Nonprofit Radio for April 1, 2024: Avoid Technical Debt & Your Technical Roadmap


Jagan Narayanan & Karen Graham: Avoid Technical Debt


Our 24NTC coverage continues, to help you avoid crushing tech debt that would bust your budget and cause you a big headache. Our panel encourages you to manage and maintain your IT infrastructure and software so that costs are managed. They’re Jagan Narayanan, from Fourth Dimension Technologies, and the tech speaker, writer and consultant, Karen Graham.





Kestryl Lowery:  Your Technical Roadmap

Another way to steer clear of a technology budget crisis is to prioritize and plan your investments. Kestryl Lowrey shares the best practices for creating your tech roadmap. He’s with Cloud for Good.


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Hello listeners. It’s Tony. Every week for the past 14 years. I’ve produced a show this week. I’m sorry, I just II I could not pull it together. Uh personal problems, technology problems. Its just, it was just overwhelming. I, I could not, I’m sorry. It’s April Fools. It’s our April Fools show. Welcome to Tony Martignetti nonprofit radio. Big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your Aptly named host and the pod father of your favorite Hebdomadal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with us. I’d suffer the embarrassment of. So, Mathenia, if you weakened me with the idea that you missed this week’s show, here’s our associate producer, Kate with what’s going on this week? Hey, Tony, it’s a technology management show. First. Avoid technical debt. Our 24 NTC coverage continues to help you avoid crushing tech debt that would bust your budget and cause you a big headache. Our panel encourages you to manage and maintain your it infrastructure and software so that costs are managed. They are Jin Narayanan from fourth dimension technologies and the tech speaker, writer and consultant Karen Graham. Then your technical road map another way to steer clear of a technology budget crisis is to prioritize and plan your investments. Castro Lowry shares the best practices for creating your tech roadmap. He’s with Cloud for good. Antonius. Take two, I’ve been dreaming were sponsored by virtuous. Virtuous, gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising, volunteer and marketing tools. You need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow giving, here is avoid technical debt. Welcome back to Tony Martignetti nonprofit radio coverage of the 2024 nonprofit technology conference. We’re in Portland, Oregon and we are sponsored by Heller consulting technology strategy and implementation for nonprofits. With me. Now are Jin Narayanan. And Karen Graham Jin is CEO at fourth dimension technologies and Karen is speaker, writer, consultant and coach. Welcome back to both of you. You’ve both been on the show before. It’s good to have both of you back. Jug and Karen. Welcome back. Thanks. Thank you. Pleasure. So you’ve uh you’ve done your session and your topic is avoid technical debt from killing your nonprofit, not, not just not just damaging or injuring, killing, killing, jugging. Why is this uh an important topic? Why do we need this session? Uh It’s basically it’s a more to do with being able to keep up with uh technology and trying to address issues as and when they come up and not let them pile up. Once you let the issue spile up, then it kind of grows to such an extent that it becomes a very difficult task to manage at that point in time. And that’s why we’re talking about being able to kill them because suddenly you find yourself in a situation where you have a huge technology challenge and you probably don’t have the resources both financial, as well as technical to be able to address that. Ok. And it could have been avoided with better management through the, through the years. Absolutely better management in terms of planning and probably spreading it out over a period of time. Ok, Karen, do you want to add something to, to our introduction to the topic? I think, I mean, you asked why, why this topic here, why this conference? I think it’s especially important for nonprofits to think about this because they have so many pressures that, that send them in the direction of accumulating more technical debt, of putting off purchases of under investing in technology because of the way that they’re funded because of the um just all of the different ways that they operate. I think nonprofits are perhaps more susceptible to technical debt than any other kind of organization. Um So some of the things we want, let’s stick with you, Karen. Just reading from your session description, learn, learn the negative impacts of technical debt, I mean, jug and sort of alluded to them. Do you want to go into more detail or maybe tell a story of, of the, the uh the implications of putting off proper investment and management of technology. I’ll use a release. Simple example. And this is, this is kind of an embarrassing example because it’s a way that I am accumulating technical debt myself by keeping a laptop for longer than I would ever advise a client to do. I would usually tell people to plan to replace their computers every 3 to 5 years. I’ve got a laptop that’s six years old and I’m just crossing my fingers that it’s not going to die in the middle of this conference. And then I would be forced to go out and sort of panic, purchase a new machine without shopping for sales without really thoroughly looking at what my options are. And so in that way, I’m probably not making a very smart decision and could end up the impact of that, could be that I would spend more. I wouldn’t get the right kind of computer for, for the next, the next one that I buy. And that’s just like kind of a microcosm of what happens on a much larger scale with a lot of kinds of enterprise technology systems and organizations. Well, I admire you sharing your own personal, uh, I don’t know, shortcoming or oversight. Uh, hypocrite is the word that comes to mind, but at least you’re honest, you’re an honest hypocrite. You’re not, you’re not a concealed. You know, I love Karen. Karen’s been on the show many times. We’ve talked a lot, we email. So I know she doesn’t object to. I feel the same kinds of pressures that a lot of people working in nonprofits do where, you know, I want to make the best use of my funds. I don’t want to overspend. And so sometimes I can be kind of a cheap skate, double, double hypocrite, not, you’re under investing and you’re not, you’re not turning over the technology as it ought to be as it ought to be upgraded. Alright. Um Jin, uh is there a story maybe that you wanna share or, or uh about, you know, proper, let’s let’s go to the other end of the spectrum from Karen now to the to the proper the proper management and, and investment in, in uh technology. Yeah, actually we, we manage it for a lot of organizations and uh as a part of our job, it’s, it’s a part of the job to let them know how they are accumulating debt and what are the risks they carry and what we see sometimes is uh actually quite surprising. Uh we have clients who still use versions of operating system like Windows 2000 just because it works, they use it, they want to use it. They’re not changing it because the change will cost them no longer supported. It’s no longer supported, it’s risky some of the people attending this event. Absolutely. So that’s the risk that they carry risk is whether if they’re using uh uh let’s say unsupported versions of either operating systems or