NFPs that fail to embrace innovation will struggle to compete with agile new challengers. So what can not-for-profit leaders do to ensure they remain competitive?
The sector has been more competitive than ever. Having a strategy can be what gets your organisation ahead of the game in 2018. Learn how.
By Brenton Harris, Managing Director
Strategic IT planning is critical for NFPs. Modern non-profits must increasingly deal with new regulations, government policy changes and rising costs. Competition from nimble start-up charities using disruptive technology and smart social marketing is also growing. The digital era makes it easy for agile new organisations to appear from nowhere, immediately competing for funding and support.
In today’s competitive marketplace, NFPs must rise to the challenge and develop strong strategic IT roadmaps to stay ahead of the field. A good strategic plan establishes priorities, organises stakeholders and builds evaluation systems. This is essential to ensure resources are allocated efficiently and productively. Planning may take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of your organisation.
Be prepared to grow in a planned and integrated way
Technology keeps evolving rapidly and it seems that every day there’s a new techy solution for any sort of problem so before selecting hardware, systems and applications, it’s important to align your use of technology with your mission and goals. You need to decide on the appropriate tools to meet those goals and then help employees and stakeholders adapt to changes brought about by the new technology.
In IT, everything needs to interconnect seamlessly and some people don’t understand the importance of this. If your technology is not integrated and strategically planned, departments will buy and use different solutions that don’t communicate with each other. This impedes collaboration and creates ongoing issues that damage your competitive advantage. For example, you don’t want to install a new Wi-Fi network and then discover it doesn’t support your video conferencing system – It would be a waste of money, time and would most likely lead to staff frustration.
Why strategy? Aren’t plans and goals enough?
- A strategy is key to remain competitive. Know where you are going, what you are pursuing and how you are getting there with short, long-term and ongoing actions. Through a proper strategy, these actions will be planned carefully and will take into consideration internal and external factors that could impact your organisation.
- Optimise overall spending as well as not buy or maintain obsolete technology.
- Give your IT room to grow in a planned and integrated way.
- Simply said, avoid future chaos and a mess. Departments, offices and people will use and buy different technologies that don’t converse with each other. It’s a ripple effect that will impact your organisation’s collaboration, productivity and the most important, IT and data security.
- Products are evolving rapidly and new systems being adopted. A strategy is crucial to leverage new or existing systems as user adoption is the main barrier to change.
- Be prepared for funding or government and/or internal changes.
- Understand what you have, how it serves the organisation and put all the parts of the puzzle together to know what’s involved in getting your IT where it needs to be.
These are the key steps to developing a strategic IT plan:
- Build a team that includes technology and non-technology experts from various parts of your business, making the best use of volunteers and consultants where available.
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your existing technology – does it fulfil your NFP’s goals? To properly prepare for the future, you need to spend time analysing the world outside your business to understand how to remain relevant and ensure you’re prepared to overcome future challenges.
- Set clear, specific and prioritised technology goals, aligned with your mission, culture, and budget. The objective is to optimise your IT spending and ensure you don’t purchase or maintain obsolete technology. Ideally, you should select a core platform (such as an ERP solution) and then ensure everything else interconnects successfully with that platform.
- Consider funding plans, grant proposals and budgets, and ensure your plan prepares you for future funding changes. Evaluate different scenarios. When setting your budget, remember that digitising your non-profit and using the right technology will better position you to take advantage of new opportunities.
- Discuss the proposed new technology with the team built in step 1 and the effect it will have on employees, directors and funders. You may need to overcome entrenched resistance to change, but this resistance can be eased by showing that your plan allows your technology infrastructure to grow in a controlled and integrated manner.
- Plan for the sustainable future of the new technology, including training and ongoing support. Training strategy is more relevant than ever, as products evolve rapidly and new systems are adopted. If your employees don’t know how to use the technology then the project will fail – wasting valuable time and money, as well as the opportunity cost.
Does your NFP need an IT partner that understands the intricacies of the sector and can maximise the technology available to you? Our team of consultants are experts at helping NFP’S and can guide you in developing a strategic IT plan for your organisation.Back to articles