Developing a Technology Strategy for Your Non-Profit: Part 1 – Myths and Problems

This is a four-part series on how to help you think about developing a technology strategy for your organization.

Part 1: Myths and Problems

I guess the problems actually begin with the words “technology strategy.” What we should really discuss first is organizational strategy itself, and where technology fits in to improve success. I believe that if you start discussing technology strategy before looking at the overall mission, vision, and goals of the organization, there is a disconnect – a sort of misalignment that happens when it comes to priorities and bringing the pieces together to accomplish our goals. Strategic discussions around organizational strategy will inform the direction of your technology strategy in a way that is more likely to be successful in using technology to accomplish organizational goals and increase impact.

Here are some myths about “technology strategy” that we often encounter:

Myth #1: Technology strategy is about technology

When I’m asked to meet with clients, the first problem begins with the very reason the meeting was scheduled. I often find that meetings are arranged to solve a problem related to technology. The impression is that strategy is needed in the identification of a technology solution, and it is, but only if they’re ready to look at real change and greater impact.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes you just need a fix or a clear-cut solution, but that doesn’t require a strategy. If a quick fix is what you’re looking for, just reach out to your peers for some ideas and recommendations. But when looking for change within your organization and the community it serves, you have to move the conversation beyond simply technology.

Myth #2: Executive leadership doesn’t need to be involved in technology strategy

We’ll talk about this later in part 2. Executive leaders need to be more than just “involved;” they need to lead. And leading means visualizing the bigger picture. Don’t confuse involvement with leadership. Leaders in organizations need to have a vision for technology and how it will increase impact.

Myth #3: The IT department knows how to do this

Depending on your organization, you may have your technology manager already involved in strategy at the executive level. If so, congratulations are in order because your organization is in the minority. IT is often tasked with keeping the lights on, and if your IT people are immersed in service and support, they are probably caught in the weeds. You may have this high-level technology strategy expertise at the management level or on your board. Or you may need to look outside your organization for help.

Myth #4: Our IT is working so we don’t need a strategy

There is a lifecycle to your organization. During the lifecycle the needs of the organization change. If you aren’t evaluating technology relative to your operations, you can run the risk of falling behind with technology or going off course. It can be a costly mistake to the organization.

If you’re thinking about moving forward with a new strategy that involves technology, keep these myths in mind. You’ll be more aware of “traditional” ways of thinking that can often lead to misconceptions and assumptions.