some of the systems that they have, they risk the possibility of security process. So that’s the biggest risk. And uh again, security is like an insurance and the general perception is if it’s not happened to me, I’m safe. So it’s, it’s, it’s a kind of a situation where it hits until it does happen to you. Absolutely. So I think this is where the challenge is. Uh we need to take, that’s why people need to take proactive measures. So when I talk about my own experiences with organizations, this is what we see in a lot of organizations and even then they would want to probably extend it as much as possible because at the end of the day, upgrades also cost money. I think that’s the challenge. But Karen, we, we should look at this as an investment, right? I don’t know why you’re asking me questions because I’ve now completely undermined my own credibility. Well, let me, let me take a moment to rehabilitate because Karen I’ve known Karen for years. She is a very smart, very savvy tech uh tech reviewer, tech consultant, tech person, professional. Uh she used to produce reports about technology. Um and I had her on the show talking about them. So this is all that was uh that was all in fun. Karen. Karen is a very, very savvy and very smart consultant. Karen Graham consulting. I don’t know, her little bio doesn’t say doesn’t say Karen Graham consulting. It just says, speaker, writer, consultant, coach, I’ve made my best after myself consulting. And as I Tony Martignetti, Tony Martignetti nonprofit Radio Martignetti Planned Giving Advisors II, I think that’s, I think that’s the right way to go. You’re because you’re a well known name in technology. So Karen Graham consulting has gravitas and that’s not just a gratuitous rehabilitation, it’s all deserved. So he’s made such terrible fun of you. II I wanna make sure that I go uh make sure I rehabilitate and set the record straight again. That was not a gratuitous rehabilitation. It’s all true. So as a savvy smart tech consultant at Karen Graham consulting, uh we should be viewing this as an investment, right? Not expenditure, not spending, but we’re investing in tech just like we should invest in our people. Yeah, we should. Um and but in order to make a proper investment, you need to, you need to save for that, you need to budget for it and you need to understand how to evaluate return on investment. And I actually think that’s sometimes how these things start to fall apart is that people don’t understand how to really evaluate the ro I they don’t understand how to swayed someone of that. That’s something we talked about in the session a bit. There were a lot of people in the room that were it and operations, people that do understand this already and yet they’re sort of inhibited from implementing really smart technology investments in their organization because their leaders don’t understand the importance of it. Their boards don’t understand the importance of it, their don’t understand the importance of it. And so I think it’s our responsibility as technology leaders to acquire the skills, to be able to really make a strong case for those investments and to do it in the language, to use the kinds of arguments that are relevant to the people that are making those decisions. Well, let’s stay with you. How do we start to budget for this? Let’s take uh websites, for example, almost everyone, almost every nonprofit organization does some kind of website refresh or maybe even a complete overhaul, redesign every 3 to 5 years. And yet few organizations budget for that in the years that they’re not doing it. And so to smooth out that um that cash flow and to be prepared for a major website redesign, a few organizations have a practice of setting aside a little bit of money in a fund that’s dedicated for that as they’re building up to it. Um But many of them just wait until it’s kind of past due and then they’ll maybe go to a funder and say, oh, we need, you know, many tens of thousands of dollars to be able to do this redesign and they just cross their fingers that somebody’s gonna say, yes. What, what about for the jug? And what about for the kinds of technology that we’re, that’s, that’s palpable. Um Kron was talking about her laptop. Uh you know, I’m thinking of servers. I mean, I’m not a tech person but you are uh you know, how do we, how do we budget for what those expenses are going to be? The the laptop upgrades, the server up grades, things like that. How do we know how much to plan for? See? Actually, uh if you are a technology person, normally the road map for technology is laid out by the vendors. You take the large vendors, be it the network vendors like Cisco and Junipers or you take the server vendors like Dell or HP, I mean, all of them have set a road map and I think that road map is available for us as technology. So we know where technology is headed in terms of what so very clearly uh that road, once that road map is available, there is a possibility that you can therefore start seeing that this is when I need a refresh, this is when I need an upgrade and stuff like that. Well, you may not know the exact amounts which are required for these exacts. But Karen said if we put together a plan and start setting aside some money straight away, so at least it doesn’t hit you when in a big time when it actually happens, you start setting aside funds for it over a period of time and then start rolling it out on an annual basis rather than doing it at one shot every, every year, you set aside a certain amount of money for upgrades for, uh let’s say you now you’re using the technical debt for, let’s say, uh managing technical debt and you set aside some money and then you know what comes in at that point in time and start using it for that purpose. And the large providers have a road map, road maps for us that most of them have, most of them, we have some visibility into what’s in store. It’s not that they just throw something at us. I mean, there is obviously an available in terms of, if you go to Microsoft, I’m sure Microsoft will tell you when is the next release planned for their operating system? And they will also tell you when is the support stopping for the earlier version of the operating system? So you certainly have a time plan for you to plan that out and hardware, hardware as well and HP etcetera, and there might be a lot of people listening that are not with an organization that has an it professional on their staff. And so maybe they don’t have somebody that really has the knowledge to keep track of these kinds of things. In that case, they should find somebody like Jan or you know, someone who can advise them, maybe outsource that um who can help them make those plans. Actually, it’s a good idea to have a periodic audit, let’s say, do you do an annual audit to see where you are? And what is it that you need to address that? That’s probably a good way to address it in that sense. Auditing software, hardware. Absolutely. That’s right. Ok. Vendor relationships, backup plans, all of it together do infrastructure. I audit to see where you are and what are the gaps that you have to fill and then plan for it. At least you can plan for it the next year. It’s time for a break. Virtuous is a software company committed to helping nonprofits grow generosity. Virtuous believes that generosity has the power to create profound change in the world and in the heart of the giver, it’s their mission to move the needle on global generosity by helping nonprofits better connect with and