Tag Archives: leadership

Where I’ll Be At The NTC – 2013 Edition

It’s time again for the Nonprofit Technology Conference, NTEN’s annual big deal event for those of us who use technology and the web to advance meaningful work.  This will be my eighth NTC (out of the last nine).  Here’s my NTEN history:

2005: Emily Zukerberg and Marnie Webb tell me about NTEN and I join in SF, attending my first NTC in Chicago, where I somehow got roped into presenting at three sessions.

2006: Seattle

2007: DC

2008: New Orleans

2009: San Francisco, and the first #ntcbeer event, where we had about 45 people brave their way to Berkeley.

2010: Atlanta. Here I introduced the Tech Track; five sessions on geeky topics that helped balance things after a headlong dive into social media madness that almost obscured NTEN’s mission, from where I sat.  We had three of the top ten rated sessions that year. The second #ntcbeer got about 40 people at a great bar that was way too far from the hotel.

I missed 2011 in DC.  But my good work went on with out me. Tracy Kronzak led up the second tech track to further success, and #ntcbeer boasted about 100 people at my favorite DC bar, Churchkey. Oh,  and I won a little award.

2012: San Francisco. No tech track this year, because we incorporated it more solidly into the IT Staff track, which the tech track crew curated.  #ntcbeer probably broke a few zoning laws, with about 150 people packed into a small bar.

Now I’m off to Minneapolis for #13NTC, and it’s shaping up to be another good one.  Here’s where you can find me:

April 10th, 7:00 pm, Brit’s Pub a few doors from the hotel for the 5th Annual #ntcbeer event.  As of this writing, we have a dead heat for signups on the official Facebook page (90) and the MyNTC event page (89) for a grand total of, well, somewhere between 160 and 170, I think.  There are duplicate signups and there’s no easy way to do the math.  This is definitely shaping up to be the largest one yet, as many more people will sign up in the days just before NTC and quite a few won’t bother signing up at all.  Join me there with the understanding that it’s about the company first, beer second; we have a history of being a welcoming, casual crowd.  And we have some surprises in store.

If you aren’t going to NTC, but you can get to Austin, Texas, be sure to attend our sister #ntcbeer event! Rumor has it that they know how to have a good time in Austin.

On Thursday. the 11th, I hope to participate in NTEN’s Day of Service.  I’m signed up, but concerned that I’ve heard nothing about this event to date.  Then I’m off to the IT Director’s meetup at 10:30, followed by the Science Fair, NTEN’s always impressive vendor show.  What’s great here is that NTEN draws nobody that is even capable of a hard sell — the vendor show is a great way to acquaint yourself with the nonprofit technology out there and the people who know how to make great use of it.  It’s a conversation-rich event.

My evening plans aren’t 100% booked, but if you work, as I do, in Legal Aid, please let me know so I can add you to the dinner reservation for the Legal Aid get-together.  I’ll be joined by fellow LSCer David Bonebrake and friends with ProBono.Net, LSNTAP, The Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Montana Legal Services, and hopefully more.

On Friday, Dan Pallotta follows up his groundbreaking TED talk that challenges all of us to shake up the damaging preconceptions we have about charity and donating. Then I’m off to sessions on IT Governance (by frequent co-collaborator Matt Eshleman of Community IT) and Bridging the tech funding gap, with Lindsay Bealko.

At 3:30, I’m presenting on Project Management: Choosing the Right Tools and Approaches for Disparate Projects.  I’m only somewhat ambitious here, but my goal is that everyone attending will walk away with a solid understanding about traditional (“Waterfall”) and modern “Agile” project management; how and when to apply one, the other, or some combination of the two; and what awesome tools and applications are available to support them.  As always, I’ll keep the PowerPointing to a reasonable time limit and mine the wisdom of the crowd attending.  I think there will be a healthy showing  and there are already some gurus signed up.

Friday night is the progressive party — not sure where I’ll be, but I”ll hit as many of them as I can. This might be the best chance to catch up with me, so let me know if you want to hang out.

