Abundance, Agility and Productivity in the Cloud-Enabled Nonprofit | npENGAGE

Abundance, Agility and Productivity in the Cloud-Enabled Nonprofit

By on Apr 28, 2011

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Guest blog alert: The following post is contributed by Mike Lingo, Chief Technology Officer and SVP, Professional Services at Astadia, a Convio Solution Provider. Mike is an internationally recognized speaker in the cloud and SaaS industries and has more than 17 years of application delivery experience with a background in application development, SalesForce automation, call center solutions, campaign management, business intelligence and project management. Thanks for contributing Mike!

Abundance: that’s not a concept most of us are used to as we run our organizations, yet abundance of computing resources and business process talent is the main cloud computing lesson I like to share with boards, executive and development directors and operational managers of nonprofits.

The cloud, at its core, presents a totally different method of working based on the abundance model. It’s about transformation in how you procure, develop and release applications. Information technology has moved away from owning and maintaining expensive hardware and on-premise software applications, and that evolution aligns perfectly with mission-driven organizations that serve a public purpose or social good.

You have more challenges than ever in general management with the majority of those being external financial pressures and developing new sources of revenue. The good news? Cloud platforms give you far less expensive tools to apply for new solution development at much quicker cycle times and lower cost. You not only support your formal board priorities and program of work, you can rapidly respond to those inadvertent events you can’t foresee. Abundance drives agility.

This is not about doing more with less; you’re actually doing more with more. With the cloud, you can build projects successfully, cheaply, from the ground up. The cloud lends itself to innovative thinking on the part of the CIO (or whoever has CIO-like responsibility) and the ability to incorporate best practice expertise, because of the things you (or your IT vendors) don’t have to maintain or monitor anymore.

 

More Value from Vendors

 

Some organizations can’t unburden themselves from what they’ve always done in their IT structure, and more likely in the nonprofit world, it is your IT vendor that is entrenched in the old business model of scarcity and expensive resourcing. They’re so focused on building and maintaining their own on-premise infrastructure and the staff to support it, that your projects become three times as expensive as projected, are horribly delayed, and don’t even accomplish what they set out to do.

I know of instances where a company takes 18 months to complete a project, and in that time with a cloud approach they could have easily had that project delivered two or three times, and at half the cost, but they can’t see it because they are so mired in the depths of how they’ve always operated.

Tapping Into Talent

With all the attention cloud computing is putting on the technology, I believe we’re missing the people story, which in a nonprofit environment is where you actually need to see the most return on investment.

Historically, you may not have had the capital or interest in building a large IT department or infrastructure, nor could you afford to have a dedicated team of IT staff as part of your overhead. In the plentiful cloud paradigm, you will see lot more accomplished with smaller teams of what we call “solution architects.” These are your best organizational minds supported by one or two technical resources, and a small group can easily deliver in weeks what used to take a team of 20 several months. This is the productivity story we believe is at the heart of the transformation.

The talent pool that the cloud energizes has less to do with skill sets, specific work experience or any type of technical certification, and much more to do with personal qualities. These organizational process people are going to be logical thinkers, good communicators, with passion and energy for problem solving. They know the organization well, and exude initiative. They are less interested in data back-up and email administration, and more focused on taking apart a process and examining the gaps in the delivery and value chain.

This has significant implication for executive directors and de facto CIO’s because there are new technology initiatives on the horizon that should be assessed and implemented around donor privacy and security, data governance and compliance, fiscal controls, social media tools and mobile device applications.

The overall stewardship benefit for the organization is that innovation is no longer a distraction. The cloud abundance model lets you more quickly develop management solutions, and align those new resources with building stronger policy and program offerings.

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