inspire their givers. Responsive fundraising puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows, giving through personalized donor journeys that respond to the needs of each individual. Virtuous is the only responsive nonprofit CRM designed to help you build deeper relationships with every donor at scale. Virtues gives you the nonprofit CRM, fundraising, volunteer marketing and automation tools. You need to create responsive experiences that build trust and grow impact now back to avoid technical debt. Something I’m curious about, I know both of you, but I, I know I’m not the person who introduced you. How did the two of you come together to do this session together. That’s interesting. That’s interesting. Actually, I’m going to locate in only the last few weeks. Ok. Uh We have another gentleman in our organization who’s been talking to her for a long time. Ga ga. That’s right. So Ronga has been driving this and uh that’s how he got set up and we’ve been in this nonprofit technology thing for the last couple of years. So we’ve been working with multiple people and reaching out to a lot of people and Karen was certainly one of the, on our list. She was on top of our list. Outstanding fourth dimension. Of course, you were a sponsor of nonprofit radio and uh you were on our 650th or 6/100 show, 6/100 show. I interviewed you in uh Moynihan Station in New York City, Moynihan Hall. Pardon me, Moynihan Hall in New York City. And then we had a very nice dinner together. So I know I know the both of you. Well, I just regrettably, I’m not the person brought you together, but Ron found Ronga found Karen top of her list, top of his list. Um Let’s talk a little about Ro I let’s stay with you, Juan. Uh and then we’ll Karen, I’ll turn to you to fill in some too about how do we start to estimate RO I because this is something that if, if, if everything is going along fine, then the C suite may just say, well, everything’s going along fine. I don’t, I don’t see any downside to continuing with uh with uh Windows 2000 for instance. Wh wh why, why should, why should we bother, how do, how do we quantify the, the, the value of upgrading to a, to the current uh operating system, for instance? OK. There are multiple ways of doing this. There are multiple ways, one is uh uh very simply is, is there a productivity impact because of the fact that you’re running older systems? I mean, that’s, that’s one way to look at it. And uh when you look at productivity impact, that’s something we can straight away uh add money value to it and do it. The other is a potential risk that you carry. Like when you say security risk, it’s a risk. But to be putting a money value on it, we need to put a model by which you can say, hey, in case we have a security incident, what is the impact that is having on the organization? OK. So these are the two things that, that comes to my mind straight away security wise, we can look at some of the headlines, a ransomware attacks uh on, I mean, sometimes even on nonprofits, we don’t even have to just look at the commercial, the corporate side of hacks, uh like Yahoo is the one that comes to mind, but there have been others since then. But some nonprofits have been attacked. In fact, I’ll send you a very good example of technical debt, which actually had an impact on general users. Uh Some time back, we had an issue at Southwest where I think the systems came down. I think this is about the air this happened, I think about 34 years back. And I think the one of the reasons was that some of the systems were not upgraded in time. Ok. So having said that, I mean, I’m saying even for large organizations, it happens because we tend to ignore it in a lot of ways, right? So having said that from an ro I look at the impact and uh so if you look at it as an impact, somebody has to put together and say in case this happens, what are the costs and therefore it’s better to invest now and prevent an incident happening sometime down the line. And then also, as you mentioned, productivity, productivity is a very simple, simple model. Yeah, we’re working, right mccarron, we’re, you know, suppose let’s take this windows 2000 example. I mean, we’re, you know, aside from the security risks of using an operating system that still hasn’t been supported for, I don’t know how many years or decades or a decade or so, but just, you know, like the work arounds, like if you wanna integrate calendly, let’s say, or something, you know, to your email or you know, to, to to use something modern with something that’s 24 years old. Um, that’s enormously unproductive. Right. Well, and just to put some numbers to this and I hope I’m not the technical side to it. I hope I’m not doing the math rather spontaneously here. But I was just thinking, like, let’s say you have 10 minutes a day that your old computer, your old operating system, your workarounds are slowing you down by 10 minutes a day. And then if you multiply that out, say by like 40 40 hours a week and 50 days or 50 weeks a year with some vacation, things like that, say, you have somebody that’s being paid $50 an hour. If you take the value of their time, I think that’s $2000 a year, right? One employee. Right. So, I mean, for $2000 would you want to upgrade their operating system? It seems like that would be a pretty clear two $1000 of ongoing costs each year. And then on top of that, the risk of the security risk, we haven’t quantified that right now by, by making the investment of time and money into upgrading the operating system, you’re not really gonna save $2000 you’re still gonna be paying that employee, right? You’re not going to be paying them for 10 fewer minutes every day, but they 10 more minutes that they could be using to do something that is advancing your mission that is raising more money for your organization that is increasing your reach. You know, there’s, there’s all kinds of things they could be doing. So it’s really more of an opportunity cost in reality. But if we wanna put numbers to it and be able to use that to compare ro i of different options, then that’s a, that’s a way that you can do it. Ok? Um uh I’m just reading from your session description um best practices for managing and maintaining it, infrastructure and software systems. Have we, have we covered that? Have we covered that? We talk about it? We did talk about managing and maintaining. That’s right. One of the things that came across during our session itself was uh one was the periodic audit itself which kind of gives you an idea of where you are and where you want to be. Uh The other was I think one of the participants that brought this out was to put together a plan. I mean, while he spoke about a five year plan, I mean, my personal view was in technology, five years is a long time. It’s a very long time. I think about where we were five years ago and how many things didn’t even exist yet. So, but to put together at least a plan saying, hey, this is my technology plan over the next few years and then start implementing it in phases so that you spread out your cost over a period of time. So these are primarily this one is an audit to see where you are because we are so much into the issue that you become part of the problem and not a part of the solution, right? So it’s one way is to step back and get somebody to do an audit and look at it and give you a feedback. The other is to spread out, put together a plan for the, for the next few years. I would, I would rather say three years and spread out your cost