4 firm foundations for successful digital transformation in the not-for-profit sector

We live in the digital era – from the way we work to the way we communicate, the way we shop, bank, even watch TV. Our whole world and everything within it revolve around technology that’s designed to make our lives easier and enhance our experience.

The term ‘digital transformation’ is bandied around organisations and means different things to different people. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, most digital transformation projects fail – an incredible 70% according to one report by Forbes.

Within the not-for-profit sector, much of the digital transformation activity has focused on digital marketing and fundraising – exploring how you can encourage more donations through your website, getting smarter about how you use your CRM system to engage with previous donors or employing automation tools to nurture them. These undertakings are a key part of digital transformation, as donors and/or members remain at the heart of your digital focus.

Digital transformation isn’t about a specific activity, or even a business function, it concerns rethinking how the organisation delivers its core mission within everything it does, across all systems

Therefore, embrace it and it offers exciting opportunities to deliver better services to your beneficiaries and engage donors in a way you never before thought possible.

Here we share 4 key areas that when in place, build a solid foundation which sets you up for success.

Step 1. Assess your cloud readiness

Many organisations have ageing, fragile and expensive infrastructure, where performance and incompatibility issues impact productivity and effectiveness. This is a key challenge for not-for-profit organisations that need to deliver maximum value for their members and donors.

Digital transformations often centre on intelligent cloud platforms since these eliminate the capital and maintenance costs associated with on-premise infrastructure, allowing your business to scale with ease, enables your remote workforce and is inherently more secure.

However, there’s a big difference between adopting individual cloud tools, such as Dropbox, Xero and Dynamics 365 and being a cloud-based organisation.

To fully realise the benefits that cloud has to offer – collaboration, productivity and cost-efficiency – there is an opportunity to re-think and adopt a cloud-first strategy.

As a cloud-first organisation you commit to consider cloud computing solutions before any alternative in order to leverage new software, platforms and infrastructure on a subscription basis.

Before commencing, we advise all organisations to quickly assess their readiness for a cloud-first operating model, because it will clearly identify weaknesses and opportunities in your current set-up. Take our online Digital Maturity Assessment for NFP’s to identify how mature your digital strategy is and what remains for you to do to empower your employees, optimise your operations and innovate for impact.

Click to take the assessment now…

Step 2. Evaluate your people and skills

Embracing digital technologies is great, but it only provides ‘possible’ improvements around efficiency, productivity and experience. In order to achieve a successful digital transformation, organisations must consider them alongside their people and processes.

When you have the ‘right’ people engaged in key roles your digital transformation project is 1.8x more likely to succeed.

As the person responsible for setting the organisation’s vision and mission in most digital transformation projects, the CEO leads the agenda. If you are responsible for maintaining your organisation’s security posture, the last thing you want during your transformation efforts is to be left vulnerable and exposed to cyber criminals who are looking for any opportunity to take your personal data. And we’re seeing signs of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) taking a more strategic role, bridging the gap between IT and the rest of the business.

In larger organisations, we’ve seen new roles created to facilitate the digital transformation agenda – from a Chief Digital Officer to Head of Digital Transformation, Head of Technology Transformation and Head of Innovation. In the not-for-profit sector, acquiring these new roles may be seen by many as an unnecessary luxury.

We believe that every organisation should have access to the skills they require for their business to thrive.

It’s the reason we created a Virtual CIO Service, which enables you to leverage our specialist skills, knowledge and experience without hiring more staff and adding to the payroll.

Discover how a virtual CIO can help you with strategic planning, technology roadmap creation, budgeting, and security and compliance management.

Contact us to find out more…

Step 3. Build a business case

With your cloud readiness assessed, and the right people in place, it’s time to turn your attention to the ‘process’ aspect of your operations.

Many organisations struggle to get their digital transformation project off the ground because they’re so busy simply ‘keeping the lights on’ – they’re so focussed on business-as-usual that they fail to plan for their future success.

Furthermore, 39% of senior executives admit to feeling overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of digital transformation, which is why you need to take things one step at a time.

Start right at the top. Engage your Board and use the results of your Digital Maturity Assessment to highlight the areas that aren’t performing as well as they could and identify opportunities to improve.

Show the Board how these improvements align to the overall mission and discuss the impact – for example, how the experience of your beneficiaries would improve through better services.

With a cloud-first strategy, there’s no question that you’ll improve collaboration, productivity and engagement across the business. Start to quantify what this looks like. Note down:
• Anticipated costs.
• Anticipated savings vs. on-premise infrastructure.
• Wider resources required to deliver the plan.
• Skills gaps that need filling.
• Expected return on investment.
• Potential cost of doing nothing.

Creating the business case is so important to create a common understanding and tangible vision of what the proposed changes would look like. You can demonstrate that you’ve thought about preventing any disruption to business-as-usual, the required investment, and mitigating risk.

Step 4: Get some help

You are not alone.

Although most organisations already use some form of cloud service, as we discussed above, there’s a big difference between adopting a handful of products and embracing a cloud-first strategy. And 85% of organisations are still reluctant to fully embrace cloud computing due to risk and security concerns .

When we’ve encountered this reluctance in the past, it usually stems from IT leaders’ lack of knowledge and experience.

Research conducted by Vanson Bourne appears to concur, with 50% of organisations surveyed saying they do not have the skills in-house to manage cloud security.

The skillset required for business as usual is vastly different to those required for cloud migrations or cloud security, so it is here that in-house IT teams often need to enlist external help.

The same challenges and the same shortage of skills are seen in charities and not-for-profit organisations regardless of their size. In this situation, involving a specialist partner is a cost-effective alternative to hiring in-house experts. Appointing a partner enables you to acquire the skillsets you need to ensure your future success by navigating the potential pitfalls of digital transformation and formulating a strategy that’s right for your business.

When you’re on the hunt for a new IT support provider, it helps to know that they understand your industry and your organisation’s unique challenges.