Monday, August 27, 2007

corporate IT vs nonprofit IT - seeking quality improvement

Six Sigma, is that a phrase that you would hear in a nonprofit? I am not sure, but I know it would be rare in the org I work for. It seems that we dont strive for excellence as much as we could. Corporations are always seeking ways to be more effective and efficient, even if it means a monetary investment. While I see less willingness of nonprofits to make the same efforts, granted this may be due to a lack of funds to invest (or are they just using them wrong?).

One of the things I am proud of my organization for doing right now is taking the time to improve and clarify our mission. Rather than adding on more things to what we do and trying to expand, instead we are rethinking how well we do our core focus. Have we forgotten who we are? We plan to stop doing a few things if it doesnt make sense to our mission, even if it brings in needed cash. We want to focus our time and efforts more purposefully. Yet, amidst this change, there is no talk of updating our systems, staff tech skills, IT infrastructure or the tools we use to do the work. We will just work harder and longer, it doesnt matter if we see our own families. Lets just get the staff to use those pens faster, order more paper, spend more time filing, etc.

Anyway, what is the solution? I think one big change that is needed is for CEOs and leadership to be more open about admitting they dont understand technology and if they do understand it, admit their organization needs help.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Corporate IT vs Nonprofit IT part 2 - toys vs real impact

Toys vs. real impact. It seems so easy to find articles about nonprofits and technology that are fun stories or unique uses of technology. It seems so easy to find articles about corporations and technology that prove real benefit and direct impact. But can you find articles about nonprofits and technology that prove real benefit and direct impact? Or articles about corporations and technology that are fun stories or unique uses of technology?

Again, I understand there are huge differences in focus, types of staff, spending habits and drive for mission vs. profit. But why does this appear to be so extreme?

The nonprofit I work for has zero information and almost nonexistent interest in finding out about how technology plays a role in success beyond the fun new applications. When they talk about what makes a healthy organization they list fiscal management, building maintenance, high quality leadership and good financial development (fund raising). But please dont mention technology, that is just implied.

Conversely the conversations at corporations seem to brag about their technology prowess, effectiveness and efficiency.

For example, if you visit news on search CIO, you will see stories of companies using technology to in very strategic and tactical ways.

Conversely if you try to look for similar nonprofit technology stories, first you will have a hard time finding a site like that. Not like the ginormous number available for the corporate world. But I guess look at techsoup or nten , you will mostly find innovation and cool stories, not a lot on real strategy or tactics with real success stories highlighted. I give lots of credit to people creating great resources on strategy and tactics, but where are the organizations bragging about the real impact technology has had on their core operations, not the innovation but the everyday stuff.

No idea if I made any sense or anything close to a real point today, but I tried.

Random coolness:
Deborah Elizabeth Finn points out: Beth's weekly summary of nonprofit technology memes is always a delight, but this week's is especially full of good stuff. You can check it out at:

"NpTech Tag Summary: Exphones, Death by Powerpoint, and Facebook Causes How-To"
<http://beth. beths_blog/ 2007/08/nptech- tag-summ. html>

Cool article (corporate about role of CEO) from McKinsey