Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NTC: an original social network

Every year I look forward to NTC with great anticipation. My "first time" was in Philly, since then I've missed only one due to work & family commitments.

That first NTC was a bit of a risk - I had no idea what to expect and a group of colleagues were looking for a place to connect as part of the larger NPTech scene. The result was overwhelmingly in favor of making NTC a gathering, learning & sharing event in our ORG.

It's always interesting to hear why folks can't attend or decide against attending NTC:

TOO COSTLY:

Every year prior to NTC, NTEN runs an amazing, community driven event to raise funds to scholarship attendance. I can't recall the numbers, but there were well over 50 scholarships given last year. If you need one, apply! (and fundraise like MAD to help the community & support others with a scholarship to NTC)

TOO MUCH FUNDRAISING & COMMUNICATIONS, NOT ENOUGH TECH:

Bottom line is this; NTC is what YOU make of it. The best & most valuable gift / payback of each and every NTC I have attended is the connection to the NTEN community & all the amazing friendships I've developed via NTC. The way I see it, we've got a TON in common - we work for NPO's, we have similar challenges, we have budget issues, we need all types of tech to be efficient, we need to think strategically & act tactically - the list goes on and on.

When you come to NTC you meet NPO's that are at different levels in the technology continuum - some folks are experts in social media, some folks know how to find funding sources for tech, some can share a “kickass” mobile solution for fundraising, some can help you develop an amazing strategic plan while others willing share all they know about cloud computing & virtualization - but we're all in the same boat working towards common goals, we're mission driven and we want to make a difference in the world. You can't get that at a Gartner conference.

Is there a bit of imbalance in the types of sessions? Perhaps, but fundraising & communications are vital to an orgs existence and ability to meet their mission - I would challenge every "techie" at NTC to listen to those folks driving for change & pushing the envelope in these areas (SM, fundraising, communications, eMarketing etc) - they need you! They need solid infrastructure! They need a PARTNER in making dreams happen - NTC is a "dreamers opportunity" if only we can look beyond what is immediately our own.

For me, NTC is not as much a "Tech conference" as it is a "Connection conference" – being a small part of something that is so much bigger than me is really cool and good for the soul. The conversations & opportunities to share are priceless. Attend NTC, join in, ask questions, become a part of a vibrant & growing community - engage!

NTC is all about the "human side" of technology.


Peace,
John

a not for profit human-focused technologist driving A.R.T.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Forget the Tech, Let’s Talk Mission

There is often a powerful disconnect between the objectives of technologists and the direction of an organization's leadership team. Perhaps one of the most challenging questions a nonprofit can ask is, "What should our org's commitment to the use and leverage of technology actually be?"

In too many cases, tech becomes the elephant in the room: we see it, but tend to ignore the greater possibilities. Tech speaks it's own confusing language, when the only unifying language we all need to speak is MISSION.

There's no question that information technology and the instantaneous access to data, when properly used, can become a significant tool in meeting your organization's mission -- but acceptance and alignment still seem to be incongruent. There is little doubt that technology aligned and used properly can bring efficiency in extending and meeting goals in support of the mission. But:

  • What does the techie need to do to be heard and become a functional part of the fabric?
  • How can a techie coexist in a world where tech doesn't have a seat the table?
  • What are the effects of culture and how can the techie adapt?
  • How does the techie learn to listen to the needs, build relationships, and develop solutions that meet the organization's goals?
  • What is the "strategic plan" and how does the lone technologist understand where they fit -- providing that orgs are thinking strategically and even have a strategic plan?
  • How does the orgs technologist bring synergy while leaving the techno-babble behind?
  • How do you separate the tactical from the strategic?
  • How do you match tech to mission and what does that mean?
  • How do you do all of this and never put technology in front of the mission?

Matching Tech to Mission ~ Read & Understand the Strategic Plan

Knowledge is power and one of the best places to seek knowledge about your organization is by reading the strategic plan. Techies often feel the strain of being "misunderstood"; I would challenge each and every nonprofit technologist to begin by first understanding their organization.

