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Nonprofit Tech, Tools and Social Media

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Data: Your Most Important Tech Assetqehx111bcjgej0xovrry2vx366bp5srlData: Your Most Important Tech Asset

(English → Afrikaans) View original
Translators:

As much as we love tools here at SSC, we find that many nonprofits focus too much on them when thinking about their technology strategy and infrastructure. While tools are an important and necessary piece, it’s important that an organization focus on the more crucial piece of the technological equation: the data. When thinking about organizational technology infrastructure, data, or “the stuff” that an organization puts into tools to make them relevant, should be the focal point. sndl5r1v328yqr7wzmrhixynnzdq5alnWhere does it live? How does it interact with other tools? How can you use it? Let’s talk a bit about why it’s more important than tools.vo0j0iovaiw82nkqk4289mez2ny28nkt

Data are Your Organization’s Lifebloodjf2ypxwsd62gkoeepweg76gd5qmhkevt

When someone says “data”, many people think of technical stuff like code, 1s and 0s, mathematical formulas and things that happen behind the scenes. Well I’m here to say Pish Posh. PISH. POSH.mgpelo1tln9pek9qbepqgvf73e8bo9w1

Data, my friends, are the contents of the work that you do at your organization. Everything from the web pages that you create to the contacts you make at networking events to the conversations you have with your boss through email. If you dig deep enough, many of these things are, yes, code-y and technical at a deeper level, but as an organization you can think of these data as the information that informs, defines and fuels your work.ypkpvxfh1chxue16ir8xtsou1coekwe8

Containers

Data are the raw materials that tools (e.g. CRM, web site CMSes, Facebook, email clients) use to be effective. Think of your email client (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) without your emails or contacts. Pretty useless, eh? Or think of your web site without the page text, pictures and customizations you’ve made. It would just be an empty skeleton of a web site, right?a1k90hhut7buy2nsai7y5tc4cgz5q1pr

Data are the real organizational assets.1rtm1cz0b8oewunsrppqaca61gqlb992

Your organization’s data are what makes it do what it does. Tools act as containers that hold that data. The containers can change but the data are what stays the same. As a result, we advocate for organizations to take a data-centric approach to their organizational technology rather than a tool-centric approach.blzkj1z5t6qmd07gy2qifusql85cj4xk

WordpressSalesforce


Have a Data-Centric Technology Policy NOT Tool-Centricozqwf8az4nku1zxh116gqgr09qtskxcz

Remember that tools change, break and developers stop working on them all of the time, whereas the data that your organization uses will continue to exist and grow. By prioritizing your data rather than tools, you’ll be focusing on the stuff that really matters rather than the container (tool) it’s currently sitting in.vlu0tznvn3vfqetailik2vc1ulo57i1t

Many organization have budget line items for tools but few if any have budget line items for the amount of time, energy and money that goes into data creation and maintenance. Unfortunately, “data” can be an abstract and vague concept especially for budgets. o3pjt8futv9jhcis4jnxtcwyt4ulkmszBut however vague it is, because it is the real asset, “nonprofits should center their technology strategy and resource allocation around the creation and curation of data, instead of fixating on the cost of applications and processors that edit and store that data.”amdh7ikdibfbt8el71ypkjda8sfyozao

Think about Data When Choosing a New Tool0q7451c3eoleqkrym91ape4qxyslni5e

Ideally, all of this talk and stress about the importance of data is happening when you begin a relationship with a new tool (rather than figuring out what the situation is for an existing tool in your infrastructure). When looking at new tools to take on some type of function at your organization, here are a few things to consider as you prepare to send your data off into the big scary world:df8w6c90zxqu9cmuuqxqtg6av5f0j7vn

  • Plan for the day when you need to switch tools or the tool you’re using breakseqzwqyb5rmvld2isdx5zb8ihlvdrcmih

    Can you get your data out (in other words, what are the “export” options)? How? What if Facebook accidentally deletes your page? What if your email blasting program breaks? Are you able to prepare for those eventualities by making a data backup?fhpdtjd9jazuhad7w4cqtgb5rjrg4h39