On Saturday, after the Allyson Burn’s plenary, I’ll be leading a “Big Idea” panel on the Role of IT in Nonprofits.  Joining me will be Donny Shimamoto of Intraprise Techknowlogies and Michael Enos, CTO of Second Harvest Food Bank in my old stomping grounds, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, CA. We’ll be sure to hit the big topics about where IT works in the org chart (and where it’s set up to fail, browse this blog for lots of my thoughts on this); what nonprofits should pay, and what good can an IT strategic plan do for you.

Finally, after lunch, I’ll be crashing Tracy Kronzak and Robert Weiner’s “Data is from Mars, Nonprofits are from Venus” session before getting way too early a plane back to DC and missing out on the Geek Games.  But, no rest — LSC’s board meeting starts on Sunday.

I do hope to see you there — let me know where you’ll be in the comments!

 

 

The Nonprofit Management Gap

I owe someone an apology. Last night, a nice woman that I’ve never met sent me an email relaying (not proposing) an idea that others had pitched. Colleagues of mine who serve in communications roles in the nonprofit sector were suggesting a talk on “Why CIOs/CTOs should be transitioned into Chief Digital and Data Officers”.  And, man, did that line get me going.

Now, I’m with them on a few points: Organizations that rely on public opinion and support to accomplish their mission, which includes the majority of nonprofits, need to hire marketers that get technology, particularly the web.  And those people need to be integrated into upper management, not reporting to the Development VP or COO.  It’s the exact same case I make for the lead technologist role.

Let’s look at a few of these acronyms and titles:

COO – Chief Operating Officer.  In most NPOs that have one, this role oversees operations while the CEO oversees strategy and advances the mission with the public.

CIO – Chief Information Officer.  CIOs are highly placed technologists whose core job is to align technology to mission-effectiveness.  In most cases, because we can’t afford large staffs, CIOs also manage the IT Department, but their main value lies in the business planning and collaboration that they foster in order to integrate technology.

Some companies hire CTOs: Chief Technology Officers.  This is in product-focused environments where, again, you need a highly placed technologist who can manage the communication and expectations between the product experts and the technical staff designing and developing the products for them.

IT Director – An IT Director is a middle manager who oversees technology planning, budgeting, staff and projects. In (rare) cases, they report to a CIO or CTO.  In the nonprofit world, they are often the lead technologists, but they report up to a COO or VP Admin, not the CEO.

CMO – Chief Marketing Officer.  This is a new role which, similar to CIO, elevates the person charged with constituent engagement to the executive level.

This is how many nonprofit CEOs think about technology:

Public Domain Image

Say you, at home, have a leaky faucet.  It’s wasting water and the drip is driving you crazy.  You can’t just tear out the sink — you need that.  So you hire a plumber.  Or, if you have the opportunity, you get your accidental te– I mean, acne-dented teenager to read up on it and fix the leak for you.  So now you have a plumber, and your sink is no longer dripping. Great!
Now you want to remodel your house.  You want to move the master bath downstairs and the kitchen to the east side.  That’s going to require planning. Risk assessment. Structural engineering. You could hire a contractor — someone with the knowledge and the skill to not only oversee plumbing changes, but project management, vendor coordination, and, most important, needs assessment. Someone who knows how to ask you what you want and then coordinate the effort so that that’s what you get.  So, what should you do?
Have the plumber do it.  He did a good job on the leak, right?
Every job that I’ve had since 1990 has, at the onset, been to fix the damage that a plumber did while they were charged with building a house.  Sometimes I’ve worked for people who got it, saw that they needed my communication skills as much or more than they needed my technical expertise.  At those jobs, I was on a peer level with the other department heads, not one lower.  Other times, they expected me to be just like the plumber that I replaced. They were surprised and annoyed when I tried to tell them that what they really needed was to work with me, not delegate to me.  At those jobs, I was mostly a highly-functional pain in the ass.

Some of those jobs got bad, but here’s how bad it can get when management just doesn’t get technology.

So, back to my rant, here’s my question: why would we increase the strategic role of marketing at the expense of strategic technology integration?  Is that a conscious desire to move just as far backward as we’re moving forward?  Is this suggestion out of a frustration that people who manage technology aren’t exclusively supporting communications in our resource-strapped environments? In any case, it’s a sad day for the sector if we’re going to pitch turf wars instead of overall competence.  There is no question: we need high level technologists looking after our infrastructure, data strategy, and constituent engagement. But we can’t address critical needs by crippling other areas.

