Technology Decision Makers

last person joined: 22 days ago 

A group for those in nonprofit IT decision-making roles to connect with peers and share best practices. This Technology Decision Makers group is for nonprofit IT or MIS Directors/Managers as well as CIOs and CTOs to connect with their peers and share best practices. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to: hardware and software management, product reviews, emerging technology, best practices, collaborating effectively with other departments, and management conundrums. Membership is restricted to IT staff at nonprofit organizations.

Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

  • 1.  Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 21, 2019 17:10
    Edited by Colin Roberts Feb 21, 2019 17:11
    Hi Nonprofit Tech Hivemind,

    (edit: Nonporfit clearly = Nonprofit; but I can't edit the title)

    I was chatting with a few other tech decision makers across organizations, and we realized that over our careers, we have had many questions about the purchase, design, and use of various technologies and not a ton of helpful guiding resources.

    We thought it would be interesting if there were a centralized, free and open source of guides, best practices, examples, and resources for specific technologies that nonprofits and businesses might use.

    I know that is an enormous topic (an idea in need of focus), and I would be interested to hear what comes to your mind.

    One thing that came to my mind is the Community Tool Box Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. They offer guides, suggestions, examples, suggested courses of action, and even presentation slides around organizational topics like developing strategic plans, defining missions, writing grants, and developing cultural competencies. Is there a similar resource that covers topics like basic IT infrastructure, designing and maintaining databases either at a high level or with specific tools like Salesforce or Blackbaud's many products, or working with your staff to avoid phishing and other email scams?

    Resources like these NTEN community forums are a helpful place to ask a specific question here or there (and a few forums searches show me that some folks were posting individual guides 5 years ago), and I'm sure NTEN's courses provide good and helpful skill development, but I have yet to find many self service tools or resources that facilitate the sharing of technical knowledge across organizations.

    What do you think? Have you found yourself wanting to learn more about particular topics or how to do some specific tech thing, but the resources out there were either prohibitively expensive or too technical for your current level? Is there already a central source of knowledge out there that I just couldn't find?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

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    Colin Roberts
    Rainier Scholars
    Seattle, WA
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  • 2.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 22, 2019 09:00
    Tagging in @Lisa Jervis who was, I think, working on something like this a little while ago...? ​

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    Janice Chan
    Co-Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data group
    Consultant, Shift and Scaffold
    Baltimore, MD
    www.shiftandscaffold.com
    Twitter: @curiositybone
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  • 3.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 22, 2019 13:33
    Hey Colin,

    I really like this idea. There could be downloadable documents, etc but even links to other sites with related info would be great. Having it all in 1 place would be very helpful. It seems like this tech knowledge base should already exist but I haven't come across it before.

    I'm happy to collaborate/contribute in some way if the idea moves forward.

    Larry

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    Larry Rose
    Technology Solutions Specialist
    Grounded Solutions Network
    Oakland, CA
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  • 4.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 22, 2019 17:37
    Thanks for the thoughts. I'll definitely loop you in if this becomes more than a thought exercise.

    Where have you gone in the past when looking for answers to questions or to learn new skills or to understand how some process or technology works?

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    Colin Roberts
    Rainier Scholars
    Seattle, WA
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    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 5.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 25, 2019 10:20

    While I like this idea, the technology changes so much that keeping it up to date would be a real challenge. Plus the needs of each organization are so different.

    My thought would be to tackle subjects and use the space to help guide HOW to make decisions, rather than what decisions to make.

    What considerations are there when purchasing laptops? What considerations are there for moving your nonprofit to the cloud? Why do you need "cloud based file sharing, and do you need to share with external collaborators?"

    These are the places I see so much value and would love to help.



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    Richard Wollenberger
    Director, Information Technology & HIPAA Compliance and Security Officer
    Parents as Teachers
    St. Louis MO
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  • 6.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 26, 2019 16:02
    I like the idea and I believe those who have volunteered to help can update the resources in this link Technology Decision Makers - NTEN Community

    Let's start adding resources to the existing ones.

