DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE TECHNOLOGY PLAN
A technology plan is a short-range plan for the orderly introduction of technology into an organization. It is designed to maximize the ability of the organization to carry out its mission and reach its goals. There are many benefits to having a technology plan.
Effective technology plans are short term, not long term. Five-year plans are too long. Technology is changing so fast that it is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now. Even one-year plans may now be about as far ahead as effective planning can take place. This is not to say that a plan will endeavor to foresee changes and advancements in technology as part of the "visioning" process. Given the great unknowns and rapidity of change, however, the short-term plan should guide immediate decisions on purchasing and implementing specific technology.
The only long-term solution is to tie the technology plan to the agency's budget cycle. Pull the plan out every year during the budget process and review it to make sure the plan has not tied your organization into buying outdated equipment. Do not let a technology plan lock you into old technology and applications just because it says so in the plan. Newer, more powerful, lower cost technology may be available to replace what is specified in an older plan.
Effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology. In other words, make your technology plan outcome-based, not input-based. Develop a plan that specifies what clients, staff, and administration should be able to do with technology and let those outcomes determine the types and amount of technology your plan requests.
Many technology plans are based on numbers of machines...input. Typically, technology committees go before governing boards asking for a computer lab, or computers for administrative offices. The first question board members will ask it, "Why do you need them?:" Why not answer that question in the plan? It may be better to go to a board saying, "This is what we want to be able to do"...output. Then, specify what technology is needed in order to accomplish the plan's outcomes and goals.
This approach also helps answer the debate over which brand names to purchase. The main decision that must be made is whether to purchase IBM compatible or Macintosh computers. Try to be consistent. Although some files can be transferred from one type of computer to another, it is much easier if everyone has either IBM compatible computers or Macintosh. To a lesser extent, the same reasoning applies to software brands. Document transfers are simplified through the use of one Word-processing application throughout the office for example. It is impossible to name best brands since technology changes so rapidly, but a salesperson at a computer store will be able to explain the benefits and drawback of specific brands.
Effective technology available that have appropriate uses in the nonprofit sector. Include as many types of technology in a plan as possible. For example, a television is one type of equipment, which doesn't get much attention in many technology plans. However, when attached to a computer for presentation and illustration a TV can take the place of a very expensive video display projector. Keep an open mind when it comes to deciding on equipment. Always ask yourself, "are there less expensive, less complicated ways of getting the job done?".
Effective technology plans stress integration of technology into the overall operation of the agency. Effective technology plans help staff answer the questions, "What am I doing now that I could do more effectively and efficiently with technology?" The answer applies to all administrative tasks. It is generally more effective to buy technology to do things such as track clients and donors. Think of all the manual labor that will be saved.
Effective technology plans are tied to staff development plans. Make sure to include anticipated staff training needs into the technology plans. If you are planning a network, do any staff members have the skills necessary to administer the new environment? Do end users know how to log-on and share information? Technology pans that are not tied to long-term staff development are destined to fail.
When preparing a formal technology plan, it is a good idea to follow a structured format. The following is an outline of a comprehensive Technology Plan.