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We need a technology plan

Having a technology plan is essential to making informed decisions about what to prioritise and spend your limited resources on.


Technology is a given

Technology is a given (Photo: Scott McLeod)

The social care sector is very competitive - you need to compete for grants and other resources, staff, volunteers, clients and even stakeholder awareness of your organisation and the difference it makes in providing social care. 

However, for many, technology planning understandably comes a long way down the list of organisational priorities at the end of a very long day.  Those that understand using technology to support their core services and mission can help make them more attractive to funders and clients, will be well placed for the future. It's important to be aware of the technology that is out there to help you plan and the ways it can help your charity. This new guide published in November 2015 from Positive and Charity Comms includes recommendations for choosing the right digital technology. The guide can be downloaded here (e-mail required).


Here are our seven steps that will help you to make informed and rational technology decisions based on sound information. 

1. Get support for the technology plan

We've seen many cases where responsibility for technology has been handed to an 'accidental techie', someone who shows an interest in technology.  This person spends their time 'fire-fighting' or fixing problems rather than thinking about making strategic improvements.  To get things moving you need to involve management and other staff in establishing technology goals and priorities for the organisation. 

2. Audit your technology resources

You can't plan for the future without knowing the needs and gaps in your technology resources, so start with an audit.  Auditing your technology resources allows you to establish what you have, how old it is, and what needs replacing or upgrading. Two free tools we recommend for taking an IT audit are Spiceworks (for those with networks) and Belarc Advisor (for stand alone computers not networked).

3. Prioritise needs

At this point you'll want to consult with end users - management, staff, volunteers and clients - about meeting their technology needs.   Every organisation will have its own specific needs and priorities, but the social care providers we've met through Connecting Care tend to mention the following:

  • Replacing old and slow computers with new or recycled machines
  • Adopting tablet devices
  • Replacing paper records with a computerised database
  • Networking office computers or using online file storage services like Dropbox
  • Getting a new website
  • Implementing backup systems
  • Using social media to publicise their work

4. Research options

Now that you've defined and prioritised needs it's time to start researching your technology options.  If you've decided replacing old computers is top priority, start researching specifications and price.  Or you may have decided you want to explore how using tablet devices can work in social care settings.  Connecting Care can help you research your options and provide independent and impartial advice.

5. Put it in writing

It doesn't have to be a long document, but your plan should at minimum describe your technology goals, give a deadline, a budget and name a responsible person.  The technology plan should be a living document revisited at frequent intervals, for example, every six months or so.  

6. Costing and funding technology projects

The next step is to figure out the cost - our budgeting for technology article describes this process in more detail.

The second part is about funding your technology plans.  In our experience, funders do not fund technology projects per se.  Another way of thinking about it is that funders fund activity that delivers outputs and outcomes in line with their grant programmes.  If you have a project involving technology, such as a new database, the key is to show how it meets the funders' goals.  The Costing and Funding ICT Guide (PDF, 1.3MB) describes this in more detail.

7. Who, what, when

Now you've got management and staff support, have prioritised needs, found solutions and priced it up, the final step is to put together an action plan and move from planning to implementation.  Set realistic deadlines and assign responsibilities for your various technology goals, and make sure to evaluate your progress regularly.

 
Resources

There is a guide to developing a technology plan or IT Strategy which includes a check list of items to consider and an example of a sample IT Strategy in our Resources Library or the you can download the IT Strategy Guide directly here. (Note this is based on an guide originally produced by IT4Communities).

There is a very useful Technology Checklist on the Technology Trust website which has been reproduced from the 'Mobile For Good' nonprofit technology planning guide book.

Article: Why be concerned about ICT Management?

Article: An IT strategy framework

Article: Aligning IT with business strategy

Article: The Virtual Activist - Technology Planning

Article: Microsoft - Your non-profit needs a technology plan

Article: Managing technology to meet your mission

Download: A Guide to Managing ICT (PDF, 1.59MB)

Download: Costing and Funding ICT Guide (PDF, 1.3MB)

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