Hidden in plain sight within every strategic plan lie the goals of the organization. The technologist, seeking to make him or herself invaluable, needs only to find these goals and begin the path to enlightenment and alignment. But identifying the goals is only the beginning. The next step is to understand the goals -- clearly.

Almost inevitably, the first reaction of the technologist is to set about meeting the goals, acting individually with no input from those who envisioned and created the goals. This is the wrong course of action.

Most good relationships being with understanding, a mutual agreement on a course of action or common direction. Here is a great "relationship" moment for the technologist: seek out the person or team that created the strategic plan and ask them questions about the goals, learn from those who created the plan, and ask for clarification to attain a greater understanding of each goal's intent and purpose.

The goals within a strategic plan are mission-focused, created for the specific purpose of meeting or extending the organization's mission. As the technologist learns why each goal exists, through dialog with the goal's creators, they can begin the process of designing solutions that will leverage technology to meet the mission.

It can be a challenge to get an audience with the top leadership. You have to be creative: offer to meet over lunch, coffee, prepare a summary of what you see in the strategic plan that asks probing questions that could lead to mutual ideas and extended discussion; chocolate works, too. Making this meeting happen will take work. Be prepared for roadblocks and brushoffs, but don't give up.

Understanding how you can best support your organization via technology depends on the relationship you will and can forge with the leadership team. Reach out, build bridges and swallow your pride. After all, it's not about technology, it's about the mission.

It's All About the Relationship ~ Getting Connected Even if You're Not Wanted

How do you build a lasting and functional relationship with your organization even when you're rejected by the very people you struggle to support? You keep trying and you change your approach to meet each situation.

A great way to build relationships is to seek "champions". We all have staff that can't get enough technology. They're always willing to try the next new gadget or adopt the latest social media tool. Reach out to and embrace these staff. Assist them in understanding technology and make them an extended part of your team. Staff "champions" can have a very positive affect on bringing technology to better support the organization.

The technologist must recognize and accept that, sometimes, you can't be a prophet in your own land (org). By harnessing and leveraging other people's enthusiasm for technology, you can build a cadre of tech-savvy staff who will assist you in bringing technology to meet the mission.

Another easy and effective plan to build relationships is something I call "3 Simple Things":

  1. Help and ensure that staff understand what technology is available in your organization.
  2. Train staff in the use of the organizations technology.
  3. Actively solicit feedback on tech needs, including changes to existing technologies; when you receive feedback, follow through. Just because we're techies doesn't mean we know best. Some of the best ideas for the use and integration of technology will come from the staff.

Another great trick to use is the "quick win". Find a tech project that meets a specific organizational need and can be quickly implemented with quick payback -- for example, a wiki to support a cross-departmental collaboration. "Quick Wins" can do wonders for building relationships in support of tech for the mission.

Never underestimate the power of relationships. The path to better relationships with your organization's top leaders begins with the frontline staff.

What does a Strong Relationship Between Tech & Staff Look Like? ~ Metrics

So, you've done your homework, read the strategic plan and your questions and relationship building have begun to bear fruit. What, then, does the tech/mission aligned organization look like? Have you really attained higher function? Here are a few examples in support of alignment and tech working in partnership with staff.

  • You have a seat at the management table and actively work with leadership to extend the mission via the targeted use of technology.
  • You are part of the strategic planning process and technology goals are included in the strategic plan -- not as individual tech goals, but in support of the organizations strategic goals.
  • You are meeting regularly with key staff and department heads to evaluate needs and implement solutions.
  • You're proactively cultivating 'aha' moments with staff; it's all about the relationships, and the work you do to help staff "get it" will make it easier for the larger tech initiatives you are now working towards.
  • You're thinking "strategically" and functioning "tactically".
  • You're developing "champions" to extend the reach of technology and help others realize their fullest potential for using technology to support the mission.
The Organizational Chart ~ Look for Obstacles

The way in which mission focused technology comes to be is largely based on the organizational chart, that funny diagram made up of boxes and lines that either puts tech on the path to success or the highway to, well...