over a period of time rather than have them stuck. I mean, thrown at you at one time, these are the two things which came across at that point, I would say with technology planning because things change so much and it’s nearly impossible for that reason to make anything more than even a one year plan, I would say in the environment that we’re in right now, it’s equally important to have a technology strategy. And to me that means priorities, for example, in security, there is often a trade off or friction between higher security and higher convenience for the end users. And so to have sort of a philosophy like when those two things are in conflict, we’re going to lean in one direction or the other or if it’s a matter of investing more money versus um I, I’m trying to think of what the tradeoffs might be here. There’s, there’s all kinds of dichotomies where you can say our philosophy, our approach is going to be that we’re going to lean in this direction and those kinds of things can guide the decisions that you don’t even anticipate. You’re going to have to make a year from now when some new technology arises or when something changes in your environment or your organization and talking about security, there is no limit to the level of paranoia that you can have. It’s clear which side you would, you would. Karen said one way or the other, it’s clear which way you would. It’s a question is where do you want to draw the line and say, hey, I’m willing to live with a certain set of risks and you need to be sure that you’re not taking the one, you can’t be one extreme or the other. If you’re pursuing perfect security, I mean, you’re just going to drive yourself crazy. It’s impossible. You have quadruple factor authentication because they spend half their day logging on. So you have to decide what’s good enough and it’s probably not what you’re doing right now, but there is something that’s probably good enough. Another thing that I was thinking about when you were talking about return on investment is user adoption and training. And, um, and I often see really great technology investment sort of go to waste because people don’t take advantage of them. It’s like the treadmill that I have in the basement right now, which is collecting dust. You know, that’s not gonna help me get more fit. You don’t have to tell your own personal story about the treadmill now too. But, but, but, um, it sounds like there’s, you’ve seen some evidence of that or you’ve seen cases. I most often see that in CRM, um, databases and, you know, other kinds of software applications, but mostly CRM buying something much more robust than needed or even buying the exact thing that’s needed. But then if staff don’t fully utilize it, if they’re not well trained on it, then you’re just leaving a lot on the table. We had a session yesterday. I spoke to some folks actually from Heller consulting about leaning more on your existing tech stack before you go to an outside shiny object that does just one discrete thing. It may be very well buried in your Microsoft 360 subscription or your Google subscription like and they, they were using uh calendar, calendaring as an example, like polling calendar polls that exist in Microsoft 360 also in Google um beyond oh white boards, white boards that’s buried in Microsoft 360. A lot of people don’t know that. So using that also to your point, Karen, knowing what you’re paying for and utilizing it fully. I always tell people don’t be so scared to click on things. You’re not going to break anything, you know, just like go through the whole menu and just click on every single thing and see what it does and you’ll probably find all sorts of things that can improve your productivity and avoid extra expenses because you have already something that will solve the problem. Video video conferencing was another um and, and and transcribing video conferencing. So this stuff is all buried in Google and Microsoft. You may very well be paying for it. Alright, that was another that was a session yesterday uh utilizing your existing tech stack before you go outside. Um Alright, well, so you spoke to folks for an hour yesterday and uh we’ve only been talking a little over 20 minutes, so don’t hold back on nonprofit radio listeners or otherwise I I can’t have either of you back. So if I know you’re giving short shrift to our listeners, so don’t do that. So what else did you talk about yesterday? That uh we haven’t, we haven’t talked about today or, or go deeper in something maybe that we’ve covered but not sufficiently. Actually, we had a lot of uh participation from the audience and a lot of them are willing to share what they had done in their organizations. And uh if you look at some of the um uh what should I say, takeaways that happened? Uh It is more, more from uh participants sharing their views as much as what we were talking about. And this five year plan, in fact, one of them came up and said, hey, we do a five year plan which I think was very impressive uh when everybody heard about it, but maybe, uh maybe not, maybe ill advised. It sounds like like 1 to 2 years is more, having a rigid five year plan is probably ill advised, but having a flexible five year plan. That sounds fantastic. More importantly, having a plan. Ok. What else, what else from the audience? Questions or things folks said privately, what else came from the audience? Anything that you remember that you can? It’s funny being in the moment I was just listening to everybody and now I’m trying to remember exactly what was the most juicy stuff that came out of that. But I will say that it felt a bit cathartic for people to just have a grape session together and compare notes. You know how that is when you experience things and in isolation, maybe you are the only it person in your organization. But I think that was true for a lot of those people. They’re not part of a big department, they’re in a relatively small organization. And so they, they might not even be an it professional, maybe they’re the operations person. And that’s one of five different areas of responsibility that they have and the chance to connect with other people and understand that like other people also experience this and, and they have figured out ways to overcome technical debt or, or at least to move in that direction that seem to feel good for people and a few individuals commented to me about that afterward. Another thing comes to my mind, Karen is uh I think there was some thought in terms of how do we present all of them are mostly it professionals and if they need to present it to their boards or to their uh CXO how do we present technology challenges in a manner which the senior management understands? I think there was a, there was a need, there was a need to see, I mean, we are aware that this is something we need to be presenting it differently from what we probably do because normally we tend to talk technology language. So we probably need to talk the business language for the senior management to understand the impacts of what we do. And therefore, Karen, you alluded to that earlier talking about using the right language. Do you have advice about converting tech language to language? Yeah. Um Think about the audience and what they care about, right? So you’re going to present probably a different message to your CEO or executive director than you would to your CFO or to your board. Um Boards care about risk management. They care about big picture strategy and how is this going to help