Strategy and leadership vs tools: striking a sustainable balance

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Strategy and leadership vs tools: striking a sustainable balance - John K

  • Did a go around (identities not take)

Food for thought

  • When an org has a challenge, what indicates whether this is a challenge about strategy and leadership, or one about tools?
  • What happens when leadership is not aligned with strategy?
  • How can building a strategy and a tech plan can make better
  • What is important to the decision makers / the org? What is important to them? Not so much, "This is such a cool tool."

It's about the discussion.

  • Having a discussion around goals

Anecdote about strategy vs tools

  • John was brought on to support around finding a new email tool
  • First step is usually gathering data
    • Noticed that 1x per week, the ED would scream at someone.
    • So, a new email tool isn't really the solution.
  • Understanding about one's boundaries, and sometimes being able to offer that the solution has to do more with organizational culture rather than a specific

Tools are arbitrary. It was helpful to start with a strategy and then examine tools that can support this strategy.

"Free" tech offers to non profits

  • can seem enticing, but then there is a lot of resources that go into making it work
  • Sometimes a paid solution can be more effective – perhaps they can raise money for this.
  • Sometimes free is more like, "free"

Tools being used for outcomes

  • Implies there is a life cycle for tools
  • Decision framework to prune tool sets seems like it would be helpful

Sometimes an audit can support a non profit

  • Here's a list of tools that the org uses
  • And then have a inventory of proficiency with using the tools.
  • Objective and non-personal way to curate toolset
  • "Audit" can sometimes be a dirty word for non-profit.
  • There is something to be said about good budgeting

Once we are clear on what tools are present, can then focus on what we want to ACCOMPLISH.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Important to consider what tools are APPROPRIATE for an organization.

Looking at budgets

  • There oftentimes needs to be a budgetary reason for a decision or recommendation.
  • Have to be careful about tools that purport to do multiple things, but may not do any of those individual things that well.
  • Sometimes need to communicate who should be in the room when a technology decision is being made.
  • Challenging to set the time to think deeply and intentionally about why we are examining a tool.

Robert Weiner:

  • First we list what we want from a tool
  • Then we look at which tools seem to provide a solution
  • And then evaluate which of the tools will be the best fit.

Sometimes find a tool and then backfill the needs / organization applications of the tool. Which can be valid sometimes, because don't know what we don't know.

Orgs with tech governance plan (some kind of inter-departmental committee that defines use of technology)

  • Good to have interdepartmental conversations so that it's likely that a tool makes sense across an organization.

What would we like to be doing? How would we like to be engaging with our members? These are types of questions that are helpful in the long-term.

Asking: what is your ecosystem? Understanding what the ecosystem is of the current state is necessary for moving forward. Sometimes the dynamic is "I need results now." But need to be able to look in-depth, otherwise there's a high risk of wasting resources.

How do we get to that with our website?

  • e.g. for every 2K visitors, we get x result (e.g. donation).

Business process mapping

  • Finding places where we're doing something out of inertia rather than thinking more critically about our processes
  • Setting time to get together and think about the process. An hour.
  • Asking, why do we do this?

Skepticism around metrics can sometimes be because it seemes to feel corporate. Having familiarity with metrics, A/B testing, can change how an organization approaches their goals.

Being able to speak in plain language about technology. Speaking in a way that is accessible for folks. Added with understanding the culture and leadership.

Translating business approaches to nonprofit

  • Shift to the concept of product management can be helpful
  • Technology requires maintanence and ownership
  • Can be helpful to have roles in product management and leadership.
  • Making sure that the tool truly is the right fit, and owning an evaluation process
    • w/ Green Peace, there is a 3-year cycle of tool use after which the tool is evaluated.
    • Having someone who really owns the management of org tools

Product management:

  • Business interest, user needs (be it staff, audience), and technical team / feasiblity

Communicating to non-profits that other non-profts do have clear technology

Value of governance plans

  • There's an organization-wide frame of what is invested in technologically
  • Helps prevent any individual person making decisions