you there. Writing out your rationale for why those goals are important can help you prioritize them. It’s helpful if you state your goals in a measurable way. (i.e., “Increase student academic performance by x% by integrating technology”).
Asking three key questions will help you begin to focus the situation:
- What does your group plan to do with computers in the next few months? (remember that short life span.)
- What can technology do for your organization now, six months from now, and a year from now?
- How do you currently use technology? Dig into all the details: does everyone have access to the information they need, when they need it? What type of device is most practical – computer, tablet, smartphone?
Anatomy of a good plan:
A good technology plan will:
- Look more like a road map than a wish list, with both the route and the destination.
- Include recommendations on policy, professional development, and staffing.
- Take a holistic approach to planning.
- Assign responsibilities.
- Address the decision-making process
- Include a strategy to measure success.
It can be helpful to put together a technology team to help you create a written technology plan, a group of 4 to 5 stakeholders who can devote the time required. You should include not only the tech-savvy, but representatives from across the organization to identify all pain points and areas for improvement. Their job will be to assess the state of your current technology and determine what your technology strengths and weaknesses are, as well as what technology you need in order to achieve organizational goals. Then make a list, and prioritize the items in accordance with your goals
We’ll have more on how to perform a technology assessment in our next blog. Meanwhile, tell us: has your organization created a formal technology plan? If so, do you have any tips for success?