Succession Planning

This post originally appeared on the Idealware Blog in September of 2009.
graduates.jpg

Idealware’s blog is not the best place for me to talk about my kid.  There’s Facebook and Flickr> for that sort of thing. But I want to talk about him anyway, and open a discussion, if possible, about children and the nptech community.

My career is in nonprofit technology (nptech). My plan is to continue working for nonprofits (or, if for profit, a for profit with a mission and a socially beneficial bottom line) until I retire or expire.  While my ten year old boy’s stated goal is to become a NASA engineer, and that’s great, I want him to understand why I chose my path of purposeful work and understand what’s involved in it, should he, at age 15 or 25, decide that NASA isn’t the only option.

A few year’s back, former NTEN CEO and current MobileActive CEO Katrin Verclas suggested adding a program for teenagers at the annual nonprofit technology conference. This is a brilliant idea. We have a great opportunity to educate children in the work we do: advocating for social justice and good; raising funds and resources in order to act effectively and independently; and collaborating in a  supportive community to accomplish our varied, but sympathetic goals.  Whatever our children end up doing with their lives, we have something worthwhile to teach them.

When I was a teenager, I was active in a youth group called Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). LRY was an independent group affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, but it was not a particularly religious group. The themes were more along the lines of addressing social concerns and building community. At ages sixteen and seventeen, I was creating flyers, renting facilities, giving presentations, leading sessions, planning menus and taking a leadership role that prepared me far better for my current career than high school actually did.

When I look at our nptech community, I see a similar environment, where our commitment and excitement regarding our work is bolstered by a natural adoption of supportive camaraderie and peer development. We definitely model something of value to our high school age kids who will face career choices and challenges like ours. We can develop a mentoring program that passes on our expertise in resource management, activism, fundraising, community building, nonprofit technology and social media as a social activism tool. This would provide them with an early introduction to the skills that will be needed when we retire to continue the important work that we do. As much as a grant, donation, or volunteer effort, this is an investment in our work and our world that we should be making.

I want my son to develop his skills and community with socially-conscious peers and mentors.  I want his generation to be more effective than we are at solving problems like poverty, pollution and social injustice. It’s not enough for us to try and save the world. We should be prepping the next generation to keep it protected.

Who’s with me?

The Silo Situation

This post originally appeared on the Idealware Blog in May of 2009.

The technology trend that defines this decade is the movement towards open, pervasive computing. The Internet is at our jobs, in our homes, on our phones, TVs, gaming devices. We email and message everyone from our partners to our clients to our vendors to our kids. For technology managers, the real challenges are less in deploying the systems and software than they are in managing the overlap, be it the security issues all of this openness engenders, or the limitations of our legacy systems that don’t interact well enough. But the toughest integration is not one between software or hardware systems, but, instead, the intersection of strategic computing and organizational culture.

There are two types of silos that I want to discuss: organizational silos, and siloed organizations.

An organizational silo, to be clear, is a group within an organization that acts independently of the rest of the organization, making their own decisions with little or no input from those outside of the group. This is not necessarily a bad thing; there are (although I can’t think of any) cases where giving a group that level of autonomy might serve a useful purpose. But, when the silo acts in an environment where their decisions impact others, they can create long-lived problems and rifts in critical relationships.

We all know that external decisions can disrupt our planning, be it a funders decision to revoke a grant that we anticipated or a legislature dropping funding for a critical program. So it’s all the more frustrating to have the rug pulled out from under us by people who are supposed to be on the same team. If you have an initiative underway to deploy a new email system, and HR lays off the organizational trainer, you’ve been victimized by a silo-ed decision. On the flip side, a fundraiser might undertake a big campaign, unaware that it will collide with a web site redesign that disables the functionality that they need to broadcast their appeal.