    Thank you all and hope to see you in person at NTC in two weeks time.

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    Ebenezer Dadzie
    Director, Information Systems
    World Food Program USA
    Washington, DC
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  • 7.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 26, 2019 17:13
    Excellent find! I can't believe I hadn't seen that tab before.

    I don't want to let myself get into brainstorming just yet as I'm still trying to find the scope of the problem space (see below), but the resources you pointed out are a great example of the helpfulness and challenges of information organization. For me it raises questions like...
    • How does the collection of resources in the Tech Decision Makers forum differ from those in any other sub forum on NTEN or any other forum?
    • How easy/difficult is it to find the content I want with a search or two? Do my searches look only in this community? All communities? Is it easy to search resources across different websites I regularly visit?
    • How easy/difficult is it to keep the content up to date?
    I recently went through the process of figuring out what method of documenting our IT processes would be the best fit for our organization. My conclusion was that the actual tool we had to choose (a shared directory of files or a website with a search bar or a printed handbook with a good index etc.) mattered far less than the processes we thought we could build around it like how mistakes/updates are reported, who updates it, and what expectations could we reasonably make for staff around its use.

    In thinking about the problem space, I'm still trying to search and read and listen to see where the real sticking point in all of this is.
    • Is it that good accurate information about the right topics isn't out there? I think this is what @Larry Rose mentioned and it speaks to @Richard Wollenberger 's thoughts that what folks in a lot of orgs might be missing is less technical knowledge or product specific knowledge and more insights around technology decision making, laying out considerations to keep in mind while approaching unfamiliar decisions. Other types of helpful information might include template policies, step by step implementation or decision making guides, product reviews, and answers to questions like, "I've heard a lot of people talking about <some product>. What is it and do we need it?"
    • Is it that the information is all out there, it is just hard to find? This resonates with your point that these forums have resources in the document libraries and within each collection of posts. Some of my above questions reflect the challenges with a forum as a knowledge source...a tool/system that's really effective for community building and person to person communication might not have the same strengths in information architecture.
    • Is it that the needs of different nonprofits are really so different that generalized resources aren't very helpful? Every organization is going to do things a little bit differently. Every system will always have its unique quirks and needs that (as @Kimberly Lipari said) sometimes require services outside of what might be offered. Is it reasonable to believe that some digital resource could be helpful to a lot of people without needing to tailor it to every organizational nuance?
    • Is it that a generalized digital resource, while theoretically helpful, doesn't actually provide the level of helpfulness and focused guidance that consultants and experienced staff offer? This is the one that I'm most curious about. In my own work, I've been trying to keep an eye on which technology challenges most often lead to paid interventions, which ones to we try to sort out with in house education and professional development, and which ones most staff just deal with.

    I would like to believe that through a concerted effort of people experienced in the common issues in nonprofits, free and open source information and tools could be developed and maintained, but that really does require a community of interested and dedicated folks.​​​

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    Colin Roberts
    Rainier Scholars
    Seattle, WA
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  • 8.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 25, 2019 10:19
    I was perusing a list of nonprofit conferences a couple of weeks ago and someone commented that they wish there was a conference that focused on the tech and tools specifically. Many orgs need to re-evaluate software, tools, procedures, and there really doesn't seem to be a central place. My company does a lot of recommending to our NPO clients, even some things outside of our typical service offerings because we have a team with a wide variety of experiences so we try to help where we can. So, from our experiences at least, I can echo there seems to be no 'go to' place.

