Monday, July 30, 2007

Corporate IT vs Nonprofit IT part 1

OK, so my title says part 1, not sure how many parts this will be but I know it is more than one. So here we go.

Why does there have to appear to be such a HUGE gap in corporate technology and nonprofit technology understanding. Over the next few blogs, I will ponder why there appears to be such a large gap in the articles I read on nonprofit tech sites vs the corp tech sites.

First a caveat, I do understand that there are enormous differences in the focus and resources of corps vs nonprofits. We may not need the same level of spending and high tech gadgets, but why do many nonprofits appear narrow in their technology thinking?

OK, so my first example. Right now almost all of the corp tech sites are pushing for business process management or aligning your technology with your business:

Business alignment remains a top priority for IT executives. James Champy offers CIOs advice for turning IT into an integral part of their business operations, and no longer just a service center.

While the nonprofit tech sites are still just offering advice on how to convince your Exec Director why technology is important.

10 Things Every Nonprofit Executive Needs to Know about IT

I am not knocking the content of the above article, I think it is beyond great and should be a must read for every Exec or manager in my organization.

But what I am saying is that maybe a large part of my struggle is that the leadership in nonprofits are so fired up about mission that they lose any understanding about running the business of the nonprofit. Now I have seen the opposite, nonprofit has great mission, hires new exec from for-profit to focus on business and nonprofit looses mission focus. But that is not what I mean. I think that nonprofit leaders often only think of technology as another mission or communications tool, so they never acknowledge the importance of their business technology.

So as an example the org that I work for did not include technology in our new strategic plan and mission focus because it was CEOs and execs that were creating the vision. So now as they go through the next phases of planning, technology is an after thought.

But if you look at the corporate side of the house, the execs get it. They see that solid business practices supported by the best technology creates a foundation that delivers EFFECTIVENESS and well as efficiency.

So I vote that nonprofits continue to be less effective and only use tech as a gadget and not bother to focus on their core business practices supported by solid technology. It gives people like me something to do.

Anyway, cool random things:

Blog from Isoph on online learning, thought they would have done this sooner though. But great content already!

Beth Kanter continues her blog quest for world domination and awesome information. Now she shares a gem about creating demonstrations!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Measuring impact without data

For the last few years my organization has launched a major initiative that has been paraded as a mission imperative. This initiative has the right intentions and a solid foundation that feeds right into the new strategic plan and vision. It is wonderful when it all comes together. But (of course there is a but in this story) it pushes for all of us to start measuring impact, not just outcomes and numbers. Dont just tell us how many people you served and what the objectives were, tell us how those people changed and what else was impacted.

When I hear them talk like that it makes me chuckle a little, not because I disagree, because I do agree. But rather I chuckle because we already have a hard enough time with filling complete and timely 990s, getting simple counts and gathering solid data. So now we expect them to measure real impact? But wait it gets better...

Not only does this new initiative ask for impact measurements, it provides no insight on how to do that, what data to gather, what to track, data standards or any tactical operation changes needed. To their credit after years of this, they finally see this weakness and they are working on it, but (wow there are a lot of buts in this story) the key word is "they" in that sentence. We, meaning the tech and operations staff, helped point out the needed clarity. But it is "they" who are working alone to try to fix this and develop a strategy, "they" have yet to include us in the conversation.

Anyway, I guess the lesson here is that it is not enough for leadership and others to just set a vision and hope people will figure out how to follow it.

Random things I have bumped into lately:, this seems like a cool site, but it does not appear to get used or to be very active, hmmm. In their words,
Capaciteria is a comprehensive, searchable database directory of administrative resources that help nonprofits leverage their own capacity. It promotes peer review because MEMBERS can comment on and rate individual resource links as well as add useful new links. Like Google, search requests return link results weighted to rise based on ratings and popularity given to them by nonprofit users.

The Anecdote blog offered up an article,
Why people don't use collaboration tools, that I found to be true and interesting. Often we throw a website or technology at a problem to fix it, which will always work, NOT!