Silos thrive in organizations where the leadership is not good at management. Without a strong CEO and leadership team, departmental managers don’t naturally concern themselves with the needs of their peers. The expediency and simplicity of just calling the shots themselves is too appealing, particularly in environments where resources are thin and making overtures to others can result in those resources being gladly taken and never returned. In nonprofits, leaders are often more valued for their relationships and fundraising skills than their business management skills, making our sector more susceptible to this type of problem.

The most damaging result of operating in this environment is that, if you can’t successfully manage the silos in your organization, then you won’t be anything but a silo in the world at large.

We’ve witnessed a number of industries, from entertainment and newspapers to telephones and automobiles, as they allowed their culture to dictate their obsolescence. Instead of adapting their models to the changing needs of their constituents, they’ve clung to older models that aren’t relevant in the digital age, or appropriate for a global economy on a planet threatened by climate change. Since my focus is technology, I pay particular attention to the impacts that technological advancement, and the accompanying change in extra-organizational culture (e.g., the country, our constituents, the world) have on the work my organization does. Just in the past few years, we’ve seen some significant cultural changes that should be impacting nonprofit assumptions about how we use technology:

  • Increased regulation on the handling of data. We’re wrestling with the HIPAA laws governing handling of medical data and PCI standards for financial data. If we have not prioritized firewalls, encryption, and the proper data handling procedures, we’re more and more likely to be out of step with new laws. Even the 990 form we fill out now asks if we have a document retention plan.
  • Our donors are now quite used to telephone auto attendants, email, and the web. How many are now questioning why we use the dollars they donate to us to staff reception, hand write thank you notes, and send out paper newsletters and annual reports?
  • Our funders are seeing more available data on the things that interest them everywhere, so they expect more data from us. The days of putting out the success stories without any numbers to quantify them are over.

Are we making changes in response to these continually evolving expectations? Or are we still struggling with our internal expectations, while the world keeps on turning outside of our walls? We, as a sector, need to learn what these industrial giants refused to, before we, too, are having massive layoffs and closing our doors due to an inability to adapt our strategies to a rapidly evolving cultural climate. And getting there means paying more attention to how we manage our people and operations; showing the leadership to head into this millennia by mastering our internal culture and rolling with the external changes. Look inward, look outward, lead and adapt.

Lessons Learned: Effective Practices In IT Management

This article was first published on the NTEN Blog in May of 2007.

Peter Campbell, TechCafeteria.com

I’ve spent more than 20 years in the sometimes maddening, sometimes wonderful, world of IT management. Along the way I’ve worked under a variety of CEOs with very diverse styles, and I’ve developed, deployed and maintained ambitious technology platforms. In order to survive, I put together three basic tenets to live by.

1. Management is 360 degrees: managing your superiors and peers is a bigger challenge than managing your staff.

2. To say anything effectively in an organization, you have to say it at least three times in three different media.

3. Follow Fidonet’s basic social guideline, “Do not be excessively annoying and do not become excessively annoyed.”

At a high level:

  • Work for the mission. Even in for-profit environments, I’ve managed to the organizational goals, not the individual personalities. You will avoid more political damage and navigate your way around the politics far more easily if you do the same. Don’t be scared of board or boss, and don’t cave in easily. This doesn’t mean that you countermand direct orders, but it does mean that you speak up if they don’t make sense to you. If you are in a political environment where, at the top, personality and ego trump mission in setting organizational priorities, then get out.
  • Make your priorities well known. Don’t ever assume that people are reading your business plans and proposals, and know for a fact that they haven’t read your emails. The key to successful project planning is communication, and that means face to face discussions with all parties with a stake in the project, especially those that you don’t particularly mesh with. Avoiding people who factor in your ability to succeed is a sure way to fail.
  • Take every opportunity to educate. Successful deployment of technology depends on joint ownership between the technology users and purveyors. Staff won’t own the technology if they don’t know what it does for them. In order to successfully manage technology, you need to constantly inform all parties at to what it can do for them.

