Software – Making Strategic Decisions
Monday, 18th June 2007 at 4:13 pm
Not for Profit organisations deserve the best that technology has to offer and part of achieving this is making good, strategic decisions, in particular, about software, according to Lisa Harvey, the Director of the IT services business, Energetica.
When organisations need to change systems, upgrade or implement new software they are confronted with a huge array of options, ideas and issues.
For organisations trying to be good custodians of funders, donors, supporters or member’s funds, spending on IT can seem like a huge risk.
Lisa Harvey says there are some things to keep in mind that will help to make the right choices. Most important is to focus on the outcomes you want to achieve, and outcomes are about organisational benefits, not new technology.
Here’s her advice:
If you need to replace your database, or accounting system or another piece of software it is important to determine what you need it to do.
Remember too that the way you do things now may be constrained by your existing software, the history of your processes or simply that no-one has had the time to think about a better way.
Take this opportunity to review the way you do things and seek out where things can be automated and how your processes can be improved. When you research software systems you will find some great ideas. Incorporate these into your requirements, but don’t buy a system just because it has a lot of clever things.
Look for systems that have flexibility in them, ones that don’t dictate to you how things should be done. A Client Management System, for example, may work from a specific case management methodology, where others may let you configure the system to follow your operating processes (NPAIS does this, for which Energetica is the only Australian supplier).
Buying software involves not just the purchase of the licence. There are a lot of costs, some of which can’t easily be determined when you are getting a project estimate.
Data transfer can be a big cost, and it is not something to take shortcuts on – your data is one of your most important assets.
Getting the information out of your new system may be achieved by standard reporting options, but you might need to think about getting some customised reports as well, and there may be costs involved if you need it to integrate with other systems.
Don’t forget training, ongoing licence and management fees, future upgrades and ongoing support.
A new piece of software will almost always have hardware costs associated with it.
One option available now is to have your application hosted (a service offered by Energetica), via a monthly fee and your application will be available to all your offices without you having to purchase and install hardware or extra software licenses.
If you do want to keep your application with your local systems you should consider the impact on your support and management costs, system capacity, backups and security.
There are now also hosted alternatives for all server and desktop needs. These options present a new and very different model from the traditional ‘server in the office’ model.
For organisations with several offices, staff who are on the road or who work from home, or with no in-house IT support, this option can save a lot of money over the long term. Having the management, monitoring, backups and security taken care of, can also take the worry out of things.
For the most part the purchase of new software, hardware or networks, comes down to understanding what you want to achieve by the new systems, and how well you understand what different software, hardware and services can provide for you.
Some things to keep in mind while you make your decisions:
– Do a good job analysing what you need and what you want to achieve
– Get good advice on what systems are available, what will fit your requirements and what the long term consequences are.
– Understand all the costs involved
– Manage the implementation project – it will cost you more if you don’t.
– Get good training and ongoing support
– Expect it to cost more than you think
Lisa Harvey says she works on the principle that IT is not about technology, IT is about people and process. Outcomes matter most.
For more information go to: www.energetica.com.au