Just as you review the strategic plan to finds the places where tech can be leveraged, you need to read your organizational chart and look for obstacles placed between I.T. and the mission. Obstacles could be simple things like tech staff residing at such a low level they become "order takers" -- or glaring challenges like a lack of I.T. staff.

Your task here is to minimize the obstacles via the development of relationships and an organizational analysis of I.T. that can awaken and visualize the needs. Don't try to fight the org chart as you will run smack into a "cultural barrier", but look for ways to lower the hurdles.

Conclusion

"Forget the Tech, Let's Talk Mission" is about using the information and resources readily available in each of our orgs to develop questions and talking points to move technology closer to supporting the mission. Using available information and resources -- strategic plans, org charts and staff knowledge -- what questions can you ask that will bring better mission support and extension via technology?

Focus squarely on building relationships, don't jump to conclusions, and avoid being too tactical as the mission is purely strategic. In simple terms, this is I.T. / business alignment.

~A.R.T.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Managing Expectations: A few things staff should expect from their IT PARTNER - thoughts by John Merritt

IT should be viewed as a business partner, not a service provider. Here are a few things that staff should expect from their IT partner.


Strong Communications Skills – I think the best technology partner is a business person that utilizes technology in a mission / cost oriented manner to solve problems and can bridge the tech / communications gap, at all levels of the org, from CEO, to front-line staff.


Cultivator of IT / Business champions – IT, alone, is never a solution. It’s not about the technology, it’s about how staff can leverage technology for efficiency and mission effectiveness. An adept technology partner leverages staff to champion technology causes in support of mission.


Budget Focused – an effective IT partner works with business units, upfront, to plan for & align technology to meet needs and mission – the IT partner is sympathetic to the cost of technology / poorly implemented technology and they work to educate staff.


Strategic Planner / Partner – the IT partner understands the difference between the tactical & strategic, is actively involved with business units in the long-term planning process. The ability to ‘implement’ is a key expectation too.


State of the Self – each and every day the tech world reveals new ‘shiny objects’ – the aligned IT partner cuts through the crap, evaluates technologies and brings sustainable solutions based on reliable (state of the shelf) technology


Problem Solver / Troubleshooter – technology breaks; good IT partners should bring cost-conscious, quick solutions and speedy response when things go south


Keeps finger on the pulse of the tech industry – The tech world changes in the blink of an eye, are you ready? – a good IT partner should take several hours a week to 1) contemplate their naval – which means just that, take time to think and problem solve (the thinking process and how IT staff process information is both highly valuable and greatly misunderstood) ensuring the org is on-track for the future by actively seeking new technologies and comparing them to business process and mission. 2) read, read, read - tech industry reports, blogs, journals - the only way to stay on top is to stay educated. If you don't have a reading list, make one - here's a few good books to get you started: "The New CIO Leader: Setting the Agenda and Delivering Results" by Marianne Broadbent & Ellen S. Kitzis "Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology" by Bob Lewis - "IT Doesn't Matter, Business Processes Do" A Critical Analysis of Nicholas Carr's I.T. Article in the Harvard Business Review - by Howard Smith & Peter Fingar "Groundswell" by Charlene Li & John Bernoff "Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission: A Strategic Guide FOR NONPROFIT LEADERS" various authors from thr NPTech community, edited by Holly Ross, Katrin Verclas & Alison Levine

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Community & the Future

A sense of team, a sense of community, is very important to removing walls and setting a level playing field - a great connection with a new colleague has set the creative process in motion.

On towards newness and rebirth...

ART

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My (demo) iPhone - Final Update

The fun is coming to an end; two free weeks with my demo iPhone are nearly over. Long story short, this will be the final update.


iPhone | Pro

The Package: Nice controls, the minimalistic approach to design, an Apple standard, really shines on the iPhone. Buttons are well placed and obvious in their intent. I really like the vibrate / ring switch - reminiscent of Treo - it sure makes it quick to ensure your phone is set to "stun" for meetings & movies. The external speaker works surprisingly well for phone calls or playing your fav music.