our organization be successful in the long term? I think CEO S and executive directors care about the same kinds of things, but they’re also more operationally oriented than a board of directors would be. And um but they also above all, probably care about the mission. And so that’s something we talked about is as soon as you can connect a technology investment to serving people better um providing better quality of service or better reach or quicker response times or things like that to, you know, whoever your constituents are, then that starts to get people’s attention more than talking about. You know, this license is going to expire. This product is no longer going to be supported and there’s security patches that won’t be happening anymore. La la la people kind of tune out when you start talking like that. But if they can translate to what this means is that our food shelf might not be able to continue providing services, we might have a disruption, then it becomes very real. All right, perfect. How about we leave it there? That sounds like good motivation and, and advice. All right, she’s Karen Graham, speaker, writer, consultant, coach at I’m gonna add at Karen Graham consulting and uh with her is Jin Narayanan Ceo at fourth dimension technologies. All about avoiding technical debt from killing your nonprofit, Jin Karen. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Johnny. Good to see both of you. Thank you. Thank you and thank you for being with Tony Martignetti nonprofit radio coverage of the 2024 nonprofit technology conference where we are sponsored by Heller consulting, technology strategy and implementation for nonprofits. Thanks for being with us. Its time for Tonys take to thanks Kate. I had a dream recently. Uh it was a fundraising dream. Um I was hosting a Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Now, if, if you’re not 50 or older, you may not know what that even means. But the actor Jerry Lewis used to hold, used to host Labor Day Telethons over the Labor Day weekend to raise money for the muscular dystrophy association. MD A. So uh but in the dream, I was the host. So Jerry Lewis that hack. He’s out. Second rate comic. He’s out, I’m the host and we are raising money, not for muscular dystrophy, but we’re raising money for a philharmonic in the dream. And I ask the executive director of the Philharmonic, what is the all in cost of a production night? So all the rehearsal, backstage, front of house performers, everything. What, what’s, what’s the total cost? And he says $300,000 and right away, a donor comes to us and I don’t remember whether it was online or actually phones were ringing. That’s the way it used to be done in the, in the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Days, the phones would be ringing, but whatever a donor comes to us and he pledges $3 million which is enough for 10 performances. So we acknowledge that transformative gift and we shut down the shut down the fundraiser. It’s over. We’re done because this is, it’s an amazing gift. But the funny thing is that the donor had the voice of the actor Paul Benedict. Now he’s not a very well known actor but in, in a movie that I love, remember this is my dream. So I, I’m entitled to put anybody in who I want. Um in the movie I love, which is Waiting for Guffman. It’s a Christopher guest film, Paul Benedict plays kind of a savior character in that movie waiting for Guffman. So it makes sense that, that he would be the sort of savior for the, for the fundraising telethon that we were doing. All right. Uh So then, so then after the dream, then I got up and I went to the bathroom. But so what’s the takeaway? Uh you know, after the bathroom you gotta think about, well, why am I having this dream? All right. So the takeaway I think is there’s the bona fide for fundraising, share your real need with your donors, don’t, you know, don’t pretend that you can get away with less than you really need. I asked the executive director, what’s the full cost of a performance? And, and he shared it. So I think you should share your full needs and then when you’re budgeting and planning plan for full needs, not sort of get by type deeds, I think if you share your full need with your donors, they’re gonna be very much more likely to step up and fund you just like Paul Benedict did in my dream. That is Tony’s take two. OK. That was such a vivid dream. I feel like when most people remember their dreams, they’re like, oh, I was just falling in the middle of nowhere. You had like faces and voices. Well, I have those too but I, I made some notes uh right after this dream. So I was able to help that helped me remember it. Well, we’ve got Buku but loads more time. Here is your technical roadmap. Welcome back to Tony Martignetti nonprofit radio coverage of 24 NTC, the 2024 nonprofit technology conference. We are still in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon Convention Center and this conversation kicks off our day three coverage of the conference. Maybe you can hear that in my voice. Uh Just a little bit were sponsored at 24 NTC by Heller consulting technology strategy and implementation for non profits. I am now with Castrol Lowry. He is managing director for technical services at Cloud for good Krol. Welcome to nonprofit radio. Thanks for having me here. Absolutely pleasure. Thanks for being with us early in the morning. Uh your session, you’ve done your session already. I assume it’s this afternoon. 115, you’re one of the last ones. Ok, this afternoon. So a little preparation for you. It’s oh, the places we’ll go building a technical road map. Alright. So I’m gonna start with the, you know, just the basic uh why did, why did you feel we need this session? What are nonprofits? Uh what uh not quite, not quite getting right about uh their technical planning. Um I think that a lot of nonprofits end up in a very reactive place when it comes to their technology that instead of being able to really think ahead, you know, where are we going to be in three years and five years? And what tools do we need to support that? It becomes a, oh, we’ve been prioritizing, you know, our outcomes and our mission driven delivery and technology becomes kind of an afterthought. And I think that there can be a lot of impact by thinking ahead and saying what tools are out there. What could we be doing differently? How could that increase our impact instead of having it come from a reactive place um and maybe even avoiding a crisis. So I’m just drawing from your, your session description, uh how to prioritize tech investments based on the growth and maturity of your organization. Um How do we like, you know, how do we forecast what our needs are gonna be? And you even talk about our growth and maturity, help us to look ahead, how do we do that? So a big part of it first is to both, look at, look at where you are and what you’re using. Um and think realistically about what you have the capacity to absorb there. I think one thing that a lot of nonprofits end up doing is, you know, there, there can be some great free tools out there, both of enterprise level tools that will give free licensing for nonprofits or also things that are deeply discounted. And so someone might adopt a tool that is frankly bigger than what they need. You know, I say with the free license, sometimes it’s free like puppies, like somebody two days ago said free like kittens, same thing just because you have the tool doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s the