September 26, 2017

4 questions to ask when creating your technology plan

According to a recent report by NTEN, 65% of leading-edge nonprofit organizations have a process for prioritizing, selecting, and implementing their technology needs—and the first step in this process is developing the plan. Here are four questions to keep in mind when creating an effective technology plan for your organization.

1. Who is on your technology planning team?

Leaders often neglect to include their IT vendors or technology personnel in the decision-making process, while in other organizations, IT makes all technology decisions without any input from managers, departmental staff, or third-party vendors. According to Joe McKendrick at Forbes, today’s most successful organizations have top-level leadership who are “becoming more immersed in technology decisions, while CIOs and CTOs and their IT staff members, as well, are being asked to join in on high-level decision-making teams.”

In today’s competitive business environment, technology has become immersed in every aspect of operations. Involvement from stakeholders at all levels of the organization is essential to creating an effective and sustainable technology plan.

2. What are your technology-related goals?

The goals you set for your organization should be written to address specific problems or future goals for the organization. Of course, you should remember to be SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound). Additionally, your technology goals should address the following questions:

  • What is our primary technology issue or need?
  • What are our technology or organizational barriers?
  • How will our organization improve by addressing this issue?

3. Who are your IT champions?

Once you’ve determined your technology planning team, the next step is determining “who’s on first.” This means developing a resources list of the technology champions who will help realize the organization’s technology goals. These IT champions should consist of external and internal technology providers (tech vendors, IT contractors, and staff with IT responsibilities). Good communication is essential to any project, large or small. These individuals should have a clear and collaborative line of communication at all times.

4. What technology tools and resources do you have? What do you need?

You should evaluate the technology resources you currently own and what your organization will need for the future. This final part of the planning process is the point at which you will also begin gathering information to help you develop an annual budget projection for technology-related costs, as well. These components include:

  • Network services (internet, email, storage/backup, and disaster recovery): Do your current vendors provide outstanding service and support?
  • Hardware/maintenance & lifecycle: Is your equipment outdated or obsolete?
  • Software/upgrades & updates: Are you at the current version of all software? Do you have support from your software provider for updates to these products?
  • Technical assistance & training: What support resources do you need? Are your staff adequately trained to use your technology? Do they have someone to call for support when they need help?
  • Future growth and integration (mobility, remote access, cloud services): Where is your organization going? Do you need additional technology resources to get you there? Are there nonprofit or low-cost vendors to help you reach your goals?

Your organization’s technology plan should be thorough, easy to understand, and fluid, so that adjustments can be made as your industry changes. For complex organizations, you may want to seek advice or contract for support from a trusted professional in your industry to help you develop a technology plan that meets your needs.

With a little forethought and strategic thinking, you can create a technology plan for your nonprofit that is effective and sustainable.

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Rebecca Beck
Rebecca Beck, a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is a technology professional, training facilitator, and leader in the public sector. She began her career in technology with the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County in 2000 and serves as the organization’s Vice President of Information Technology. Rebecca is also a proud graduate of the award-winning business program at Fayetteville State University. Her strengths include; technology infrastructure planning, organizational leadership, and social media strategy development. Rebecca has hosted speaking engagements on social media planning and business leadership at the National Smart Start Conference, the NC Tech4Good Conference, and other venues throughout North Carolina. She shares advice on a variety of technology topics via Twitter and her blog, IfItHasButtons. Rebecca is also an active participant in volunteer opportunities that strengthen her community. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys attending statewide festivals, shopping at the local farmer’s market, and visiting the beautiful, North Carolina coastline.