Revised on February 25, 2008

Non-IT Staff Taking the Lead
on the Exploration of Technology Use

IT professionals, acting as IT managers or consultants, paid or volunteer, play an essential role in helping mission-based organizations use technology to meet the goal of the organization.

That said, however, an IT professional is not always the best person to *lead* at a nonprofit organization regarding use of information communications technologies (ICTs) to meet the organization's mission and help staff members do their jobs.

When I directed the Virtual Volunteering Project in the late 1990s and began encouraging organizations to explore the possibilities of involving volunteers via the Internet, many of the outspoken critics of online volunteerism were IT professionals at mission-based organizations. The same was true when I began promoting accessibility as a fundamental element of nonprofit web site design a little while later. In both cases, IT managers threw up a variety of arguments as to why neither of these strategies were worthwhile for mission-based organizations, almost all relating to cost or security and expressing great fear at the "vast" amounts of work that pursuing either of these activities would cause them and the organization. Some IT managers even went so far as to tell volunteer managers they were not allowed to involve volunteers via the Internet.

Thank goodness so many managers at nonprofit organizations, schools, etc. explored technology issues on their own, and became experts in their own right regarding how online volunteering, accessibility, and other ICTs could be used in their organizations. I wrote many emails to nonprofit managers, particularly volunteer managers, helping them to develop counter arguments to IT managers reluctance to let them explore the use of various ICT tools in their jobs. The drive to use ICTs to work with volunteers, as well as to make nonprofit web sites to be accessible for people with disabilities, has been lead by *NON* IT professionals.

That isn't to say that all ICT consultants and managers try to block the exploration and use of ICTs in nonprofit job activities. Many have been quite supportive of mission-based staff's exploration and use of ICTs (NetSquared is a great example of this). But the reality is that ICT consultants and managers need to work directly with nonprofit managers, listen to their needs, and let the latter have the support to explore use of ICTs themselves. For instance, a volunteer manager has an expertise in working with volunteers, and should be a lead person in making decisions about what ICTs may be used with working with volunteers. The box office staff at a nonprofit theater has expertise in selling tickets and tracking sales, and should have primary input on what sales management software to choose.

Many publications have tackled the subject of how to address non-IT staff resistance at mission-based organizations to using technologies. Let's explore the other side of this issue: how have you, as a non-IT staff person at a mission-based organization, overcome IT staff or consultant resistance to things like:

Please send your stories. Stories submitted may be used in future issues of Tech4Impact or the Coyote Communications web site, but no author or organization will be identified without the author's written permission.

If you have faced obstacles from the IT staff regarding your use of networked devices, social media, Skype, features you need on the web site, etc., here is some advice on how to overcome such:

Yes, that's me playing hard ball. It's what I've had to do sometimes to get the tech tools I need for my work. And it's worked, every time. 

If you do end up getting to use a tech tool you wanted to, make sure you regularly let supervisors know how the organization is benefiting from your use of such!

Also see: Finding a Computer/Network Consultant
Staff at mission-based organizations (nonprofits, civil society organizations, and public sector agencies) often have to rely on consultants, either paid or volunteer, for expertise in computer hardware, software and networks. Staff may feel unable to understand, question nor challenge whatever that consultant recommends. What can mission-based organizations do to recruit the "right" consultant for "tech" related issues, one that will not make them feel out-of-the-loop or out-of-control when it comes to tech-related discussions?


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