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Ignoring Technology 'No Longer Optional' for NFPs

9 June 2016 at 10:31 am
Ellie Cooper
As the sector transitions to client-centered care and outcomes-based funding, Not for Profits must significantly improve their focus on technology, according to new research.

Ellie Cooper | 9 June 2016 at 10:31 am


Ignoring Technology 'No Longer Optional' for NFPs
9 June 2016 at 10:31 am

As the sector transitions to client-centered care and outcomes-based funding, Not for Profits must significantly improve their focus on technology, according to new research.

Not for Profits must embrace technology

The 2016 Not for Profit IT survey, released Wednesday by Infoxchange, Connecting Up and TechSoup, found Australian organisations were under increasing pressure to work more effectively with fewer resources but were not using smart technology to improve their operations.

Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs said one of the areas of concern that stood out to him was client and case management.

“Still 61 per cent of service delivery organisations don’t have access to a single client view or don’t have an effective case management system,” Spriggs said.

“In the whole move that’s on at the moment to client-centered care, particularly with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the move to outcomes-based funding more generally, we should see it as no longer optional that the sector addresses the issue of having effective client and case management systems.

“We’ve been doing this survey for three years now – that’s an area that really hasn’t moved from the last survey to this survey, so it’s really an area that the sector needs to focus on.”  

The survey found effective use of digital technologies, such as case management systems, websites, social media and up-to-date infrastructure, could help Not for Profits maximise their reach and delivery of their services.

Spriggs said while setting up digital platforms could be challenging, factors such as changes to government funding, the NDIS and shrinking supporter engagement meant that, more than ever, Not for Profits needed to be prepared for the future.

“Some of the barriers for organisations have been around funding and ability to implement these systems, availability of staff time to implement,” he said.

“But really, within a number of organisations it just hasn’t been prioritised to date and it’s something we really think organisations need to prioritise from this point forward.

“It’s absolutely critical as we move to this client-centered model of care… if organisations aren’t able to keep track of their interactions with clients and the case management, then they won’t be able to effectively bill for their time associated with individual clients, or really undertake effective workforce planning to work out what their workforce needs are matched to the clients that they’re serving.”

He said organisations should focus on planning how they could implement client and case management across the organisation, and then set aside investment dollars to address the area.

“It can be resource intensive, but it’s becoming not an option for organisations to consider not doing it,” he said.

“It becomes as important as your financial system, or even more important than your core financial system.”

However, the survey also found that Not for Profits were reluctant to spend money on digital technology platforms and staff training – falling well behind the for-profit sector.  

“Australian Not for Profits spend an average of about $4,000 per FTE [full-time equivalent] staff member it’s about half of what equivalent for-profit organisations are spending on IT,” he said.

“The really telling statistic in there is the average… spend on IT training is only $14 per FTE… [and] best practice in terms of training is 1 to 2 per cent of staff costs.

“If we’re going to expect workers in the sector to be using client and case management systems and the latest technology, really that’s going to have to be an area of focus for Not for Profits moving forward.

“There’s not a lot of debate that technology’s becoming more important to Not for Profit organisations, and generally the level of digital literacy across workers in the sector is fairly low, and so we should be investing a lot more in IT training to help bring the sector up to speed.”

A more optimistic finding in the survey was the growing use of cloud. This year 29 per cent of respondents said they currently use cloud, up 5 per cent last year.

Spriggs said what was more significant was last year 54 per cent of organisations said they had no plans to move to cloud and this year the figure dropped to 20 per cent.  

“There’s been a lot more adoption of cloud within the sector, and a reduction in a number of the barrier elements as well,” he said.

“So last year people were concerned about whether it’s going to be reliable and dependable and concerns around security, and those concerns have greatly reduced this year compared to last year.

“We’ve had some recent examples with the storms… in Queensland and New South Wales over the weekend… I think [it’s] reinforced again for organisations the importance of having good cloud systems in place when they can’t get access to their own systems because of power outages and other issues… Organisations that didn’t have a decent cloud strategy in place couldn’t get access to their system.

“It’s really pleasing that organisations are making more of a move to the cloud, and I think there’s much better awareness now on some of the offers that the major cloud providers like Microsoft and Google are making, they make the cloud-based products available essentially free of charge to the Not for Profit sector.”

More than 200 Not for Profit organisations across Australia and New Zealand took part in the survey.

Check out today’s Hot Topic: Dealing with Overwhelming Choice – NFP Applications by IT strategist Ian Patterson.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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