Some other handy practices:

  • Run the IT Department as a lab – give your staff ample voice, diverse projects, and credit when they succeed. IT people, particularly in non-profits, are far more motivated by learning and accomplishing things than they are by money.
  • Value people skills, especially among your staff. Ability and comfort to communicate can be a more valuable talent than the ability to configure a Cisco 1750 blindfolded.
  • Marketing is not a dirty word! Sell your initiatives with PowerPoint, Project, and whatever else wows the suits.
  • Design for your users, not yourself. Stay aware that techies do not use the technology the way that everyone else does, and there is nothing wrong with everyone else – they just aren’t techies. So make sure that the software is configured to their needs and desires, not yours.
  • Consultants Rock! (and I’m not just saying that because I’m now a consultant). If you are doing your job well, a consultant can help you build resources and improve your status with management. Simple fact: The CEO will always listen to the consultant say exactly what you’ve been saying for years.
  • Be opportunistic. Apply for grants – you don’t have to wait for the grant writer to do it. Call different people at that vendor that you’re seeking a charitable discount from, not just the ones who think it will lower their commission. And then, back to marketing – let the CEO know every time you succeed.

Peter Campbell is a Business Technology Consultant focused on assisting members of the nonprofit/social services community with revenue-generating projects and promoting organizational self-sufficiency.

NTEN Connected

Just a note that my article on IT Leadership was featured in the latest issue of NTEN Connect.

On a related note, my blog entry on Joomla Day West was almost quoted verbatim in the latest Joomla Weekly News (this is a PDF download). And I have an article coming out soon in Non-Profit Times on Data Management, a summary of the Managing Technology 2.0 presentation that I led at the NTEN conference in April. (Powerpoint link here).

Distributive Leadership

Okay, this isn’t technology related, but I’d love some feedback on this, so it’s going out on the nptech tag. And, since this topic is right out of my job, note the disclaimer that my opinions do not represent the opinions of SF Goodwill in any official or unofficial capacity.

My company, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, is deep into an organizational change process, and I’ve been given particular responsibility for facilitating the creation of a leadership development group (I am not the current group leader, but I was, and the CEO keeps looking right at me whenever the subject comes up…). This isn’t a generic thing – the idea is that there should be a diverse group of staff (different jobs, different levels of responsibility, ethnic/gender diversity) that rotate into strategic planning sessions with executive staff and, on occassion, board members and other organization strategists. My team’s task is to come up with the plan for how we recruit the members and what we do to prepare them to contribute healthfully at high-level meetings.

So, some background – our CEO has an immensely impressive background, having, at times, headed up an AIDS foundation; the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Omidyar Foundation (started it up with Pierre), and other things. She is a guru on corporate management and organizational change; a visionary; and a natural agent of change and imagination. Our staff, most of whom work in our retail thrift operation, are often hired out of our programs to assist the poor, homeless, and ex-offenders; many speak English as their second language; and are not likely to be well-versed in modern business rhetoric. None of this implies that there aren”t natural leaders and innovators among them – just that they aren’t likely to be prepped to participate at a lingo-driven, high-level business strategy session. So the trick I’m wrestling with is, how do you properly orient them to be able to participate with the executives?

There are really two big things we have to overcome:

  • The language barriers (both rthnic and rhetoric based)
  • and the confidence barriers, in it that some of these potential leaders have been with us for ten to thirty years, but nobody has ever asked them to participate in strategic thinking at the highest level, or given them any expectation that their opinions would be valued.

So we’ve identified some books; we are banking on mentoring as a strategy; we have access to some online training; and I think we have a strong recruitment plan about 90% worked out, one that combines open enrollment with a referal/evaluation process to insure that everyone is able to let us know they’re interested (the first evidence of leadership potential) with enough room for us to determine if they’re ready for it. A big concern is that we don’t want to set our staff up to fail.

So, say you were me: what tools (online, books, etc) would you use to help prep people to participate in rhetoric driven strategy sessions?

What exercizes/methods would be effective in helping them build their confidence to speak up in meetings with the highest level of management? We have already done a lot of thinking on this, and realize that it’s necessary to create a safe environment outside of the office, with an outside facilitator, but there must be some focused ways to teach people how to take that kind of risk. If we teach them all there is to know, but they still feel uncomfortable speaking up in the meetings, we haven’t accomplished our primary goal.

What do the execs and mentors need to know/be explicitly trainined in? I think it’s a two way street.

Thoughts?