right fit for your use case or that you have the team to support it. So then you can end up with some pretty tremendous technical debt. You’ve got all your data into this thing or you’ve built all this automation and you’re not able to manage it well. So some of that technical road mapping is thinking through like what’s the right fit size for your organization and not just what do you need to implement it, but what do you need to be successful with it? Long term? But how do you figure that out? What factors, what variables are we looking at to determine that what’s right for us? So things to look at for figuring that out. Of course, first of all, looking to your peers, you know, looking to other organizations with a similar size or that do um comparable work in other industries, even essentially for what you’re doing. Um conferences like NTC can be a great place to kind of start seeing what’s out there and what your options are. Um looking at what the, what the tool is best at, which is hard sometimes when you’re talking to sales people, you know, because every sales person is going to tell you it’s the best thing for anything you would want to do. But trying to actually get some references from them of how are other people using this tool and then really taking a step back and not, not saying, oh well, gee this this thing, you know, this marketing tool looks awesome. It can do all of this stuff. Look at how you’re doing marketing right now. If you’re sending a scheduled email on a weekly basis, that’s a newsletter and you don’t have um journeys or drip automation. If you don’t have responsive campaigns, then those might be things to look at bringing in, but you probably don’t need the broadest feature set just to start with. So think about whether or not you’re going to be able to support that. Um and something like that like an email journey that may even be in your existing stack already, your email provider may already have that for you. Exactly. Like when you’re building your road map, it doesn’t necessarily mean tool change. It can mean staying on the same thing that you’re using and using it better um I think the first with any technical change really, you start from features and capabilities that you need, like you start from, what does your organization actually need to do? And that’s what should be driving any of the conversations that you’re having and decisions that you’re making for the technology. What you need to do might be about your marketing, might be about your fundraising, might be about security and compliance, but you should start with what do we actually need it to do and then find the tools to suit that instead of starting with? This looks like a really cool tool. Let’s find a way to use it. Ok. Yeah, very smart. Um And you know, it seems common sense but very worth saying because a lot of times I think the shiny, right, the shiny object gets our attention. Plus other people, my friends are using it, I just saw and the interface is so simple. It was so easy for me. I was able to just turn it on and now I have this thing and I can send out text messages. Ok. Well, have you thought about how you’re going to use text messages for your organization? Are they actually going to move you forward? Have you thought about compliance for that? Can people opt out? Like anytime you bring in the new shiny object, you’re actually opening a whole can of worms of other things to think about that. Who should we be getting input from uh who should be at the table, making these decisions. Well, not, not tech implementation decisions but thinking through, you know, what do we need, what are our needs? Who, who should we be getting this uh input from? So I think that any of these changes really, it’s, it’s a whole organization conversation. Like you want to get input from staff that are going to be using the tool you want to, you don’t want it to just be coming, you know, from it. You don’t want it to just be your executive. That said, look, I went to a conference and saw this cool thing, we’re implementing it like you need, you need to actually think about what, what is our organization doing? What supports our processes better? What is our vision for how we’re going, where we’re going to be and what we’re going to be delivering in two or three years. Um I can speak from my own experience, one nonprofit that I used to work directly at um where we were a legal advocacy organization. Um And we were expecting a specific Supreme Court decision to come, you know, within the next year and it was going to be a tremendous spike in our case volume. And so what we were looking at was what tooling do we need to be able to scale up to? You know, I think in the days after the decision that we were concerned about we went from typically having about 10 to 30 inquiries a day to over 1000 inquiries in one day. It was tremendous. And so part of my role as the it director there as we were planning for that was to look at what do we need to accelerate response times for our paralegals? What can we set up for knowledge management so that more people can help faster? Um What did our existing database have that could do that? And what did we need to bring in to support that? So to get to that decision, I was then taking and talking both to our paralegals to our lawyers that would be taking the kind of the equivalent to tier two or tier three cases to do it, talking to our different legal compliance people of OK, if we have this high volume and what do we have to then retain later for it to make sure that we’re doing everything to cover our requirements there? Um What sort of scalability considerations am I not thinking about talking to other it partners with that? So I could really get the full picture on it. It turned out in that case that the system we had and we were working on sales force at that point, was able to scale to what we need. But we did end up implementing a few other pieces of the platform in order to support that fast responsiveness. So in some ways, it’s really, you’ve got to both look at what’s coming, talk to the people who are actually going to be using the tools that are implemented. Look at what you have whether or not you can expand what you have, if that works in the time frame you do or if that’s not going to work, then what other tools are out there that you can bring in and support what you need to be doing? That’s incredible scale. Sounds like overnight when the, when the decision was released, you know, and there was a Supreme Court decision, Supreme court decision related to gay marriage. So that was a significant one. Um And we had not just, you know, the like technical planning there, but there was additional planning even of like document access for our uh our C suite because they were often traveling all over. And so what was the planning to make sure that, you know, our director of Legal could read the decision as soon as it came out when we knew she might be on an airplane. So how do we make sure that that document availability was going to be there? Um So which I suppose points to that your, your technical road map and your technical planning should factor in not just the day to day tools, but what do you have for handling specific moments of surprise or crisis communication? Yeah, that’s a good story. Thank you. Incredible scale. Um You’ve got some Uh Well, I guess we’re starting to get into them best practices for creating this tech road map. So I’m gonna let you take over through some in preparation