    What about if a tool choice you made turns out to be bad? How do you move your data from one tool to another?kvnjge2l0wmypys6akuurfhh9a00bkmm

    Migration

     nwrdkqj64pmm0duuddmikfbcbxjkd5nrljirkjnaxotv423c33xrstqa3vxnan2m

  • Make sure the backup of essential data is a well-defined processmbq8n57x7dg59sha5b4jtl3ibldel2qx

    If you are able to get your data out of the tool, do you know what you need to do to use it again in another tool? Is it using a universal filetype like .CSV or something that wouldn’t be intelligible even if you are able to get it out?dtp34pi8qbovzzsube29zlr134pwqset

  • Know the security and privacy implications for your data, your org AND more importantly your constituents0p5rr37k7fsgp56b6blcw1vd3ufxxden

    What does the tool’s Terms of Service say about its use of your data? Are the data secure, private, encryptable? Who else is allowed to look at your data? In what legal jurisdiction are your data being stored? As a nonprofit with constituents, you have an obligation to keep their data safe and secure.weo2swmzsofe7fk8wshah3xf1jkub2mx

  • Find out ownership terms for you datapcbezjyiy71ujjy8kga7urcva9k7wc0c

    Are your data really yours? What do the Terms of Service say about ownership?2jup0vvg1ho92tu5bx7ngteyqhq5bjs4

Open Source Tools are a Data-Centric Org’s Best Friendv0h1p0pzpzapvgq5z3jlbzueiq90ft61

Choosing tools that are good to you and your data can be tricky. You have to do your due diligence in making sure the container (the tool) for your data is going to treat it all right and let you have all the access you need. While you need to evaluate what your different tools are doing with your data no matter what, Open Source tools generally put you on much, MUCH more steady of a foundation.eap0sl8my6xgz5l2ispcbpok6f6p7o9b

  • Open means transparent
    rhrcae6j2yke0yhh99maxa8nnmco4x1m
    OpenSource The nature of open source technology is that anyone can see how it works.5oa4tp2ym77bi7cvy7ipzcr7lsglz39u

    This means that every aspect of an open source tool is out in the open for the entire world to see.g5xz0vx0tquscusw6edoe17pdlihmx7t

    No backdoors installed for the government to snoop and no software developers coding secret pieces to gather data on your use.gf5g3gy43xgjgk5b731xva1vksfoesbl

  • Not tied to one personu4p94adko7lzzc1qx2ydhc3g1hlnb02v

    Because anyone can dig around in an open source tool and learn how it works, there are many open source tools with very large communities of developers and users who are super familiar with it and can help you out. This, in contrast to a custom-built tool that may do exactly what you want but if the relationship with the developer goes sour, you’re trapped with its functionality, price hikes for services and schedule because no one else knows the tool but the person who made it.liadmepxc8wb0ea0dzrp5zo3fvv03f1e

  • No profit motivewgepu11yh8z9cio01n2n0m31olvc6oxs

    When you buy a proprietary tool like Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office, those companies are making money. They’re in the business of selling software. Money is their bottom line and motivation. With open source tools, on the other hand, because anyone can see how the tools work, most of the developers aren’t are out to make money, they’re more about supporting users with functions that they need to get real work done.42rba3b6vlnvrcjvyeo86zuzua9hopai

All of these factors (and many others) lend more transparency how tools are manipulating your data and give you more freedom in terms of how you can get it out. We strongly recommend whenever possible, especially as a nonprofit to choose open source tools.5chscodanasmv2etz2dioq651hopg2wb

How Can Our Organization Get On Top of Our Data Management?aqfgijk54ew8lqtavivm4puhjqxr66x7

Ok, so now we’re all freaked out about tools throwing our data around.g3dm4e9glzittw797yd725yt1f4au8f1

