The pace of technology is moving so fast and evolving in such radical ways that it might be time for your perhaps here-to-fore practice of adopting technology solutions, including your CRM, on the go to yield to a more thoughtful organizational pause for a full technology audit. I know, the term sounds terrible and conjures images of official looking suits marching through the door and requiring their own conference room for two months only to tell you that everything you are doing is wrong. But fear not, despite the foreboding term, the technology audit can be both informal and efficient and can offer your organization vast rewards in both productivity and cost savings as well as overall operational performance.
Traditionally, IT has been its own department and as long as the organization’s technology tools were in place and functioning, IT and senior management mainly existed in separate spheres. As it specifically related to CRM management, there was usually a database manager or other designated IT staff that handled all the inflows, outflows, and basic troubleshooting as the gatekeeper to the CRM, and lived a bit in their own dominion. But as the momentous increase in communication channels has evolved not only are more and more staff accessing their CRMs to manage donors and constituents, but CRM’s are housing more of the tools, functions, and integration potentials that allow organizations to keep all their communications and information organized under one roof. This is starting to provide an alternative to the often reactive one-off product adoption that has been costly and fragmenting to many organizations just struggling to keep pace with what it actually takes to communicate across the many channels necessary to reach their entire audience be it donors, volunteers, clients, or internal staff.
A technology audit invites your organization to take a minute to bring IT staff and the executive team into the same room for a conversation about how technology can and increasingly must serve as the engine for your communications, fundraising, and operations. CRM’s are no longer data storage libraries limited to primarily recording gift transactions, they are fast becoming dynamic, user-friendly platforms that power your outreach in everything from email and social campaigns to event planning and reporting, to project and program management; and they are the best tool for managing all of the related workflows. Nonprofits are increasingly finding that unless you have the right CRM as your communications hub, one that can integrate and house business critical functions all in one place, it is next to impossible to get your arms around running all your operations within the complex web of interaction necessary to sustain fundraising and communications in the current era. So one critical piece to the technology audit is to assess whether your current CRM is equipped to take on the role of mission control and reign in the often unwieldy number of one-off apps and other business solutions that are currently keeping your ship running.
Audits often start out with an inventory and mapping of your organizational workflows to vet where your current technology solutions are meeting or not meeting the needs and goals of the organization across departments. This information can then be used to suggest immediate shifts or actions as well as being applied to one and five-year strategic plans to identify priorities, shifts, and actions that will be necessary to create a technological environment in line with larger goals and objectives. It also reveals whether there can be more coordinated products or integrations that might consolidate solutions and enhance efficiencies while reducing overall costs.
Staff tends to have strong thoughts and opinions about technology, and the technology audit offers a productive avenue for gathering those opinions and ideas. This feedback can also reveal where there might be holes in training or user experience that might be inhibiting even a well-executed technology plan. It also bridges the sometimes isolated sphere of your IT staff and elevates their role to an active one in overall organizational planning which it should be. This is because often senior management doesn’t have a complete understanding of technology and tends to either overestimate its potential (“So can’t you just push a button and all of our emails will be sent out in a coordinated fashion for the year?”) or they underestimate it and are unaware of areas where it is being underutilized and efficiency gains or tools missed (“Um, actually yes, we can automate our entire membership life cycle.”)
Questions that usually get tabled like, “Should we integrate our accounting software with CRM?” or “Should we invest in more licenses for users in the CRM so more staff can share coordinated workflows?” also have a forum within the context of a technology audit. This forum allows enough conversation and assessment to coalesce in order to thoughtfully inform these more significant decisions. These can then either be acted upon with a timeline and action plan for implementation or more thoughtfully put on hold, but at least for reasons clear to all.
So why suggest that now might be prime time for your nonprofit to consider a technology audit? Well, one reason is that you likely needed a small nudge since it is an often overlooked activity at any time. Another is that because there are so many new options in integration and product consolidation at this current point the time has never been better to coordinate and simplify your solutions. A third, and perhaps most significant reason is that there has never been a time when having the right technology tools and plan, poised to meet current and future needs, has been more mission-critical to nonprofits as the communications and fundraising landscape grows ever more sophisticated. Determining which products that you are currently using will have the ability to scale, integrate, and keep pace with this landscape and how your staff uses them will be among the most important infrastructure decisions you will make. Decisions that will be the key to providing optimal service to and alignment with your operational and mission objectives. So if you are feeling like you don’t have your arms around operations and technology might we suggest an audit?
Source: Nonprofit Vertical CRM