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    Kimberly Lipari
    CEO, CoFounder
    Valet.io
    Distributed

    kim@valet.io
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    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 9.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 26, 2019 17:16
    That's a really interesting point. Do you happen to know any more about that person was hoping to see? Maybe things like...
    • Better understanding the marketplace of products in a particular area (maybe not unlike what Capterra does)
    • Better understanding how to use the various features of common tools?
    • Learning more about how to customized existing tools or learning how to make your own?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

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    Colin Roberts
    Rainier Scholars
    Seattle, WA
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    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 10.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 27, 2019 11:47
    My perspective is that at many nonprofits, it's not the absence of knowledge resources, but a dearth of the proper skills and experience. The trick, as with most things, is to know what is possible. When you know what's possible, you can evaluate your current capabilities in context. When you don't know what's possible, it's really challenging to make progress.

    @Colin Roberts I'd say that the main issue isn't about which resources are available, it's knowing what to look for, being able to understand the information that is on offer, and having the skills to implement the recommendations. ​I don't think you can solve the problem with informational resources alone. I think nonprofits needs to hire professionals with stronger skillsets, more experience, and better insight into how tech and data can and should support the organization and its work.

    I'd like to see more investment in potential data and tech leaders. The current model of autodidact accidental techies doesn't scale well, and leaves odd holes in knowledge and skills.

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    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com
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  • 11.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 28, 2019 18:06
    @Isaac Shalev I can't agree with you more! As an "autodidact accidental techie" myself (LOVE that phrase, by the way), I have been fortunate to have been exposed to (and actively sought out) new ways of thinking. In some ways, folks like me have an advantage over more "classically trained" technology leaders, but it's also a lonely, difficult, and thankless row to hoe. I would say that in addition to looking to hire people with strong, diverse tech experience we need to invest in capacity building with existing staff... even (and maybe especially) beyond IT departments. Even being able to talk about technology strategically (and not write it off as something that's "IT stuff") would be a step in the right direction. Critical thinking and being able to evaluate appropriate, sustainable solutions is a skill and a thought process we need at ALL levels, from our support staff to our CEOs.

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    Carissa Dougherty
    Head of Knowledge Management
    The Morton Arboretum
    Downers Grove, IL
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  • 12.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Feb 28, 2019 10:10
    Edited by Kimberly Lipari Feb 28, 2019 10:21
    It would definitely be hard to cover all the available tools or instances or setups...

    Maybe a broad category knowledgebase where folks can share their solutions or experiences within a certain general objective, like how you use your CRM. Sometimes the biggest issue is that folks don't know what to look for, only that they need something new or different. A place to read what others are doing or to discover potential tools/workflow maybe be enough to point them in the right direction. You definitely won't cover all the available things out there and 'best practice' can be subjective to the use case (as is everything in tech at times, I guess).

    I have some things I'll recommend to some clients but never to others, yet there are still baseline standards that we mandate clients must meet, like HTTPS. Keeping with that example, there are various providers and levels that you can use to meet that standard with varying levels of complexity. A broad category of HTTPS with others commenting on their experiences or product usage would also be easier to assemble than trying to make a 'one size fits all' or 'here are options for everyone' article.

    Perhaps I'm already covering what you outlined earlier in the thread, in that case just take this as my nodding in agreement.

    Thursday morning thoughts.

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    Kimberly Lipari
    CEO, CoFounder
    Valet.io
    Distributed

    kim@valet.io
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    2020 Nonprofit Technology Conference Logo  w/ Baltimore Skyline


  • 13.  RE: Central Resource for Nonporift Tech Best Practices?

    Posted Mar 05, 2019 10:07
    I love this idea, and can see it being an interactive and collaborative database directory focused on strategies for how to achieve goals, best practices with implementation, and potential tools, all tagged by cross functional topics. Another effort that provides free resources around case studies and directories that covers a different topic is Gather, which supports community-minded journalists. Here's a website explaining their initiative:

    https://www.letsgather.in

    And here's the public view of their database community that we host on our platform:

    https://interact.fmyi.com/public/sites/20801

    Hope to talk more about this at the NTEN conference!
    -Justin



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    Justin Yuen
    CEO
    Grouptrail
    Portland, OR
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