I’m just back from NTEN‘s wonderful annual conference, which was in DC this year. This is my third year attending, and my first in my brand new career as a technology consultant. You can check out that gig at my new domain, Techcafeteria.com. Right off the bat, at the Member’s reception, I was the proud recipient of an “NTENNIE”, which is awarded to those of us who are big NTEN supporters. It’s a pretty congenial and humorous honor – recipients receive a headset of antennae to wear, and my seven-year old boy was thrilled to appropriate that on my return.
I was somewhat surprized by the category I won in – “people most likely to be blogging anonymously”. I asked Holly which anonymous blog they suspected I was the author of, and she didn’t have one – they just thought that it roundly described me. So, what I take away from that is that people recognize that I have a lot of opinions and I’m not shy about jotting them down on public forums. But, clearly, my lack of attention to this blog has made it completely invisible.
Now, my last day, after six and a half years, as the lead technologist at SF Goodwill was Friday, March 30th. And the conference ran April 4th through 6th. The timing was great – I made a lot of good connections, and walked away with some serious referrals and opportunities to ply my new trade. It was really different attending the sessions, though, not as a representative of a large non-profit, but as an independent consultant, more interested in selling my services than buying others. I think I have a lot of chops that I can offer quality consulting with, and I’ve been picturing the work and looking forward to that. But the actual consulting is only half the job. The other half is business development, and that’s a bit of a stretch for me. At the conference, I conferred with a lot of other IT consultants and really started to work through what this career change means. It’s clear that I have to do what I pretty much did at the conference, and become a salesman. When all is said and done, it’s about paying off the mortgage and feeding the kid. But it’s also clear to me that the best way to sell my services is to be an active member and healthy contributor to the non-profit tech community, something which I’ve been unable to do successfully while working those 80 hour weeks at Goodwill. So I can’t afford to be an anonymous blogger. Heppy lend is going to pick up steam, and it will be republished at Techcafeteria, which I plan to build into a large resource and home for advocacy of sound technology practices at non-profits. The big issues, today?
- Data standards, data management, data planning. This was my theme at NTC, where I led a session on “Managing Technology 2.0” and participated in the live version of the Open API Debate.
- Breaking the myth that technology funding is overhead that drains mission-effectiveness. This is a battle-cry that needs to be brought to the technology-averse funders and CEOs who don’t understand that not investing in a technology strategy is equivalent to organizational suicide.
- Deployment planning and strategies. Orgs need to have a sustainable approach to technology purchasing, development and implementation that factors in how they will keep it running, not just how much it will cost to get it installed. My second bullet is meaningless if there aren’t effective strategies for using the technology that’s deployed.
Overall, I’ve just stepped out of a 21 year career as a technology startegist and implementer, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way (I’d say “hard lessons”, but, the truth is, I’ve managed to avoid a lot of fiascos in my career!). There’s a lot more to technology deployment than just buying the server and training the staff. If technology isn’t tightly aligned to organizational strategy, objectives, and business processes, it’s a sinkhole – you might as well stick with the typewriters. So look for this to be the meat of this blog and the message of Techcafeteria.com for the near future.