Your Technology Problem Is Actually a People Problem

Digital transformation that actually works requires putting the right people on it and understanding what their job is — and isn’t.

A complete technology transformation, when done right, will transform every piece of your organization almost unimaginably for the better. We see the effects of this daily, working with ambitious organizations of different types and sizes to reach a new level of competence (and eventually excellence) with their technology.

But what surprises most people about the road to great technology is how much more it’s about getting the right people on board than about anything very technical.

Because at the end of the day, an organization’s technology problem is almost always actually a people problem. Persistent frustrations with technology result from a severely outdated approach to technology that no longer works in today’s world. You can no longer close your eyes and hope either that technology will somehow take care of itself or that someone else can take care of it for you. It won’t, and they can’t.

Fortunately, the way out of the woods is straightforward, at least conceptually. It’s the same thing you would do for any part of your organization that you care deeply about, from Fundraising to Programs to Communication to Operations. 

You put great people on it. 

Why? Because great technology is hard! It’s complex, it’s ever-changing, and by nature, it’s never fully solved. Great technology doesn’t happen by itself. It doesn’t happen without attention and resources, and it doesn’t happen without great leadership, clear strategy, and skilled communication

You might think this means that you need a traditional IT team, but we’re talking about an entirely different side of technology. Instead, what you need is a digital product team or a “Technology Accelerator Team.” A digital product team uses methods of product management that have solidly emerged as best practices in the tech world, recognizing that technology platforms require skilled, dedicated internal leaders with the clear mission of strategically driving and stewarding your technology investments. 

Until your organization comes to grips with that reality, you will continue to be stuck in the dark ages, or the frustratingly dim ages, wasting countless hours and untold opportunities. Whereas once you make that transition, you find yourself taking on capabilities and opening doors you never quite knew were even possible.

We’ve seen this transition happen repeatedly, and it’s thrilling to witness. So we’ve pulled together what we’re calling the Roadmap to a Better Technology Tomorrow to explain how it all works. In it, we walk through how to make a case for change, which key gaps need the most focus, how to build the team you need, and how to bring all the right players to the table.

On the one hand, each piece of the roadmap is relatively straightforward. But taken together, this path is also not to be underestimated. It won’t work as an afterthought or a low-priority side project. No doubt your organization is currently prioritizing some things with focus and resources. The same will be needed here to be successful. That’s why the roadmap starts with the clear mandate, “You Must Be Willing to Invest.”

That means investing real resources into the effort, yes. However, the costs of continuing to ignore the destruction that bad technology is wreaking are astronomical. And the benefits — in terms of cost savings, staff satisfaction, better-engaged constituents, and ultimately in terms of significantly increased impact — are extraordinarily far-reaching. The future winners of every sector are already headed this way, so there isn’t much time to lose.

You can get there. But the first step is deciding where you’re headed towards a genuine transformation into an organization that includes strategic, ever-improving technology as part of its very DNA.

When you’re ready to take that on, we hope the Roadmap to a Better Technology Tomorrow will help you get there.

Chris Zezza
Senior Strategist
The Build Tank

Chris Zezza is co-founder of The Build Tank, where he also holds the honorary title of Chief of Metaphor. He can often be found emerging from his cave, wild-eyed, shouting things such as “Technology is a baby dragon!” at unsuspecting passersby.

Sam Dorman
Co-Founder
The Build Tank

Sam Dorman has long sought to help social sector organizations thrive with technology. The Build Tank, which he co-founded, helps forward-thinking organizations transform towards a new model of a thriving, technology-forward future.