Organisations in the third sector face unique operational challenges – and that’s true of their IT too. While there’s common ground with other types of organisations, our experiences tell us that there are problems that charities and third sector companies face more frequently than others – here we profile three of the biggest and offers some guidance on how you can overcome them.
Because of budgetary constraints, it’s common for organisations in the third sector to work with legacy systems, software and hardware. The older these become, the more prone to failure they are leading to outages, downtime or inefficient operations. This can be damaging for the organisation and immensely frustrating for its staff and stakeholders.
You can take measures to prevent this from happening. The easiest is to make sure that all operating systems and devices are regularly updated and patched. This protects against bugs and ensures devices and systems are protected from some of the more common security threats.
Of course, systems and devices do have a natural shelf life and its important that you plan for that. Your IT strategy should include a plan for upgrades to systems, hardware and software and the budget required.
It’s important to think of this as a tune-up rather than an overhaul (unless you really need one). Overhauls can be expensive, but are very rarely necessary. It’s far more cost-effective to plan for upgrades as and when they’re required. They go a long way to preserving budget and just as importantly ensuring you avoid periods of costly downtime.
Poor technical support
The issues outlined above are often compounded by poor technical support. If IT issues aren’t addressed quickly they can lead to lost productivity, disruption of service and increased costs. Those factors can make it very difficult to innovate and to scale the organisation, because both are reliant on the adoption of new technology and its successful integration into the wider organisational strategy.
Where the latter is successful it tends to improve efficiency and reduce costs, so good IT support isn’t just a matter of making sure your laptops work and the email doesn’t go down (though they are important). Good IT is the foundation on which your business is built and grows. So while the day-to-day things like fixing problems do matter, they pale in importance when compared to the overall strategy you have – for which you do need expert support and guidance.
Non-profits often experience fluctuations in their activities and operations. Scaling IT infrastructure to accommodate growth or adapting to changing requirements can be difficult, especially with limited budgets and resources. It’s why having a strategy is so important.
Having a clear strategy that improves your IT incrementally takes care of the ‘break-fix’ issues as a matter of course and embeds efficiency and scalability into your IT infrastructure as standard; this in turn means you can plan for growth with confidence.
It also means that you can prepare for fluctuations in demand ahead of time by incorporating them into your overall IT infrastructure. Most software platforms, for example, can be scaled and priced according to use and the same goes for outsourced business processes and cloud infrastructure. Knowing how and when to flex up and down according to need is both more cost-effective and efficient that doing so on the fly. It also gives you flexibility to meet the demands of the organisation effectively.
For expert advice on optimising third sector IT, visit Nutbourne.com.