for your session this afternoon. Thank you. Yeah. So best practice. First of all, is that your technical roadmap approach? It like a project like approach, working on that road map, not as something that you’re doing just off the side of your desk, but that you devote resources and time to actually making it happen. Um I’ve seen too many organizations that kind of say, you know, what things are on fire. We need to start changing things now. And if you jump in too quickly, then you might end up not really having any direction of where you’re going, you know, and so you can spend a significant budget and significant time and not have the progress you’d want to show for it because you might end up working against yourself. You might implement one thing and then realize a year later. Oh, wait, this doesn’t really go where we needed to and change course. So first best practice actually take it as a project. It is a good phase zero to start about. Um Next thing I would say is make sure that you have a good diversity of people in the room. It shouldn’t just be, it, it shouldn’t just be executives, it shouldn’t just be line staff, you should have a variety of voices across the organization, you should probably bring in another point of view outside your organization to talk to you. Whether that’s through, you know, other nonprofits that you partner with that might have done similar things before. Whether that’s bringing in a consulting partner to work with you other people to help, push a little on your ideas and think through like, is this where you want to be here are the things that you’re not thinking about. Here’s what I’ve seen at other organizations. That’s some of what I end up doing a lot as a technical architect is help, help people think about the bigger picture. The outside perspective is valuable, help benchmark. You’ve seen other cases. Yeah. Um I’d say the next one is really avoiding a lift and shift mentality. So a lot of times I’ll see nonprofits that mostly will say like, OK, well, we’ve been using this database for 10 years, maybe it’s time for us to move to something more modern and then they roadmap out essentially rebuilding the same system that they had on whatever the new tool is. Um Without anyone stopping to think about like, oh gee is that process, is that way that we do things the way we do it because the tool made us do it that way or because it’s the most efficient way to work. Um One story I like to tell for this actually that uh so when I, when I was a kid, I would always watch and help out when my mom was making a roast and I noticed that she would always cut off the ends of the roast on either end of it and make the roast. Um, and so that was then how I learned to make a roast leg and I assumed it must have been that there’s something wrong with the meat on either end of a roast or something, you know, it’ll better something. Yeah, that’s what I figured. Um, and then, then a couple of years ago I was cooking with a friend and she noticed me doing this and she said that that’s perfectly good meat. Why are you cutting that off? And I said, oh, well, this is, this is how my mom taught me. It’s just, it’s what I always saw growing up. She was like, hm, that’s weird. You should ask about that. Um, and so I asked my mom and her response was, oh, well, when you were a kid, we had a really small oven and the pan that I had, wouldn’t fit something larger. So I had to cut the ends off so things would fit in. And so, you know, it’s the same thing there of just that lift and shift of, I took the process that I saw and moved it forward without understanding the context of it. And we see that sometimes with nonprofits also of that because, because processes get adapted to fit whatever your current situation is because sometimes you have a level of turnover. That means the people who are doing the process now don’t understand why it came to be that way and just know like, oh, well, I have to tick these three boxes in the system and then fill in this field here and enter this data and I don’t really know why we do it that way, but it’s what we do. And so this next system needs to support ticking those three boxes and filling in that piece of information. So I think you can’t do your technical roadmap without also really doing kind of your business capabilities, roadmap and your business processes. And they go hand in hand to make sure that you’re actually helping your organization mature and move forward instead of just maintain current state. That’s a touching little story about your mom and the roasts you be watching as a child. Um Plus I know baking you have baking in your uh bio that you love to bake. So did your mom influence your baking too? Um I mean, probably a lot of the things I know how to cook came from her, you know, but uh at least with that there aren’t anywhere. It was like, oh well, you don’t put in the baking soda or something. It’s a sweet story. Um I mean, other best practices, um other best practices I’d say is to not be, not be trying to make your technical roadmap, an indefinite plan, I’d say always work towards deciding what your time horizon is that you’re trying to plan within, I think 3 to 5 years is normally a pretty good range. Um, because if you’re trying to make something that’s going to last forever, first of all, it’s going to be really intimidating. Second of all, you’re going to close yourself off to what innovation might come in a few years and say, well, we have this plan that has us extended 10 years out. We need to stick to that and then you miss out on innovations, like what we’re seeing with A I, for instance, three years ago, five years ago, we didn’t probably expect to be where we are now. Um Plus your forecast just becomes less reliable beyond five years. Exactly. And also like it can, it can help then be a good frame of reference for what investment makes sense for your organization. Um When you think about the total cost of ownership of things that you’re going to bring in and also how viable are things that are maybe the solution that you’re choosing because it’s, it’s good enough for right now. You know, like, yes, I know it’s not the best to have double entry into the finance system and the donor database and it would be a lot more efficient for people. It would be less annoying for our team members to have an automated integration. But gee this is what the automated integration is going to cost and we only expect this system to be in play for the next two years. Is it worth it then? So that sort of thing can help you really think through where to put your investment based on how long you expect a tool to stick around. There was a panel yesterday that said uh two folks, you know, beyond year three, you need to build a lot of flexibility into your tech plan because we don’t know to your point what the technology is gonna be artificial intelligence as an example. And we’re not even, you know, we’re not even certain what direction the organization, I mean, not that you surrender your mission or your core values. But, but you know, there might be programs in four years that we’re not anticipating today. So, so beyond like from the 3 to 5 year point, you need to have a good degree of flexibility exactly. Like probably one of the last things in like your road map is going to be your next road map project to then start planning where you’re going next. You know, because both like and with that, like once you make a road map, it should not be locked in stone, you should