The 5 Laws of Successful IT Strategy and Planning | npENGAGE

The 5 Laws of Successful IT Strategy and Planning

By on May 1, 2019

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As a nonprofit business, advancing your organization’s unique mission is the primary goal. The success of the communities you serve is inextricably linked to the organization’s success, and as such, you work tirelessly to deliver relevant, timely, and effective services.

Maintaining forward progress, while striving to create a measurable impact in today’s increasingly competitive business landscape, presents multiple challenges.

Some nonprofits have learned to leverage technology to meet these challenges and are thriving. Yet many organizations still lack a clear vision and strategy when it comes to technology.  In the article, 6 Tips to Know Your Nonprofit Is Ready for Skilled Volunteers, Danielle Holly writes that nonprofit’s technology spend is estimated to comprise less than 2% of their available budget.  It is true that IT can at times be overwhelming, frustrating and even confusing, but it does not need to be so.

The five laws of successful IT strategy and planning are designed to encourage and inspire you to not only invest in technology services for your organization, but to also provide a thought-map for the inevitable challenges.  Incorporating the elements of Belief, Vision, Planning, Change, and Mindfulness into the IT strategy and planning process will revolutionize your organization’s technology initiatives and empower you to focus on what’s most important – your mission.

  1. BELIEF

Belief shapes behavior, and behavior gives birth to outcomes.  Belief > Behavior > Outcome.  If you truly want to change your outcome, start with your belief.

To accomplish this however, you must be open to the possibility – the probability – that what is currently believed about technology and its role within your organization, might not be 100% accurate.

Old Belief                                                                            New Belief

IT is burdensome and confusing                                 IT is an enabler of operational efficiency
IT is constraining                                                           IT provides protection and security in our digital age
IT is techno-centric cost center                                   IT is part of our organization’s growth strategy

Replacing previously limiting beliefs opens your organization to the transformative potential that technology offers.

  1. VISION

If success can be defined as the fulfillment of purpose, then without purpose or vision there is no measure for success.  Without a quantifiable method of recognizing success, we cannot identify it.  Vision is your organization’s north star, that which inspires staff, donors and volunteers to all move in the same direction – ensuring the best possible outcomes for you and the communities that you serve.

Additionally, decision making becomes much easier when your organization has a vision of what success looks like, as it naturally reduces the number of solution options – no more decision paralysis.  Begin by focusing on the what, not the how (e.g. reduce IT spend by 10% vs. move to the cloud, outsource IT, etc.).  Strategic planning, though a popular term, is a bit of a misnomer.  Strategy and planning, while complementary, are best approached as separate endeavors.

  1. PLANNING

Sir Winston Churchill’s best-known quote may be, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Planning is necessary because our human spirit loves the familiar, even when the familiar does not serve our purpose, vision, or desired outcome.

By the time you get to the planning step, you will have crafted your vision of what success looks like for your organization.  Now it is time to get down to the business of mapping out how you are going to make your vision a reality. When planning you:

  • Vet platforms and vendors
  • Design a playbook based on proven methods and best practices
  • Study the footprints of other organizations that have traveled the road to success
  • Choose solutions

You are no longer just winging it!  You have purpose!

  1. CHANGE

It is said that change and time are the only two constants.  Change is the action that creates momentum toward the vision. You simply cannot get to where you want to go by remaining in your comfort zone of familiar behavior.  To get better, and do better, will require you to embrace change.  Everyone has a choice; you are either the initiator or the victim of change.

Courage, however, is required for change to take place. The law of planning will help give you the courage required to move forward.  Change evolves into transformation as your organization begins to experience increased revenue, donations, operational efficiencies, and service quality.

Leverage technology as a change agent within your organization.  Advances and improvements in technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace.  Plan for the change and embrace it.

  1. MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness is living in the current moment and being cognizant of your thoughts and reactions to present stimuli.  In the business world, mindfulness allows awareness of those critical moments when you realize how a process can be improved.  Successful organizations take advantage of those moments to reevaluate, course-correct and remain on target with their vision.