User Interface: Amazing! Apple has done this right from the start. The multi-touch interface works darn near flawlessly, is highly accurate and is just plain fun to use. The iPhone UI makes for a very intuitive experience.

Applications: seem tightly integrated and well thought out. Word & Excel files really pop. The wide selection of 3rd party apps is really a great bonus, although you need to watch out as some of the stuff (especially the free stuff) I got from the app library was a bit flakey (guess that's a con, oh well)

Web: it may be Safari, but it's the best web experience I've ever had on a phone / PDA

Large Screen: bright & beautiful with the ability to see lots of icons

Accelerometer: an amazing piece of technology, on the fly re-orientation of applications and the ability to do a host of amazing things (like cool game play)

WIFI: every PDA should have WIFI

MS Exchange: For business people, this is where the iPhone really stands out. With the touch interface it really made reading mail on the phone fun, loved the way you delete a message by dragging you finger through an email - akin crossing the email off a list. Tight integration for reading / viewing docs - like word / excel / powerpoint.

I could keep going, but I think that covers the key items on my "pro" list


iPhone | Con

No Copy / Paste: while I don't use this feature often, it's still a huge convenience. I'm really surprised Apple didn't add this from the get go.

iTunes: having to tether a PDA phone is really a pain, especially if you're on the road. Also found that free apps require you to enter you Apple ID, what gives? They're free!

No Remote Management: again, this only plays in the corporate world, but unless I missed something (always possible) without the ability to update / fix / kill a phone remotely this is a problem for corporate IT departments.

No Lock Down / Security Levels: users can install / uninstall apps at will - again, this one only plays to the corporate world, but it's an issue.

Lack of 3G Coverage: not an Apple issue, an AT&T issue. Seems that AT&T just doesn't have the 3G coverage of say - Verizon.

Network: again, this is an AT&T issue, but it does affect the iPhone. I got more bars in more places with my Verizon phone than I did with the iPhone.

Battery Life / No Way to Change the Battery: I understand that the 2.1 update will help battery life, believe me, it's needed as I was unable to make it through the day without needing to recharge. You can manage your battery life by turning off WIFI and 3G.

No Turn-by-Turn GPS: seems like the GPS services have gotten better, but they're still behind the GPS offerings from other carriers.

I'm sure there are more pros / cons to add to this list, but that about covers it for my 2 week demo experience with the iPhone. Most of this stuff is identical to every other iPhone review you can find on the 'net. The only difference is that it's coming from an independent user seeking enlightenment on using the iPhone in the Corporate world.

My honest opinion on the iPhone: wait one more generation, especially if you're a corporate user or are thinking of deploying the iPhone in a corporate environment. There's stuff that needs to be addressed, but I don't doubt it'll be a much better phone in its next life.

If you're in to gadgets - go for it - you'll love the iPhone.

This has been fun and I thank AT&T for the demo iPhone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My (demo) iPhone part 4

Phone restored and apps working fine! Took some work but once I cleaned up the phone (again) then auth'd it for iTunes use all was well. Again, if trouble happens to someone traveling that requires erase / reset it could be a little bumpy.

Today's testing is all about the coverage - can you hear me now? oh, wait, that's Verizon. I'll be taking the demo iPhone on my travels around town and will report back on coverage v. VZW -

Later,

A.R.T.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My (demo) iPhone part 3

So I reset / cleared all data on the demo iPhone - guess what, you need to connect it to iTunes to get things going after doing an erase. This is probably not real convenient for folks on the road, traveling etc. Seems like it could create challenges in the Enterprise too - who wants to depend on a desktop app to keep a smartphone going. BTW - you can make emergency calls after an erase but before connecting to iTunes, so I guess all isn't lost, just most.

So I did the connect to iTunes and got the phone up and running - I'm now having issues when installing apps - they launch then immediately terminate, so this is today's challenge - figure out why apps like Twitterific etc won't run.

I'm really liking the mapping app and the gestures for zooming - very nice.

More to come,

A.R.T.