The 5 Laws of Successful IT Strategy and Planning

May 1, 2019 Nate Payne

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.

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