Non-technologists – fear not – manage technology as strategy
I was having a conversation with the information technology director at my Association and the light bulb went off. I remarked that I understood each and every word that was used, but when put into a sentence it made absolutely no sense to me at all. I wonder if you had a similar feeling. Why is it that non-technologists succumb to technological non-speak when each of us capable of understanding the value we expect from evermore available enhancing technology.
It is been my experience that for the most part technology and its many applications have far too often been relegated to the business suite. We have programs to ensure appropriate accounting practices, our vendor lists, membership lists and information, partner lists, affiliate lists, websites, some social media engagement and countless other day-to-day tasks. To be sure, the productivity enhancements technology brings to these areas are essential in the continued development of our associations.
Unfortunately chief executive officers have far too often given in to what the technologist tells us can and cannot be done. Further, we have multiple technology arrangements. Some have in-house technology specialist, others outsource the entire process, and some have a combination of both. However, these necessary operational applications are not at all strategic. To the contrary, they are mostly tactical. Not only are they tactical they are marred by a level of fear that non-technologists have of saying something inappropriate, or sounding like they do not know or understand the technology being used, or simply throwing up their hands because of cost.
It is time that the CEO takes direct control of the information technology strategy which will enable the Association to more effective not just efficient in meeting its mission. Permit me to make one suggestion on the structural front and another on how to ultimately convert technology from tactical to strategic. First, do not structurally place information technology under the functional control of your business unit or chief financial officer. While technology serves many tactical applications for business processes our beloved bean counters simply convert technological capacity into dollars in and dollars out. Easy to understand why this occurs and while important does not fundamentally make technology actionable at the strategic level.
Second, to convert technological capacity from tactical to strategic it will require the chief executive to make sure that he or she knows the information and data that is available in current systems whether formal or informal, currently controlled by IT, and that technology is viewed as functionally horizontal and not vertical.
How do we start down this road? Actually the starting points is quite simple. It has two plains; identification and desired use/value.
We gather all the known information and data into a simple chart or list which does the following:
- We identify the information or data set we have (technologists like to refer to these as data fields)
- We determine who currently owns the information or data (is it in some AMS or CRM system, business software, some unit or department maintaining its own little private information sets, or individuals who develop data and information sets to help them manage and organize their own work on a day-to-day basis?)
- What is the current use of this information or data set?
- What programs/software is used to manage that data?
- Do chapters or affiliates have other datasets that they use in their day-to-day operation?
USE / VALUE
- What is the currently data or information used for?
- What is the seen value?
Finally, from a strategic perspective which the CEO and her/his team views the needs of the organization; write a statement that clearly outlines the value of desired information and data in building the organizations capacity to fulfill its mission. Try to keep it simple and use words that non-technologist understand.
Here is a sentence to get you started. We use technology to discover and analyze new opportunities and services and enable efficiencies that optimize our capacity to meet our mission.
Let me know what you think. firstname.lastname@example.org
MAB: non-tech fear