Repetition of new and modified behaviors are necessary to reprogram conditioned responses.  Mindfulness helps all stakeholders develop the flexibility and agility essential for significant organizational change.

 

CONCLUSION

There is none.

Your journey does not end at the implementation of these five laws.  Remember that change and time are the only constants. Your organization will need to stay mindful of when additional change or refinement is required.

When you faithfully employ these five laws, real change is inevitable for your organization.  As you serve your communities and stakeholders, actively leverage technology to help your organization stay relevant, timely, efficient and on mission.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nate Payne is the Managing Director at Better Business Technology.  An innovative and collaborative technology strategist, he knows how to get things done. Recognized for resourcefulness, exceptional communication skills, energy and determination, Nate thrives on designing and implementing IT infrastructures and processes that help organizations attain operational efficiencies and drive bottom line growth. Success is realized through relationship-building and delivery of enterprising solutions that align with client and organizational objectives. Nate’s easy-going manner and sense of humor have proven to be highly effective in leading project teams, internal stakeholders, and business partners to consistently achieve peak performance. You may contact Nate at Nate@BetterBusinessTechnology.com or follow him on Twitter.

Comments (15)

  • Karen says:

    Thank you, Nate. I have read and taken notes on all five of your recommendations. I too struggle with incorporating the elements of belief, vision, planning, change, and mindfulness into the IT strategy and planning process. Thank you for the tips and recommendations. Your message spoke volumes to me.

  • Torre M. says:

    Nate,
    Excellent article full of useful information and outlines a successful strategy. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mary Sommer says:

    Vision and planning seem to be the starting point, generally. Belief will be most difficult to change. Often this can be in conflict with current vision and process.

    • Nate Payne says:

      Precisely Mary! This is why Belief is law #1. Beliefs are often times difficult to change because they can be transparent to the believer.

      Behavior that conflicts with current vision and process however, can be a tell tale sign of a misaligned, perhaps hidden, belief.

      Once uncovered, realigning of the belief to better serve the vision and desired outcome will of course require openness to law #4…Change.

      Belief plays such a dominate role in outcomes, successful or otherwise, that its importance simply cannot be understated or ignored.

  • Christine says:

    These are good guidelines. I’ve found the biggest challenge to be getting all pertinent stakeholders to the table at the same time with the same understanding of the needs. So often changes to tech are put off because everyone is so busy doing their work that they don’t have time or energy to put toward thinking about how to do that work more efficiently and effectively.

  • Nate Payne says:

    Unfortunately Christine, we have found this to be the case for many organizations today. The old, “too busy to improve” paradigm.

    Companies that ultimately develop a successful culture of continual improvement, believe (law #1) that making time for improvement is as important as making time for fire-fighting.

    Check out Mike Rother’s book: Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. I believe you will find it to be very useful.

  • Joe says:

    The first point is the toughest to get past. There are many who are stuck with the old beliefs, which severely hinders advancement in an institution. The ones holding these beliefs often lie within senior management. Considering the other four points is nearly impossible unless the leadership in an institution is able to get past the belief stage.

  • Nate Payne says:

    Could not agree more Joe. Which is why we list Belief as law #1. It is often overlooked, yet holds the key to unleashing an organization’s transformational “super-powers”.

  • Cammi Derr says:

    Consider the technology you currently are using. Are you fully utilizing it? Do you have an expert technology specialist in your department that can provide the knowledge and expertise to manage your vision and strategy? Putting the right people in the right place can help you.

  • Courtney says:

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Joan Perry says:

    Wow! Working on the implementation of several IT tools. This article would have been helpful to share with some of the team (not that I still can’t share it). The comments about belief being #1 have definitely been true in the process – and where it was lacking, there was no change in behavior and you can see the results in the outcome. Of course the other 4 “laws” have also played a role. Hopefully sharing this article can help us as we continue to move forward.

  • Claudia says:

    Thank you for sharing, this is great.

  • Nicole Holt says:

    What a great article! I feel like we are always butting up against belief, and getting people to trust the tools we’re investing in.

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