Aligning technology goals with your mission and visionSome technology plans exist as beautiful documents that are filed away and quickly forgotten. Other plans guide the day-to-day behavior of people in an organization. Here are some simple strategies to create a plan that translates into action.
Write technology goals
When a goal is clearly defined, you can tell when it's actually been achieved — and then cross it off your list.
Examples of technology goals include:
- Install antivirus software on every computer in our organization
- Replace spreadsheets with customer relationship management (CRM) software
- Increase online donations by 15 percent by the end of the year
To get buy-in for technology projects from your board members and funders, align technology goals with your organization's mission and vision. Perhaps one of your overall strategic goals is to improve service by enabling staff members to share client information. Your related technology goals could be to install case management software and train staff members to use it.
To generate enthusiasm, make some of your goals "quick wins" — projects with visible rewards that are relatively easy to achieve. For example, you might plan to upgrade the office software on each of your computers to the most recent version. This simple intervention can unlock useful new features and improve the security of applications that staff members use every day.
List tasks with due dates
Once you have your goals, list the actions needed to achieve each goal. Drill down to visible behaviors that are concrete enough to put on a to-do list.
If your goal is to install new CRM software, for example, tasks might include:
- Contacting current vendors to ask for their recommendations for CRM software
- Securing pricing options from various CRM software vendors
- Researching the most popular CRM applications
- Creating a chart that compares the features of various CRM applications
For each task, add a due date — and the name of the person who's responsible for getting it done.
Budget with total costs in mind
Budget for each of your goals by considering the total cost of ownership. This is a concept from the for-profit world that's especially useful in technology planning.
Total cost of ownership equals the purchase price of hardware or software plus all the associated costs of deploying it. Those costs can include:
- Supplies, such as cartridges for printers
- Support and troubleshooting
- Upgrades and annual subscriptions
- Maintenance contracts and service fees
- Time to train staff in new technology
- Downtime from software crashes or equipment failure
You can plan for total cost of ownership in a variety of ways. One is to triple the initial cost of any new hardware or software for at least the first three months. Another is to spend no more than 10 percent of your annual technology budget on any single project.
Find creative ways to stretch your technology budget
To reduce technology costs, you might consider:
- Multi-year contracts for services such as broadband connection and web hosting. This might be cheaper than going with an annual plan. Pursue this option only with trusted vendors, though. Also ask for the right to cancel the contract at any time if you're not happy with the service.
- Free online software. Various project management applications are available for free if you're willing to put up with feature limitations or restrictions on number of users. However, it's important to consider the costs of "free" technology. Any software that comes at no cost initially must also be evaluated for the cost of implementation and training.
- Open source software. Open source software is usually free, but remember to budget for installation and customization.
- Donations. Used equipment can be a boon if it's in good working order, but it's important to consider all the dos and don'ts before accepting donated equipment. For best results, accept donations that are no more than five years old. Make sure that the original user manual is included. Accept broken hardware only if you're certain that it can be fixed.
- Refurbished products. These are older pieces of equipment that have been professionally updated and discounted in price. Before buying, ask about warranties and return policies.
- Technical assistance providers. TechSoup offers a product donation program along with discounted software, hardware, services and training. In the U.K., the program is called tt-Exchange. The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) offers similar options.
Revisit your technology plan
Pull out your technology plan at least once each quarter to evaluate your progress. This is much easier to do when goals are clearly defined and tasks have due dates. Keep your plan current by adjusting the timelines and budget as needed — and remember to celebrate when your goals are met.
TechSoup: Introduction to technology planning for nonprofits (2016)
TechSoup: Tips and tools for technology planning (2010)
TechSoup: New year, new tech plan: Mission-driven technology planning (2015)
TechSoup Canada: Mission-driven technology planning by Tierney Smith (2011)TechSoup Canada: Technology planning for nonprofits: Getting started by Tierney Smith (2011)