What do we do about it?jmikioezsxo3msk2bg6yaue4xlp4gleq

  • Put together a “data inventory”sqc7ypo7osc6kmxxqoskg7o2ms2sx4ag

    Open a spreadsheet and start listing all of the places that your organization has data. Think of communications tools, project management tools, online real estate, white boards, photo albums… Have the spreadsheet account for the following:iu6be8gfkmhrggsamwcnl2whaxedw4m5

    • Where are all the places your organization has data living?bsb54wshq5m7ak7tt363zquz2pyr1fj2
    • What data are stored there?49ght14ieo75l7lbzr0jcvrwagy34nfz
    • Who has access?2ss0lylrrltf09idz5mt5qiicq9854py
    • Is it backed up?k20iok5wjagp5zvtjdc3nzcp2f7hg0cr
    • How is it backed up?i4u0gzl4e7khjkavi9yuytkr2p0myyl7
    • How often is it backed up?
       nwrdkqj64pmm0duuddmikfbcbxjkd5nrljirkjnaxotv423c33xrstqa3vxnan2m
  • Back up your data!
     nwrdkqj64pmm0duuddmikfbcbxjkd5nrljirkjnaxotv423c33xrstqa3vxnan2m
  • Make sure that with each new tool adoption, you have a sense of how to get your data out of the toolunybbbjx43xg3mg8rb6bcz63rvdx5i8q

Need a template? Here is deeper look into Creating an Online Accounts Inventory.8czmbmyupv2d4et5ialrf2qopk1wkqhi

Data Trumps Tools Every Time9m8leq0zhk758mpl20ajgckdxsz4v4mu

In a nutshell, try to prioritize data as the true technology assets at your organization. That way you’ll be able to manage tool shakeups, breakages and switches that are inevitable while protecting the real information that your organization needs to keep saving the world.reglgbk4rquecclilphsg3ek4zeuni84

How do you prioritize data at your organization?kdlfoze5x9gv6z0javtqurvjw9gqat6k

 nwrdkqj64pmm0duuddmikfbcbxjkd5nrljirkjnaxotv423c33xrstqa3vxnan2m

(original) View Afrikaans translation

As much as we love tools here at SSC, we find that many nonprofits focus too much on them when thinking about their technology strategy and infrastructure. While tools are an important and necessary piece, it’s important that an organization focus on the more crucial piece of the technological equation: the data. When thinking about organizational technology infrastructure, data, or “the stuff” that an organization puts into tools to make them relevant, should be the focal point. Where does it live? How does it interact with other tools? How can you use it? Let’s talk a bit about why it’s more important than tools.

Data are Your Organization’s Lifeblood

When someone says “data”, many people think of technical stuff like code, 1s and 0s, mathematical formulas and things that happen behind the scenes. Well I’m here to say Pish Posh. PISH. POSH.

Data, my friends, are the contents of the work that you do at your organization. Everything from the web pages that you create to the contacts you make at networking events to the conversations you have with your boss through email. If you dig deep enough, many of these things are, yes, code-y and technical at a deeper level, but as an organization you can think of these data as the information that informs, defines and fuels your work.

Containers

Data are the raw materials that tools (e.g. CRM, web site CMSes, Facebook, email clients) use to be effective. Think of your email client (e.g. Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) without your emails or contacts. Pretty useless, eh? Or think of your web site without the page text, pictures and customizations you’ve made. It would just be an empty skeleton of a web site, right?

Data are the real organizational assets.

Your organization’s data are what makes it do what it does. Tools act as containers that hold that data. The containers can change but the data are what stays the same. As a result, we advocate for organizations to take a data-centric approach to their organizational technology rather than a tool-centric approach.

WordpressSalesforce


Have a Data-Centric Technology Policy NOT Tool-Centric

Remember that tools change, break and developers stop working on them all of the time, whereas the data that your organization uses will continue to exist and grow. By prioritizing your data rather than tools, you’ll be focusing on the stuff that really matters rather than the container (tool) it’s currently sitting in.

