Is a transparent organization a secure one?

December 19, 2017 Annie Rhodes

I recently wrote a blog about best practices to follow when implementing new software, and highlighted the importance of executive and team buy-in. Without it, the creation and execution of a long-term technology strategy that solves for problems of all departments, rather than just one, is unlikely. Often we experience internal resistance due to concerns about security with the cloud. Changing the culture in your organization towards an open platform is not easy, but there is a common jumping off point that you could consider: the belief in transparency.

“Transparency” has become a key theme over the last several years in both the social sector and the rest of the world as business and government figures continue to make headlines for actions hidden from the public or their peers. Technology has powered this movement towards transparency, as it enables organizations to provide the data required to be truly transparent. As a result of these insights, organizations can more easily identify areas for collaboration, improve their grantee relationships, and optimize their processes to be more impactful.

To accomplish the status of a “transparent” organization requires a 360 view of your activities and the results of your initiatives. Truly the best way to achieve this perspective is with the use of an open cloud platform. The cloud provides easy access to all of your data, from any location. With all of your information in the cloud, your staff can achieve transparency without spending a majority of their time managing your technology and reports. But what about security?

First, I’d like to acknowledge that you have two options when it comes to migrating to the cloud: Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud.  A Private Cloud will incur more upfront costs, and your organization will need to be prepared to manage the constant security requirements. However, you will still see the efficiencies of being on the cloud while knowing exactly where your data sits and having total control if you’d like to disconnect for any reason. The Public Cloud means your data is managed by an external stakeholder, like Blackbaud. There is a guarantee that you will have access to best-in-class software, and the latest security solutions. You can experience the benefits of being on a cloud platform, like full transparency, without taking time from staff otherwise focused on efforts to achieve your mission.

The biggest risk for security for your organization when it comes to the cloud (Private or Public), is the lack of a plan. The formation of a technology strategy, and clear communication of this strategy (including why you’re doing it, like transparency goals, and what you’ll gain) will result in total buy-in across the organization. Without a formulated strategy, you could run a security risk. Staff may not be clear on what data is available, or how to access it. That’s when you run into a problem.

Before starting a conversation about a possible change to your organization’s technology approach, consider how you would strategize if you were a new entity just opening its doors. What will your proposed tech strategy require, what are the most important tech areas to invest in, who needs this technology to do their job better, and how will it affect your ability to accomplish your mission? Vocalizing transparency as a priority might also help guide what data questions you’d like answered, as well as what information you’ll need from grantees. When you’re confident in the answers to these questions, and can speak to the true need for a shift in the organization’s approach to technology, you’ll have much better success with initial buy-in and adoption rates after the new solution rolls out.

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