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partnerships:articles:brief [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +Think before you connect
 + by [Paul Ticher](mailto:​,​\
 +Voluntary organisations often approach a technical expert for help with
 +their computer system.\
 + But if you are asked for advice about IT or getting on-line because of
 +your technical knowledge, it is easy to overlook the human and
 +organisational aspects. Paul Ticher has worked as an adviser on IT to
 +non-profit organisations for nearly fifteen years, looking especially at
 +the links between information work and IT.
 +Many organisations not so long ago "got a computer"​ then wondered why it
 +sat around not being used - perhaps there were no funds for training
 +staff and volunteers, or the person in the organisation who did know how
 +to use it left without passing on their skills. Or maybe their ambitions
 +weren'​t matched by the equipment, skills and supporting finance
 + This scenario is becoming less common as computer awareness increases,
 +but another is rapidly taking its place: that of the organisation which
 +"goes on the internet"​ in the same ill-defined way, only to end up
 + IT projects with a high information content have always been prime
 +candidates for disaster. Over the years I have seen many attempts -
 +sometimes very ambitious - to collect information and put it into a
 +database, with no thought for who was going to use it or how the
 +information was to be kept up to date. When the Web came along a very
 +similar thing happened - people got sites, because they thought they
 +ought to, or because the service provider included a small site in its
 +package, but with no clearly thought out idea of what it would be used
 +for, what benefit it would bring, or how it would be kept up to date.\
 + One of the hardest things to tell a client (whether they'​re paying you
 +or not) is that they don't need you. Yet if your skills are technical
 +and the organisation hasn't sorted out its objectives, it may not be
 +appropriate - yet - for you to be involved. In the long run it's worth
 +being tough: no one wants to be associated with a failed project. So
 +it's always worth asking:
 +-   what does the organisation want to achieve through this project?
 +-   will a computer system really help?
 +-   is the proposed solution the best one?
 +-   does the organisation have the managerial skills to handle the
 +    changes which the project will bring about? has it worked out what
 +    those changes will be?
 +-   are there sufficient resources to cover the training and on-going
 +    costs?
 +If you're happy with the organisation'​s answers to all those questions,
 +then you can get down to the technical detail, the cost/​benefit analysis
 +and implementation plans.\
 + And there'​s no doubt that organisations can benefit from the well
 +thought out use of IT. Some of the environmental and campaigning Web
 +sites, in particular, achieve things which just would not be possible in
 +any other way. E-mail and related technologies such as list servers and
 +bulletin boards have enabled isolated experts scattered around the
 +country, perhaps even in different organisations,​ to collaborate and
 +support each other like never before.\
 + Even relatively humble systems bring benefits if the organisation knows
 +what it is doing. An accounts system can allow faster and better
 +management information,​ more accurate reports to funders, and better
 +financial control, with a minimal staffing level in the finance
 + ​Standard letters can give front-line staff control of their own
 +communications without having to have all the skills of an experienced
 +secretary. Searchable on-line directories (where the information is
 +well-organised and properly indexed) can answer client queries faster
 +and make the job of keeping the information up to date easier.\
 + All these examples are based on real organisations I've had contact
 +with over the last few years.\
 + They make the point that an IT project needn'​t be innovative or very
 +elaborate. Provided it really serves the organisation'​s objectives a
 +cheap and simple solution, implemented with management commitment and
 +support, may be all it takes to make a very real difference.\
 + And when you and the organisation have done everything right, and the
 +project is a success, tell everyone about it! One thing the voluntary
 +sector is very good at is sharing information about good practice and
 +learning from each other. In the end, everybody wins.\
 + Paul Ticher can be contacted on 0116 270 5876, or by e-mail at\
 + <​>​.\
 + [Back to the Guide to Community Internet](../​pubs/​guide)\
partnerships/articles/brief.txt ยท Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)