I’m much obliged to my beloved friend Peter Campbell for the #NTCBEER button, which I wore proudly throughout the conference. You know it’s not just a good party but a great yearly tradition when a nondrinker looks forward to it.
However, at the moment, I want to call attention to the “Diva” and “Instigator” ribbons attached to my badge. This was a brilliant swag offering from the folks at the Strategic Fulfillment table in the conference’s exhibit hall. Usually at conferences, ribbons are given out by the event organizers to sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, and various other V.I.P.s. The Strategic Fulfillment Group was smart enough to make it a matter egalitarian self-determination. Any visitor was welcome to take and wear the ribbon of his or her choice.
I like “Diva” and “Instigator,” but the ribbon I really want is one that says “TECHNOBABE.”
I’ve been recruited by NTEN for my favorite volunteer task: staffing the NTENer Center. I’ll be at the Center on March 4th and 5th. My job is to answer questions, engage people in conversation, and introduce them to each other. (Actually, that’s what I enjoy doing throughout the conference – you can flag me down whenever you like, and not just when I’m on duty at the NTENer Center.)
Not only would I like to thank the NTEN team for tapping me to by an official greeter, I’d also like to thank Tech Networks of Boston for sending me to #15NTC as its representative.
My first nonprofit technology conference was the precursor to NTC, the Circuit Rider Roundup in Denver (2001). It struck me then that it was really important to assist all attendees in feeling welcomed and included. I like introducing people to each other, and have been doing my best ever since.
At the same time, I’m now in the painful position of needing to issue disinvitations to people who want to come.
Why? Well, the reasons vary:
We’re holding this event in a building that has tight security, and were obliged to submit the final guest list last Friday. People who try to enter without confirmed invitations may be escorted out ignominiously by security officers, and it’s best to avoid that.
We have a long waiting list. The people on that list who honor our request not to show up without a confirmed reservation would be slighted if we allowed others to walk in. Moreover, we’d be condoning rude behavior if we allowed people to walk in to an event that is by reservation only.
We have made it clear to the mavens that they will be volunteering their time to serve employees of nonprofit organizations. This was made clear to the invitees as well. It’s rude and possibly fraudulent to take advantage of free services that are intended only for nonprofit professionals.
I have a surprisingly wide conservative streak, when it comes to etiquette. I am fully capable of being shocked when people are oblivious to (or intentionally ignore) the ground rules of events that are by invitation only.
Presented at the Boston 501 Tech Club
Chief Operating Officer
1. What is Tech Planning?
“Technology” can means lots of things, from office wiring and networks to social networking and RFID chips.
Today we will focus on concepts of technology planning that should be universally applicable to whatever planning you need to do.
One key concept is recognizing that most decisions involve trade-offs; there is rarely a “right” option, rather different options will present different trade-offs (upfront cost, ongoing cost, quality, time, other resources or risks, etc.).
At the end we’ll talk about some resources that are available for people that are interested in exploring more specific topics, and we’ll also have a short Q&A session.
2. Strategic Alignment
“Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, general and president (1890-1961)
Technology strategy (and planning) should support organization strategy.
Show of hands: how many people are part of an organization that has a strategy (and you know what it is, on some level)?
How many people’s organizations have a technology strategy (and you know what it is, on some level)?
If you don’t have an organizational strategy, that’s a bigger issue! And, frankly, one that should be addressed first.
3. Why Plan?
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin, scientist
Planning will help you be more adaptable to change.
The act of planning will force you to think through the resources you have to commit to the process (both time and money) and tradeoffs that different options represent.
The executive leadership needs to be involved in the planning process to some degree, although other staff or by someone from outside the organization can manage the process.
Even if your plans change, the act of planning will get people engaged in the options and will help to avoid “shiny object syndrome”. Ultimately, planning will help you respond to both expected and unexpected changes to your organization or environment.
4. Planning is a Process!
It’s not an event, or even a single project (although there could be a project to kick it off or reevaluate things).
Similarly, planning can produce documents that are quite helpful, but only to the extent those documents are used to guide the decisions of the organization.
It’s important to budget time and resources to technology planning and implementation, just as you would dedicate ongoing resources to other critical aspects of your organization.
One potential trap is committing to an ongoing technology obligation without anticipating the resources it will take to maintain; for example, maintaining your own servers or establishing a social media presence.
It’s possible that technology is not a critical part of your organization, and that’s fine too as long as you are engaging in the process of evaluating tradeoffs to come to that conclusion.
5. Importance of metrics and measurements
Once you have decided on a strategy, the next thing is to think about is how to measure your progress.
Metrics are one way to make sure your technology strategy is closely aligned to your organizational strategy.
For example, if data security is a concern, you might track the percentage of your computers that have AV or disk encryption installed; if outreach is an organizational imperative then perhaps Twitter followers or Facebook friends might be a better metric.
Metrics should be as quantitative as possible, to minimize the risk that people will make subjective judgments and obscure the true picture of how things are going.
6. Need to set goals and track success (or failure)
Once you have chosen your metrics, you should set goals for those metrics and track your progress over a preset time period which should be long enough to judge results but short enough to preserve momentum.
If you succeed in achieving your goals–great! Adjust your goals for the next time period to be a little more challenging and keep trying to meet them. It’s important to avoid “autopilot” goals that are too easy to meet and never adjust up.
If you don’t meet your goals, that’s ok too. Now you have valuable information and you can either adjust your plan, your metrics, your goals, or the resources you are applying to technology. After a few cycles you should be able to find the right balance and establish a pattern of success.
7. Things went wrong?!
“Everyone has a plan – until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson, Boxer
If things go wrong, that’s ok! That’s all part of the process.
The benefit of having a plan is that at least you will know when things are going wrong, which is always preferable (even if nothing can be done about it in the short run) to finding out everything has already gone wrong in the past and now things are in crisis.
“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan.” – Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
In house vs external resources; incentives but long term commitment with in house folks, external resources tend to me more expensive but should have particular skills or expertise that might be hard to have in house (too expensive, only need them periodically, etc.)
For me, #13NTC will be all about dialogue. I do attend sessions, but it’s not the most important item on my agenda. If you want to have a conversation at the conference, then I want to have a conversation with you.
I’m very proud of my history with the Boston 501 Tech Club (and also with the Rhode Island 501 Tech Club). First time attenders are often pleasantly surprised by how warmly they are welcomed, and by how many solid professional relationships begin there.