Technology can be a vital enabler for your non-profit to reach your long-term vision and goals. However, keeping pace with and taking advantage of new technologies, or realising the full potential of your existing solutions, isn’t always easy.
An effective IT strategy is an important tool to help non-profit organisations reach their long-term vision.
In this article we outline the 3 biggest challenges we see for non-profits when embarking on an IT strategy and how you can overcome them.
What is an IT strategy?
The aim of an IT strategy is to give you clarity on your strategic direction, and on what your provision of IT and digital should look like to achieve your organisation’s vision.
It will include a strategic assessment of what IT and digital tools are in use, and how they are utilised often includes a review of pain points, change drivers and barriers, together with an analysis of any capability gaps.
The biggest challenges when starting an IT strategy
1 Knowing where to start
There may a whole host of reasons why your organisation needs to embark on an IT strategy review, from a general feeling of discord and underperformance to a relationship with a technology partner coming to a natural end. At this point, many questions are raised including are we the problem? If we go to another technology partner, will we experience the same problems? What do we do first? Is there an appetite for change? And that’s just to name a few! So, with all these questions in play, knowing where exactly to start can be difficult.
When reviewing the different areas of the problem, it’s important to know that it is rare that one issue in one area will be happening in isolation. It is likely that the issues you’re experiencing will be interlinked. Therefore, it is important to take a holistic approach in your review, and this in turn means there isn’t a “right” place to start.
You will need to conduct a comprehensive review, assessing situations and issues from all angles, so you can be confident that where you choose to start won’t have a substantial effect on your findings or the outcome. This is essential in helping you put forward the most positive case to overcome the problems, since you will be addressing them from multiple perspectives.
2. Understanding what good looks like
When working with non-profits organisations, we often find that there isn’t a clear understanding of what good looks like. Most organisations do not know what is possible and what is the best way, for example, to manage data. They know they are probably not getting it ‘right’, but don’t quite know what ‘right’ is.
If you too are in this position before embarking on your IT strategy, it may be helpful to talk to your peers in the sector. Whilst each non-profit is ultimately different, there is a lot of common ground, especially when it comes to harnessing the power of technology. Ask them what they are doing, what works well, what doesn’t. This can really help you gather insights into what ‘good’ may look like for organisations with similar aspirations to yourself.
You can then apply those insights to your own specific circumstances, to determine what good can look like for you.
3. Rapid pace of innovation in the technology landscape
Technological innovation moves at such a rapid pace. In the last few years especially, we have seen adoptions of new technologies at an incredible speed. This, coupled with the increasing sophistication of audience expectations, can leave you feeling intimidated by the technology landscape. However, this shouldn’t be the reason to push it away – this is exactly the reason to get started!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s too much change and investment to take on. Break it down into stages by starting simple and starting with the high-level picture. This will put you in a great position to build out your IT strategy and really understand how you can take advantage of new technologies or better utilise your current systems.
Equally we work with a lot of non-profit clients who think that the pace of change is such that they can’t possibly invest in new technology without the choices they make today being obsolete before they can implement them. This is an understandable fear and consideration but the reality is that modernising your technology is about implementing flexible, adaptive tools within an appropriate budget, which will enable the tools to evolve with you.
That’s likely to be the first objective of your IT strategy, to put in place the core toolset you need, not point solutions to address specific individual systems.
If you would like find out more about getting started on your IT strategy, watch our webinar on demand where the Hart Square team discuss What is an IT strategy and a guide to getting it right!