When an org is ready to take their work to the next level, it makes sense that technology is one of the first places we look. We need to make sure we have the right tools, so that we work as efficiently as possible.
And sure, tech investment is part of the answer.
But when new tools seem like the obvious next step, orgs can make the mistake of skipping over strategy. They don’t take the time to consider what their technology goals are, how they’d like to approach them, or what those decisions can mean 1/3/5 years out.
The result? Frustration about the current state of your org’s tech. Stunted growth. Unclear programmatic impact. Money gone that now doesn’t feel so well spent. As a result, maybe less budget allocated towards future, similar projects.
It is possible to turn the tide in this situation. We just have to recognize the symptoms.
p.s. Keep in mind that for some orgs, a lack of tech strategy might be its own symptom of a higher dysfunction.
1. Your org is shelling out lots of money on tech….that isn’t being used
Or isn’t being leveraged to enough of its potential. Remember, committing to the sticker price and the contract is NOT the same as committing your team and processes to the system. Think of this like like paying for the wedding, but refusing to walk down the aisle.
2. Your systems are completely disjointed
It’s not uncommon for orgs to have tech platforms that don’t speak to each other. But as your tech stack grows, that dis-unification should be shrinking. If you have 7+ platforms that don’t integrate at all, but you know they should, there may be something off in how your org is approaching those decisions.
3. Your technology choices rely on individual preferences
This is easier to spot in orgs with higher turnover. But if your team is committing to tools based on individual people – typically because they champion it while they’re there – and those don’t stick when that person leaves, then your org may be placing too much emphasis on individual preferences.
4. You’re now dealing with unanticipated consequences, based on earlier tech decisions
This is the kind of symptom that materializes months or years later. Often with major tech projects, there can be more than one “right” way to set up your tool/system. Maybe you went with a volunteer, or left those decisions to a consultant. If you find that new requirements seem impossible to enact because of how something was configured before, then you may not have had a properly fleshed methodology at the time of implementation.
5. Your tech goals are no closer to being realized than they were before
This is a tough realization to come to, because it requires brutal honesty! But if your org isn’t getting what it hoped from your systems – especially if it’s been months or thousands of dollars already spent – then it’s time to shed light on that reality & ask why.
To Wrap Up
When we talk about the issues orgs face with technology, it’s almost always framed as a resource problem. Nonprofits & agencies don’t have the money, time or expertise to properly leverage their tech.
But even if your org had millions at its disposal….it is still possible to make bad technology decisions!( Here is one great example that I still think about, years later. ) And those decisions only compound when there’s no strategy in place guiding those choices.
So let’s have more of these hard conversations. That way we can course correct & get back to the impact.