Do you have a friend whose house looks like it belongs to neat freak Felix Unger, but the closets and drawers are clearly owned by lovable slob Oscar Madison? This Odd Couple disconnect happens to even savvy digital organizations.
My writing about digital leadership often focuses on values and attitudes. But attention to the infrastructure’s nuts and bolts is also important. Periodic technology assessments guarantee that those resources are in good order to deliver on the ambitious goals you’ve set.
An assessment is a look under the hood that is both preventative and proactive. This comprehensive exploration of your digital systems could include evaluating security, network functions, system management, user experience, and overall performance. The objective is to identify strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for improvements that advance your strategic goals.
Isn’t it enough that you did your research and purchased a tech stack that fits your needs? Why is this extra attention important? If I had to offer one reason, it would be because things change. In the tech world state-of-the-art doesn’t exist. It’s hard to define what is best when the bar is always rising.
I’m not suggesting that new purchases are a constant necessity. But understanding where systems and related activities fall on the continuum of progress and being aware of what steps your organization might take next gives you foresight.
Smaller groups may view preventive maintenance as a luxury. However, the last two years demonstrated that a hidden technology deficit can have devastating consequences. One of my significant pandemic takeaways is that organizations that were on top of their technology didn’t miss a beat.
Kevin Ordonez, .orgSource’s Managing Director of Digital Strategy, explains what you have to gain from an assessment this way.
“The value is in the process and journey. We uncover hidden problems and opportunities. The greatest benefit is ensuring that an organization’s processes, people, culture, and technology are in alignment with their strategic objectives.
“For organizations that aren’t experiencing significant challenges, an assessment can affirm that their systems still meet their needs. It’s also a chance to adjust processes, staff skill sets, and align with the future road maps of your technology partners.”
Dawn Briskey, .orgSource Vice President of Client Services frequently collaborates with Kevin on tech projects. She offers this advice, “Association staff and management are sometimes too close to their systems, processes, and people to clearly see areas for improvement. When .orgSource conducts a tech assessment, whether we evaluate a single area, or the entire ecosystem, you benefit from an outside perspective given by association insiders.”
If those are not good enough reasons for you to invest in a tune up, here are several other benefits to keeping your tech tools polished and shiny.
Put Safety First
As technology grows more sophisticated, so do hackers. Ransomware that encrypts and kidnaps files and botnets that co-opt IoT devices to build a destructive army are just a few of the threats. Remote work adds an additional dimension of insecurity to the equation. Cybersecurity News reports that:
- “Cybercrime has increased by 600% since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
- Small-to-mid-size businesses suffer from half of all cyberattacks.
- 60% of targeted companies go out of business within six months of a security breach.”
Even if you have cyber insurance, your members’ goodwill is priceless. An evaluation of current security practices and systems can pay big dividends.
Hopefully, a crisis is not in your future. But failure to use data effectively can also be dangerous. It’s a stealthy liability that grows over time. If you don’t have a data governance strategy, a technology assessment can be a good way to launch this process. Disaster recovery and business continuity are other areas to explore.
Distribute the Wealth
Are the IT resources shared equally throughout your organization? Heavy users may not need all that bandwidth and some employees may not be using systems to their full capacity. An assessment can identify disparities and level the playing field.
You may discover that some staffers aren’t benefiting from the data at their fingertips because they need additional training. Or that there are frustrating processing bottlenecks. The point is, as Kevin and Dawn suggest, hidden challenges may be keeping your group from realizing its full IT potential.
Keep Pace With Competition
There was a time when associations ruled their universes. Now, the aliens have landed. Competition from for-profit companies, particularly in the professional development arena, is growing steadily. When users spend valuable time searching for what they need or clicking through windows, no matter how much your members love you, that sub-par experience makes you vulnerable to other attractive suitors. To maintain market share, keeping systems up-to-date and customer-friendly is critical. An assessment can identify where fixes are needed.
Every group has unique needs and goals. The assessment process varies from one organization to another. Dawn describes .orgSource’s customized approach like this.
“We start with a conversation. We ask questions to determine what you’re looking for, what challenges you are experiencing, and where there are opportunities for growth. Years of support to associations of all sizes informs our understanding about the complex balance of meeting members’ needs, fulfilling missions, and staying within budgets. Money and time are precious, and we are sensitive to the limitations those resources may impose.
“Successful use of technology requires more than the best tools available for your budget. Culture, strategy, and talent play important roles. Our process may also involve exploring those areas. The .orgSource proprietary online evaluation survey is a tool the team frequently uses to gain a solid understanding of how our clients are integrating technology into their business.”
Seventy-two questions assess strengths and weaknesses across these nine areas of activity:
- Attitudes toward digital thinking and outreach
- Perceptions about digital strategy and competence across various departments
- Digital integration with strategy
- How technological decisions are made and who is responsible
- How data is used in decision-making
- Willingness, ability, and processes to innovate
- Financial diversification and streams of revenue
- How leadership, environment, professional development, and training promote digital literacy and thinking
- Whether there is adequate talent to achieve the desired goals
- Where data resides, who owns it, and how it flows through the organization
- Definition and documentation of processes and responsibilities
- Human, financial, and equipment resources
- Current systems and how they interact
- User satisfaction
- Customer satisfaction
- Processes for safeguarding systems and data
- How data is used to evaluate initiatives, member needs, and customer satisfaction
The survey report offers a well-rounded picture of an organization’s digital maturity and pinpoints gaps that impede success. The answers also provide clues to where effective solutions lie.
“We examine as much or as little as you are willing to share,” Dawn notes. “Then we make recommendations for moving forward. .orgSource consultants are a team. Clients may not meet everyone, but our recommendations are typically vetted by several experts before a presentation.”
Align Intentions and Ability
No matter how an assessment unfolds, the result should be that your technology goals and your ability to act on them are in alignment. In other words, the drawers and closets become as orderly as the rest of the house.