Thursday, November 1, 2007

If You Build IT They Will Come - NOT!

I came across this interesting report a few weeks ago. It was released this summer by the Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management in San Francisco.

This finding caught my attention and is right on.

"Less successful nonprofits assumed (my emphasis) that the community would use their technology once it was available. For example, one organization established an online discussion forum so people could discuss common issues and recruit volunteers online. The discussion forum was largely unused. While the organization’s staff recognized that they needed to do greater outreach, they failed to consider whether their constituents wanted this technology. Technology is only effective if people have the time and interest to become involved in the issue in the first place." (AMEN!)
Technology, like any tool, should be user-driven but for some reason many of us forget this. We become enamored of the "bells and whistles" of a new tool and fall in love with a solution for its own sake.

We fell prey to this mistake at NPower when we purchased a first-in-class project management system for our consulting and sales team. Turns out we didn't need 1/2 of the functionality that the tool offered and rather than streamline our work, the tool made project management MORE not less onerous.

Don't choose a new technology for your organization based on the credentials of the vendor or the sales pitch alone. Choose a tool based on what your users and constituents NEED to get their jobs done. This may mean, for example, managing donors via an Excel spreadsheet or helping members to communicate via a simple list serv. While I know this will not be sexy for the tech-savvy folks in your organization, if a technology works, it works. And that's the important part.

At the same time, keep your eyes to the future and plan for change and growth. That way you can be sure that your technology will grow along with you.

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