Seven ways to make your organisation a digital dynamo

Posted on 03 Jun 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Our Community


Not-for-profit organisations must digitally transform if they are to effectively meet the needs of those they are trying so hard to serve in an increasingly connected world.

That’s the clear message from technology-focused social enterprise Infoxchange.

The organisation, which aims to “tackle the biggest social challenges through the smart and creative use of technology”, says while social enterprises increasingly recognise the importance of being digitally savvy, many are not sure how to go about achieving that goal.

“As a first step, you really need to think about the digital roadmap and the plan on how you are going to get there.”

Speaking at the recent Connecting Up conference in Melbourne, Infoxchange digital transformation consultant Sophie Souchon said the NFP sector was under pressure to do more with less.

While on the one hand governments, corporates and philanthropic trusts were changing the way they work with NFPs, donors were increasingly demanding to know how their contributions made a difference, she said.

These trends are turning up the heat on the sector to do things differently.

According to the latest Salesforce annual global Nonprofits Trends Report, 41 per cent of Australian organisations believed digital transformation was a “must have”.

However, the Infoxchange Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector report, released in late 2022, found many NFPs were playing catch up, with just 44 per cent of survey participants reporting staff were confident about using the tech and IT needed for their roles.

Ms Souchon said digital technologies could help NFPs respond to these changes by driving productivity, improving efficiency and enhancing service delivery.

“That’s where technology can really help us to make those processes efficient and have the opportunity to increase our services,” she said.

On the flip side, she acknowledged the road to digital transformation could be paved with challenges.

Have your say on the state of technology in the sector

David Spriggs
David Spriggs

Not-for-profits are under intense pressure to digitally transform to keep pace with an increasingly connected world.

Cyber threats, evolving funding models and increased demands for transparency from donors are just some of the issues driving technological change in the sector.

That’s why all not-for-profits – large and small – are urged to complete the 2023 Digital Technology in the Not-for-profit Sector survey, which is now open.

Designed and delivered by technology-focused social enterprise Infoxchange, the survey aims to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the sector in areas ranging from cybersecurity and investment in IT to innovation.

Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs said with today’s challenging and rapidly evolving technology environment, it has never been more important for not-for-profits to share their views on the impact of technology in the sector.

“This year’s survey is shorter and more targeted at emerging technology challenges and opportunities including digital skills, cyber security, use of data and artificial intelligence,” said Mr Spriggs.

“Help inform what resources and support are needed by the sector by contributing 15 minutes to complete the survey.”

Those who complete the survey by the June 11 deadline will be in the running to win a Microsoft Surface Pro and other prizes.

Take the survey now: 2023 Digital Technology in the Not-for-profit Sector survey.

Digital transformation: what it is and how to go about it

Infochange Digital Transformation Hub manager Marcus Harvey said many organisations tended to focus initially on the platform or technology itself, rather than on how they would implement it.

They would do better, he said, to follow the “three Ps":

  • People first
  • Process second
  • Platform/technology third

“For me, digital transformation is really exciting but also makes me nervous in an office space because it’s not easy,” said Mr Harvey.

“It’s really about ‘How do we work with people? How do we engage the organisation effectively?’”

Mr Harvey said a crucial first step was to establish a clear idea of why digitally upskilling the organisation was necessary to begin with, something that can vary from one NFP to another depending on their mission.

“So, the first question we like to ask is why bother transforming?

“If there’s no clear reason, if you don’t have a burning platform or a strong desire, don’t bother.”

Marcus Harvey Infoxchange cropped and resized
Infoxchange Digital Transformation Hub Manager Marcus Harvey.

Mr Harvey said there was a range of reasons why a digital transformation can fail, ranging from strategic direction that was misaligned with the rest of the organisation, or trying to do too many things at once, to overly focusing on technology, unrealistic expectations and lack of executive support.

“As a first step, you really need to think about the digital roadmap and the plan on how you are going to get there.”

Charting a successful digital transformation

The team at Infoxchange suggested seven tips to help your digital transformation program succeed:

1. Have a common goal

Everyone involved in the project needs to be aligned with the same agenda. Create a high-level scope document to get everyone on the same page.

2. Ensure strategic alignment

The solution needs to support what the organisation is trying to achieve. Create a project plan to articulate this.

3. Build collaboration, teamwork and engagement

Across the board, from top to bottom, you need fully engaged people working proactively together. Create a stakeholder matrix so you know who you are communicating with.

4. Properly prepare and plan

Don’t underestimate the value of spending quality time upfront looking at where you are now and where you want to be, what you want to achieve by doing the project and how you are going to do it.

Have a solid budget forecast and a clear requirements document.

5. Ensure access to subject matter experts (SMEs)

A project team needs to have regular contact with those who know your business or your specific area of the business intimately.

This will affect your business-as-usual activities. Consider backfilling roles, if possible, or allowing more time for a project if capacity is tight.

6. Ensure strong leadership

Make sure you have people with the right skills and experience taking the lead. When the going gets tough, you need someone to take responsibility and accountability.

7. Make it realistic and achievable

Having a clear and well-communicated timeline and taking the time to document risks and issues will help you be realistic.

Don’t be completely constrained, as a degree of flexibility is necessary, but it is critical that you can deliver what you are setting out to do. Consider capacity, expertise, risk appetite and funding.

Keep checking how you are tracking and communicating widely with a project status report.

Mr Harvey said determination and a shared sense of purpose were key to a successful digital transformation.

“You need a bit of fire in the belly to get through the process, and the fire in the belly needs to be communicated well to both your staff, your management and everyone that’s going to come on the journey with you.”

More technology help

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