In our May 28 webinar, we broke down technology planning into six basic steps to help assure successful implementation, with examples and wisdom from guest experts Monika Shepard and Sean McDonald. We also discussed how to choose technology tools and hire developers to ensure that your project can have long-term impact. You can play or download an archive recording of this event or see the full schedule of upcoming #TABridge webinars.
The Six Steps:
- Step 1 – Assess your current use of technology
- Step 2 – Review your organizational and technology strategies
- Step 3 – Identify your users
- Step 4 – Develop a Project Plan
- Step 5 – Create a Budget
- Step 6 – Implement your plan
Monika Shepard (@MSKShepard) – Over the last 10 years, Monika has worked with organizations and businesses around the world to collect, organize, and streamline information and business processes to better communicate complex information in various formats. At Global Integrity, Monika focuses on helping smart people use Indaba to compile important information and streamline their unique research approaches.
Monika talked about her experience helping organizations set up Indaba. She said that with this tool—and with most technology—it is important to start from the difficulties or “pain points” that a group already faces, then figure out how Indaba might help. She said many users struggle to articulate a plan for implementing technologies, which can lead to unpleasant difficulties in effort and cost.
She also recommended that groups take time to identify and bridge gaps between their existing technologies or methodologies and the structure of new tools such as Indaba. The more teams consider these gaps early on, the more effectively they can integrate new and existing approaches.
Sean Martin McDonald (@MCDapper) is the CEO of the Social Impact Lab (SIMLab), the makers of FrontlineSMS and FrontlineCloud. He is the Founder of the Capture the Ocean and FrontlineSMS:Legal Projects. Sean has worked in and written about the connections between international development, data, technology, political communications, conflict resolution, and legal services for the last 10 years.
Speaking from long experience working with technologists, Sean encouraged advocacy groups to develop granular “user stories”—specific, step by step scenarios for how different types of people will use new tools. Though a good tool can be set up and deployed quickly, He said too much ease in setup can “undercut” the value of institutional memory for building the best tools possible.
A good project manager, he said, is a good communicator, and a key part of good tech planning is making sure communication between staff experts and tech vendors (or between tech savvy staff and less tech savvy staff) is a two-way process.
Hiring External Expertise:
Along with Sean’s points about engaging developers there were further points about hiring external expertise:
- Are they part of the software community?
- Start your relationship with a short term scoping project.
- Understand exactly what you are paying for.
Identifying the Right Technologies:
Start by asking: what else is out there? What software/tech solutions already exist that might help you address your challenges? Also:
- Is it open source? Will your data be locked into a tool.
- Will you be able to get technical support for it? Does it have a healthy support community??
- Is it still being developed?
We have a new guide called ‘Fundamentals for Using Technology in Transparency and Accountability Organisations’ and you can find the chapter on Effective Technology Planning and Implementation here.
Dirk Slater (@fabrider) has two decades of experience working with grassroots activists and advocates to harness the power of information by gathering, packaging, distributing and protecting it. You can learn more about him and his work at FabRiders.
Jessica Steimer (@JSteim) Jessica is the training and support manager at Aspiration, where she trains and supports community organizations around nonprofit technology best practices, specializing in business processes for nonprofit communications and technology sustainability.