There is no denying that technology is evolving beyond human capabilities. While for some this is considered a hindrance, most are recognising the growing strength adopting a digital shift within their organisation can bring.
A study conducted by Tech Trust discovered that most of their partner charities (58%) interviewed did not have a defined digital strategy. The charities that did were reported to be more optimistic about the future of their organisations than those without. 92% of the charities with a digital strategy, reported they had; more confidence in future planning and the ability to meet strategic goals, increased productivity and efficiency, and better protection from risk.
However, with the vast array of different software options that have exploded onto the digital network over recent years, choosing the optimum one for your organisation, can often be overwhelming. Due to the nature of their work in the niche sector, most charitable organisations will seek advice from companies who promote their expertise in this area; yet again, this can be a tough decision on partnering with the right one, the one who will keep your organisations needs as a priority.
Here are a few options to consider when seeking a partnership to deliver on your digital demands:
Understands your business:
Top on the list of priorities, a technology partner MUST understand the nature of your organisation's mission and vision. Any options or decisions that are made are kept in line with this, rather than flogging you a standard “out of the box” product.
A skilled consultant will explore the intricacies of your business, listening to your requirements, understanding what impact their solution will have on all areas within the organisation- both long and short term and on those involved in the process.
For most this skill will be judged on how long a company has been running. While this is a valuable asset, a seasoned consultant generally understands how their new technologies interact with your existing system and should identify a realistic plan for your company-experience doesn’t necessarily equal expertise.
There is a danger that a company can get comfortable in the ways they work which means they are less open to exploring and engaging in emerging tech which ultimately may work better for your organisation. The key to uncovering a company’s expertise is their ability to provide references and examples on projects similar to yours. Additionally, are they aware and keeping you in the loop of future developments with the IT solution they are offering? Are they regular attendees of events or seminars that ensure their expertise keep developing as technology gets more intelligent?
This type of research will help you identify if your tech partner is innkeeping with the digital loop or stuck on the dusty shelf like your old server.
Likewise, to expertise, this can be identified through references and contact with similar organisations. Sure, most companies will have a testimonial or case study linked on their website, but how regularly is this being updated, or has it been on their sign the website was developed? A reputable organisation should be able to have that engagement with their clients that they are happy to provide a few words of recommendation.
Now you could argue that the company’s marketeers have the “gift of the gab” in writing a compelling case study, which is why there is no harm in requesting to speak to previous clients and hearing the “raw” facts about their experience. If this matches up to their promoters of the website-you can be assured, you are on the right path to securing a dedicated partnership.
With budget being the forefront subject of all non-profit organisations and naturally the concern that money is being spent in the right areas, a key quality to the right tech partner is their ability and agility to provide and recommend different options that keep in line with your financial resources.
This being said, the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the smartest. In terms of technology, “cheap” can often mean unreliable or “off the shelf” which will ultimately cause complications later. Examples of such include customisability, backups, options to add or remove users and support. Reliability is key within the Third Sector, with data security at its highest with recent cyber attacks and enforced GDPR regulations, it is crucial for an organisation to invest in the protection of their data.
Project implementation and Aftercare:
When agreement on the route forward has been reached, it is in both parties’ interest to deliver and implement the solution as quickly and efficiently as possible. This requires an experienced team, who understand the purpose as well as the specification. A qualified partner should be realistic on time scales based on the nature of work involved and clearly set this out for you to plan efficiently around any implications their intervention could have on your organisation.
Large scale projects may follow the principle of a single step forward, feedback, adapt and proceed for successful implementation, as undoubtedly unforeseen complications could arise, which any experts in the field of tech should be able to solve and adapt accordingly. At the same time, this approach allows greater control of risk elements.
A trusted partner should ensure they are conducting regular meetings with key members of staff and stakeholders identifying individual training needs, follow ups and scheduled review dates with a dedicated account manager. Not only will this give you peace of mind they are working with you as your organisation develops but you are considered a valued client who is equal to the various others your tech partner is supporting.
With all these options, it is communication and awareness that really classifies a trusted tech partner. Your reliance on their solution for your organisation can only work if you are kept up to date every step of the way. From initial enquiry through to implementation and beyond, you should be the first to understand what steps they are taking, who they are involving within their team and who they need to call on within your organisation to ensure this process is smooth for all involved. Being open, honest and direct will guarantee you don’t just get a solution that works, but you’ll have a partner who believes in tangible value, achieved through long term future-focused client relationships.