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Prepare for New Technology

When a new technology emerges, those who have been waiting for it quickly adopt it. Some of the early adopters are thrilled, others are happy, and some feel they wasted their time and resources.  The challenge is to jump on the right trends and avoid the others.

Every new technology fits in one of three categories:

Nice to Have – It is technology that serves a purpose but provides limited benefits.

Necessary – This is technology that is or becomes part of the infrastructure.

Strategic – This is technology that provides a competitive advantage.

It is hard to know if new technology will evolve into a strategic tool or necessity.  Therefore, common conservative wisdom is to keep an eye on the technology and wait to see what the evolutionary path is going to be.  It is a safe decision but its primary benefit is saving time and money.  Only by taking a chance is it possible to increase sustainability or create a competitive advantage.

Usually the evolutionary path of technology is to move from a fad to a strategic tool.  Once enough people adopt the tool, it loses its strategic value and becomes necessary for survival.

The Internet is a good example.  Initially, it provided a select group of early adopters with an advantage.  Others adopted it to enjoy the advantage held by the early adopters.  Today, those without the Internet are at a distinct disadvantage.

Make a list of all of your nonprofit’s activities.  Determine all of the ways that those activities could provide you with a strategic advantage.  Now you know two things.  The first is how to change the process to create an advantage.  The immediate change process might be to engage others to make the changes.  The second are the attributes you are looking for in the next technology announcement.

Any new technology that will meet some or all of your requirements will provide you with a strategic advantage.  Now you know when to be an early adopter and when to wait until others prove the usefulness of any new technology.

Next Step:

Make a list of your activities

Determine how each activity could provide a great strategic advantage

Exploit your current strategic technologies to the fullest

If you have technology that is already providing you with a strategic or a competitive advantage, you need to challenge the technology.  Unless your team is using the technology to its fullest potential, you are vulnerable to someone else capturing an advantage by more fully exploiting the technology.  Challenging the technology also provides you with the insight necessary to know whether the next new feature is worth adopting.  Challenging the technology ensures your staff is ready to take the next step forward as soon as the step is available.  Being an early adopter will help to sustain your advantage and keep your nonprofit’s sustainability from declining.

Your nonprofit can be the best without adopting every new technology.  The best are those who are the early adopters of the most meaningful new technology.  You and your staff have the knowledge and experience necessary to determine when a new technology is a meaningful advance.  In fact, you and your staff are the only ones who can determine what is meaningful because you are the experts on the needs of your mission, clients, and community.

Everyone uses technology.  The nonprofits with a competitive advantage exploit critical pieces of technology to the fullest.  They earn their competitive advantage by providing superior value to their clients, their community, and their supporters.

Take It Further:

Use your knowledge of which features and services are necessary to advance your strategy

Ask your board to budget funds for new strategic technology (it is impossible to know when it will be needed and waiting for the next budget cycle provides a competitor with an opening)

Remember that your nonprofit needs strategic advantages in fundraising and volunteer management in addition to programing and service delivery

Make a list of activities that might become strategic in the future

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