maintain some plan for flexibility and innovation. There, you have to be able to be responsive. Um But also it’s really good to be able to finish a road map and say, OK, we did what we planned to, we got where we were planning to here. Now, let’s go on to the next one. I think that some organizations get to a point of change, fatigue if they essentially are just constantly updating the same plan instead of being able to step back and say, yeah, we got something done. Now, where are we going next? Do you have any other best practices to share? I know your session is just 30 minutes, right? I I’m not trying to embarrass you or anything but, but if you have more best practices, uh we’d love to hear them. I think the other, the other best practice is to um how to phrase this, not be afraid of picking up what’s happening in other industries that are not nonprofits and using those technical benefits frankly towards nonprofit use cases. There’s a lot of powerful tools out there that don’t necessarily frame themselves as being for nonprofit and there can be a lot of advantage in looking at, you know, something you’re experiencing with. I don’t know your say your supermarket loyalty program or something and figuring out like, how are they doing that? What could we do to better engage our donors with it? Um How could we for our museum membership? What about this would actually be more engaging, like being open to looking more broadly because that’s where some of the really transformative change can come in for your technical road map is not narrowing your scope to just what’s been done before. Ok. What else, what else are you going to talk about? Um, so you can share with our listeners. Yeah. So other than that, what I’ll be talking a bit about is making sure that you do in that road map, use it as an opportunity to improve things like your security and compliance posture. So that’s something that we’re seeing more and more of, um with, for instance, data regulations coming up. You know, California has their data rules that in, in the presentation, I have a list of something like 20 different states and localities that are bringing in new data regulations in 2024. Increasingly, you’re going to see a lot more that you have to be doing from a compliance perspective. If you’re managing anything that could be considered, excuse me, personally, personally, identifiable information. And so any technical road map, you’d rather be looking at that head on instead of having to kind of retroactively look at your systems and say, oh, wait, what do we need to do to actually align with being able to let someone manage their preferences, being able to delete someone’s data when they ask for it, being able to send it all over to them. Um I think that also during these road mapping times is a really great time to think about how you’re handling identity and authentication, making sure that your user management is secure. Um because that’s part of then what you can either if you don’t have it in place yet, it’s a great first place for organizations to start and then it’s something that should just be table stakes for any new tool that you’re bringing into the system. Like, can you bring in single sign on? Does it have multi factor authentication? How is it going to be managing your data? Um, so, yeah, compliance and security. Right. Right. So these are things that, you know, um, especially if you’re dealing with the personally, personally, personally identifiable individual information, is that personally identifiable information? Only two, I’s not three. Ok. Personally identify identifiable information, but that one hasn’t caught on keep trying. Don’t give up, don’t give up on your, on your, uh, on your key word. Um, so if you’re, you know, if you’re dealing with those, something like that, that, that’s just something that you’re looking to be a part of whatever, whatever system app you, you’re looking to bring in. Yeah, definitely. Um, and then I guess the other, the other thing I would highlight is when you’re, you’re planning out your road map to not just be thinking about tools but also to be thinking about staffing for it. So it’s great to bring in a new tool, but you also got to think about the care and feeding of it who in your organization already could handle it. Um, but also, you know, every nonprofit people are wearing seven different hats. Um, I think that particularly at a conference like NTC, at every other conversation you have, are people saying, oh, I didn’t start in technology. I ended up here because we got this tool for marketing and I really liked it. We got this new CRM. And so the accidental techie. Exactly. You know, and so either figuring out like, do you have that person in your organization already that wants to take up whatever the next steps of this road map are or specific pieces of it, or is that something that you need to hire in? Do you need to build that into head count for your organization? Is it something where sure you have someone who can administer it but you need to bring a partner in and to implement it, you know, and figuring out actually what the human side is going to be of that technical road map. Ok. Yeah, that’s all valuable. Yeah, I’m not sure if people think about the staffing, you know, they’re thinking, as you’ve said, they’re thinking about the, how, how, how, uh, wonderful this, this new app is gonna be but is there somebody who can support it? Maintain it? The care and feeding, as you said, as you said, anything else that, uh, we want to talk about? I don’t want, I don’t want to hold out on, uh, nonprofit radio listeners. Ok. All right. Good luck in your session. Half hour. Why don’t you leave us with a little motivation for the uh for the technical road map, motivation for the technical road on a high point with your technical roadmap. But it’s really an opportunity to take a good look at where you are and where you want to be and then plot out the steps that it’s going to be to get there. It can be a really exciting journey and can also mean that you are much better prepared to weather any of the bumps along the way. Outstanding. Thank you, Castro Lowy managing director for technical services at Cloud for good. I think Cloud for good is lucky to have you. Thank you for having me on the radio. My pleasure. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing with our listeners and thank you for being with Tony Martignetti nonprofit radio coverage of the 24 2024 nonprofit technology conference where we are sponsored by Heller consulting technology strategy and implementation for nonprofits. Next week, the generational divide. No, that’s another April fool’s joke. Next week will be email, deliverability and email. Welcome journeys. If you missed any part of this weeks show, I do beseech you find it at Tony We’re sponsored by Virtuous. Virtuous, gives you the nonprofit CRM fundraising volunteer and marketing tools. You need to create more responsive donor experiences and grow, giving, Our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff. I’m your associate producer, Kate Marinetti. The show, social media is by Susan Chavez, Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by Scott Stein. Thank you for that affirmation Scotty. You’re with us next week for nonprofit radio, big nonprofit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great. Ok. I wanna try something. I wanna try a second take on, uh, the generational divide next week.

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