SSC Toolbox Social Source Commons Blog

Nonprofit Tech, Tools and Social Media

A program of Aspiration 
Aspiration 

Data: Your Most Important Tech Assetxlmmsrn8usuoddw49matg5z8dmkc397qData: Your Most Important Tech Asset

(English → Italiano) 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. h8oayvls5i9xxl0f9orj3c3se8frzi06Where 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.kru8c4qtuyf6qzd8d51ati1lawz2kcgu

Data are Your Organization’s Lifeblood0osi53qmchllyw8imf064i7sx0r3qikg

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.mpxfjcunjwruaakbpfsfcon3coufac1m

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.pq2vw3z58cfl35x4aw2okt2eqsdqc5hr

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?560np2zypdlit3rwknk3dtq2vfn9is3e

Data are the real organizational assets.2cse594nsedac1fo4crhx43d945qcpg5

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.2eukv6apwg1e75gyqfwayywhmi3vmf0e

WordpressSalesforce


Have a Data-Centric Technology Policy NOT Tool-Centricxo7ertj09u9fryxt5bzxoa4iav7busui

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.3k85a0nblca8bxoac89y1pz0qbvcujbo

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. v8jv62296in2u0fcqkqunbqahjdh4c2pBut 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.”t5h4z1j3o1bykg93hb8rgtvgm6nishnb

Think about Data When Choosing a New Tooljrt9fkctkezkis4ye1td46mescinsii2

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:xyv1yvrq56mhjkidmi8a796z9j6l6q9t

  • Plan for the day when you need to switch tools or the tool you’re using breaksdebb9d9jn7swriv5eappiquow6g4cwdg

    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?rlum9ongqgfur9814q3mlsv8td31q337

    What about if a tool choice you made turns out to be bad? How do you move your data from one tool to another?eyasxjubpkkfhy40zo481r0ktlblgomk

    Migration

     7plzfuk0jm5jea4apultzznqei6u9in7izfqasztw0q7tuztk6e0axgdq9ef0i39

  • Make sure the backup of essential data is a well-defined process09opddjy5pcgxjvrmd3raos2fgb5sw7j

    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?o17l1sru9vj6g3of8ngzqrchi1015nij

  • Know the security and privacy implications for your data, your org AND more importantly your constituentsuw59poyoqhoa69lf4lh36qztia93vr1f

    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.p37kpzd4brtqo1ytujv19a1dghe1rga7

  • Find out ownership terms for you dataikbew475hrxo05cci77y4fgbpqwvvq63

    Are your data really yours? What do the Terms of Service say about ownership?9o6jd6hvwmkrfz8pxyt2sb8sfwa1v92u

Open Source Tools are a Data-Centric Org’s Best Friendk4avkbtwjn678l47l4lz5y5p5nrvg0fq

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.2e1cnev1tbbzcuinnbtr6qzxvcq3re2j

  • Open means transparent
    bivh3g59poz2snvzjjevbl8u1j38qxfs
    OpenSource The nature of open source technology is that anyone can see how it works.tsmgn17wzvltwd9f3q44cu21rqih1tkk

    This means that every aspect of an open source tool is out in the open for the entire world to see.rqkphippze98mb3pv0315uq8eds07z5p

    No backdoors installed for the government to snoop and no software developers coding secret pieces to gather data on your use.08i2g30hiuzguiwr1k1rsbw96wm0tobk

  • Not tied to one personwfkdgwfwl4medsaor1gpwwfuml9g8wku

    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.41w0wx7mhyazs450o9jsj9o9s9mk7xx2

  • No profit motived5rmcggcvbf2pgiv2imvp4fpzxh7ogsr

    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.39lqs0qkr6lom9v8hqpyvi6n53ub5ynz

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.9m1egdxw8spruyapuo8kbgth5ckdvkov

How Can Our Organization Get On Top of Our Data Management?jln8n0ryestp62o7icjio38fek2pht1r

Ok, so now we’re all freaked out about tools throwing our data around.dfwtwpmj7eiaa10gyc72jw3gr61f89rb

What do we do about it?6wj63dyldxmq4oxznjjjx11f0ylavj5r

  • Put together a “data inventory”brhu98nxuiquucbg0h25v0690otu2no4

    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:u1pbttpk47vlg26ek6rwd90g8e93djbx

    • Where are all the places your organization has data living?nic51hjls8h19olequku8xyeznrxha6u
    • What data are stored there?na2532lqkwmbdwzu91s396s3pc7o9obn
    • Who has access?y8pzt8x98f89p1dcgq4kmcqkg48iwg8k
    • Is it backed up?mm55g34370uvw79ttn4n2sudyug2lj8x
    • How is it backed up?shlslgty6mzhme5bo3mri9i7f2oms49b
    • How often is it backed up?
       7plzfuk0jm5jea4apultzznqei6u9in7izfqasztw0q7tuztk6e0axgdq9ef0i39
  • Back up your data!
     7plzfuk0jm5jea4apultzznqei6u9in7izfqasztw0q7tuztk6e0axgdq9ef0i39
  • Make sure that with each new tool adoption, you have a sense of how to get your data out of the tool68l29yumtrvxv3a2zyx7mt7ot6pirlqo

Need a template? Here is deeper look into Creating an Online Accounts Inventory.fufo7z4u7m1jbyoxwo1bs7h4idk5rn4x

Data Trumps Tools Every Timegn6os36hht6sfojvye9ltzbtql0e2jr8

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.yt1ee796vkd6cqd0qfaztuk304ehzlno

How do you prioritize data at your organization?m6y213y0dohskfrhmdt3rt7fidnjp7o2

 7plzfuk0jm5jea4apultzznqei6u9in7izfqasztw0q7tuztk6e0axgdq9ef0i39

(original) View Italiano 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?

 



Connect with SSC


RSS Feed  Twitter  Facebook

Aspiration Publications