“Who uses cloud computing?”
Admittedly, it elicits the sidewise puppy stare. You can’t really blame the curious exec about these kinds of questions. The fog of war between the accuracy and years of hype has stifled the road to enlightenment on the subject. The smokescreen is quite heavy. Even some enterprises remain dazed.
Answer: “Anyone trying to solve a business problem.”
But you wouldn’t just jump on cloud computing just because everyone else is.
A rollover switch or even an all-out switch isn’t easy. Even after weighing everything in a TCO, cost/benefit light, the issues of compliance, security, privacy, data integrity, and even migrating the data in question, will still linger and overshadow them.
However, for the leaner staffed nonprofit, it might be as simple as: “We just need to get things done.”
The cloud switch begins by understanding what the root problem is. The paradox sometimes is that while an organization has “the itch,” the itching cannot be so easily surmised into one sentence.
You gotta dig and unearth the cause.
Just ask: Why?
“Why does our organization need to start using this app in our daily operations? What problems are we having now that this app would alleviate?”
Maybe licensing costs just aren’t justified anymore.
Maybe bloated or buggy software is bogging everyone’s systems down.
Remember that technology, especially cloud-based solutions, is an enabler for reaching nonprofit objectives.
Nonprofits successfully implemented cloud-based solutions because they were pretty intimate about what was holding them back. They didn’t say with haste “no” or ”yes” to the cloud, but instead, “Why?”
Someone on your staff suggests signing up for Sliderocket, because somewhere along the line, they said:
“Aside from writing our nonprofit’s newsletters. We also collaborate heavily on presentations using Powerpoint, but team collaboration, versioning, and tracking changes via email, well, sucks. It’s a chore. What are my options so that we can save more time?”
Or, someone suggests that their overall project workflow could be a little better. Their plea might’ve sounded like this:
“We need a better way of collaborating on projects. A unified repository to pool project collateral like documents and images would help. Everything is getting buried in everyone’s email inboxes. This is hard to track especially when project materials get updated frequently. Not to mention, we communicate with staff in offices hundreds of miles away and a lot of us are pretty mobile, anyway. What are my options?”
Or, you hate Excel. OK, maybe Excel remains in your heart forever, or perhaps it’s a love-hate thing, but someone else on staff 100% hates it, yet they’re pretty hush-hush about it. But one thing’s certain: some crucial nonprofit functions just shouldn’t be handled on a spreadsheet alone:
“Our organization is growing fast. And so is our member base. We want to keep better tabs on our house file, but this Excel spreadsheet isn’t cutting it. Also, we’re starting to use our website more as a central hub for our campaigns. We need something that can track stats from our donor base and easily integrate with other donation tools online if need be. What are my options?”
And concerns won’t be so thoroughly articulated like this. At least, not in the beginning. So talk it out with your crew. Find out.
Perhaps weekly round table meetings could use a makeover. Would technology help with efficiency? Do you really need to shell out money for a cloud based project management app?
Or, would an analogous solution work perfectly? Just a plain whiteboard? Or heck, IDEAPAINT.
So, “Buy the solution, not the cloud.” Zoom into someone’s current problem and figure out what X is. Hear them out, then zoom out with an omnipresent overlord-of-the-skies view: how bad would the problem fester if we left it as is? Are the risks worth it, despite the cries for help?
Only then will you gain clarity on what cloud-based solutions might help staff, their processes, and even your overall objectives.