Many organization have budget line items for tools but few if any have budget line items for the amount of time, energy and money that goes into data creation and maintenance. Unfortunately, “data” can be an abstract and vague concept especially for budgets. But however vague it is, because it is the real asset, “nonprofits should center their technology strategy and resource allocation around the creation and curation of data, instead of fixating on the cost of applications and processors that edit and store that data.”

Think about Data When Choosing a New Tool

Ideally, all of this talk and stress about the importance of data is happening when you begin a relationship with a new tool (rather than figuring out what the situation is for an existing tool in your infrastructure). When looking at new tools to take on some type of function at your organization, here are a few things to consider as you prepare to send your data off into the big scary world:

  • Plan for the day when you need to switch tools or the tool you’re using breaks

    Can you get your data out (in other words, what are the “export” options)? How? What if Facebook accidentally deletes your page? What if your email blasting program breaks? Are you able to prepare for those eventualities by making a data backup?

    What about if a tool choice you made turns out to be bad? How do you move your data from one tool to another?

    Migration

     

  • Make sure the backup of essential data is a well-defined process

    If you are able to get your data out of the tool, do you know what you need to do to use it again in another tool? Is it using a universal filetype like .CSV or something that wouldn’t be intelligible even if you are able to get it out?

  • Know the security and privacy implications for your data, your org AND more importantly your constituents

    What does the tool’s Terms of Service say about its use of your data? Are the data secure, private, encryptable? Who else is allowed to look at your data? In what legal jurisdiction are your data being stored? As a nonprofit with constituents, you have an obligation to keep their data safe and secure.

  • Find out ownership terms for you data

    Are your data really yours? What do the Terms of Service say about ownership?

Open Source Tools are a Data-Centric Org’s Best Friend

Choosing tools that are good to you and your data can be tricky. You have to do your due diligence in making sure the container (the tool) for your data is going to treat it all right and let you have all the access you need. While you need to evaluate what your different tools are doing with your data no matter what, Open Source tools generally put you on much, MUCH more steady of a foundation.

  • Open means transparent
    OpenSource The nature of open source technology is that anyone can see how it works.

    This means that every aspect of an open source tool is out in the open for the entire world to see.

    No backdoors installed for the government to snoop and no software developers coding secret pieces to gather data on your use.

  • Not tied to one person

    Because anyone can dig around in an open source tool and learn how it works, there are many open source tools with very large communities of developers and users who are super familiar with it and can help you out. This, in contrast to a custom-built tool that may do exactly what you want but if the relationship with the developer goes sour, you’re trapped with its functionality, price hikes for services and schedule because no one else knows the tool but the person who made it.

  • No profit motive

    When you buy a proprietary tool like Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office, those companies are making money. They’re in the business of selling software. Money is their bottom line and motivation. With open source tools, on the other hand, because anyone can see how the tools work, most of the developers aren’t are out to make money, they’re more about supporting users with functions that they need to get real work done.

All of these factors (and many others) lend more transparency how tools are manipulating your data and give you more freedom in terms of how you can get it out. We strongly recommend whenever possible, especially as a nonprofit to choose open source tools.

How Can Our Organization Get On Top of Our Data Management?

Ok, so now we’re all freaked out about tools throwing our data around.

What do we do about it?

  • Put together a “data inventory”

    Open a spreadsheet and start listing all of the places that your organization has data. Think of communications tools, project management tools, online real estate, white boards, photo albums… Have the spreadsheet account for the following:

    • Where are all the places your organization has data living?
    • What data are stored there?
    • Who has access?
    • Is it backed up?
    • How is it backed up?
    • How often is it backed up?
       
  • Back up your data!
     
  • Make sure that with each new tool adoption, you have a sense of how to get your data out of the tool

Need a template? Here is deeper look into Creating an Online Accounts Inventory.

Data Trumps Tools Every Time

In a nutshell, try to prioritize data as the true technology assets at your organization. That way you’ll be able to manage tool shakeups, breakages and switches that are inevitable while protecting the real information that your organization needs to keep saving the world.

How do you prioritize data at your organization?

 



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