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Why Not-For-Profits must have a clear IT strategy for success beyond 2018

Posted August 15, 2018
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Times have changed. When it comes to an IT-first attitude, it’s keep up or you’ll soon be lost in the dust! This is true, whether you’re a for-profit enterprise or an NFP. How can your NFP keep up?

By Rushad Billimoria, Information Systems Manager: Not-for-Profits and Aged Care

Times have changed. When it comes to an IT-first attitude, it’s keep up or you’ll soon be lost in the dust. This is true, whether you’re a for-profit enterprise or a non-profit. And it’s not-for-profits that often have a tendency to be left behind.

“IT strategy (information technology strategy) is a comprehensive plan that outlines how technology should be used to meet IT and business goals.” (TechTarget)

As all of our lives become more entwined with technology, your customers, clients, supporters, board members, and any other stakeholders will expect your organisation to keep up with the pace. This is where an IT strategy comes in.

We’re going to make an assumption here: that you already have a business strategy in place

If you don’t already have a strategic business plan in place for the near future, as well as the next few years or so, then it’s best to save your strength and start reading up about business strategy instead. The Council of Non-Profits (US-based) have a good set of resources to get you started.

Alright, so we’ve established that you have a pretty clear business plan or strategy. But do you have an IT strategy to support it?

Only 18% of NFPs have an IT plan that includes long-term IT projects and investments
(source: Digital Technology in The Not-For-Profit Sector, Infoxchange)

Your organisation’s IT strategy is your roadmap to the future. It details aspirational tech goals, technology gaps and possible solutions, and outlines systems and tools to help your NFP succeed. It’s a technology plan to help achieve your business plan.

Without an IT strategy, you will be making decisions about technology issues on the fly, which is often costly, non-optimal, and doesn’t look to the future.

We get it. You’re short on resources. But scrimping on resources by not creating and implementing a clear IT strategy? It’s a good way to get left in the past. You need to work smarter, not harder – which is what an IT strategy can help you to achieve.

What goes into an IT strategy?

Developing an IT strategy involves following a repeatable process to obtain the best possible plan for the future. Once your IT strategy is complete, it may need to be adjusted as time goes by and priorities/objectives change.

Here’s how to develop an IT strategy:

1. Identify business drivers

2. Create IT vision

3. Assess:

3.1 IT asset alignment

3.2 IT investment alignment

3.3 IT organisation alignment

4. Identify:

4.1 IT asset gaps

4.2 IT investment gaps

4.3 IT organisation gaps

5. Prioritise IT initiatives

6. Evaluate implementation options

7. Create migration plan

You can read further about the details of each step in this process at CIO Index.

As you can imagine, the steps involved can be quite lengthy and involve a lot of consideration. They may require involvement from all levels of your organisation, including the board through to admin staff.

Without someone around who is experienced in developing an IT strategy, this could well be a very difficult task. You might be able to complete some steps in the process, but not others.

If you are having difficulty creating an IT strategy, then come and speak to us at Bremmar and we can point you in the right direction. We have experience in helping NFPs create and implement IT strategies – and know the pain points that separate a business IT strategy from an NFP IT strategy.

Things to think about when developing an IT strategy

There will be many questions along the way when developing an IT strategy. Here we’ve outlined a few to get you started.

What do your customers/clients/supporters want from you digitally?

63% of NGOs around the world regularly send email (2017 Global NGO Technology Report).

Would email updates help to get your message across? Blog posts? Perhaps an overhaul of your website would make your message clearer.

What tasks can you automate?

There is now a plethora of software available to help automate tasks, which can help free up resources. These include modern accounting solutions, organisation and collaboration across the team, and online payment systems. Let’s also not forget about forms and workflow solutions that allow you to automate processes, such as internal approvals, notifications, etc.

What can you afford?

There are plenty of open source solutions to help achieve your IT tasks, such as Libre Office instead of a Microsoft Office subscription. If you are working with a limited budget, looking at open source solutions is a wise option. Some services also offer discounts to not for profits.

For more professional alternatives, there are a few discounted IT solutions that Australian NFPs can choose from to help with productivity & collaboration, however, Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most complete productivity, collaboration & mobility ecosystems.

Which IT solutions are “must haves”?

When talking about social media, Sal might be saying that you need to get across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, all with daily updates, because that’s what competitors are doing. The issue here is she’s probably looking at the most advanced competitors. It’s likely you won’t have the resources to do all that, and for social media you might limit yourself to two Facebook posts a week and checking your messages every other day.

The most basic and must have solutions are anti-virus software. ConnectingUp, an IT directory for NFPs, offers several anti-virus and security software by donation, such as Norton, Veritas and Symantec, which are available to eligible NFPs at discounted rates. This allows you to keep your donor information and other confidential data concerning finances, grants and funding secure.

The second layer involves information and data security, such as email filtering and encryption. The Office 365 Security & Compliance Center is part of some discounted Office 365 packages and is designed to help meet your organisation’s needs for content security and data usage compliance with legal, regulatory, and technical standards.

There are many discounted IT solutions that Australian NFPs can choose from to help with different areas of the business, such as Accounting, Marketing and Compliance. You can check the Connecting Up directory for more information or we are happy to guide you in the right direction, just send us an email.

Is your IT system unified or cobbled together over time?

When you put together bits and pieces in an IT system over time instead of thinking bigger picture, you end up with a bit of a mess. Perhaps you had a unified system many years ago, but haven’t updated your systems in a long time – or even thought about it. Or perhaps it’s been put together piece by piece. A clear IT strategy will help you see IT within your organisation as a whole; with clear aims and a reason behind every piece of equipment, piece of software, and configuration.

The final word about IT strategy for NFPs

Developing an IT strategy is a complex task. If you need help in developing an IT strategy, evaluating possible solutions, or implementing them within your organisation, that’s where we can help.

At Bremmar, we can sit down with you to help along at any stage throughout this process. IT strategy, implementation, and management is our forte. So if you have any questions, or would like to chat about what we can do for your NFP, make sure to drop us an email or give us a call.

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By Rushad Billimoria, Information Systems Manager: Not-for-Profits and Aged Care

As a Client Information Systems Manager, I’m the go-to person for Bremmar’s NFP and Aged Care customers.  I help charities, non-profit and Aged Care partners of all sizes transform their digital capabilities and modernise their workplaces, using a targeted and industry-specific approach.

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