Improving Performance with Information and Insight
Published by Lehman Associates

Models for Technology as a Strategic Asset

For the past several years, I’ve been writing about how technology is transforming organizations.

To date, the primary use of technology has been to increase the efficiency and productivity of existing work. While productivity will always be important, technology is now also transforming how we work and how we engage with our constituents. Technology is now more than a supporting toolset. It has become a strategic asset that can help nonprofits accomplish their goals and fulfill their missions.

We have now identified four models of the ways we apply technology that directly or indirectly result in transformation:

    • Enabling – Technology makes it possible for organizations to pursue strategies that would otherwise be too labor-intensive or not cost-effective.
      Examples:
      Micro-strategies such as micro-lending and micro-volunteering
      Personal fundraising
    • Substitution Technology replaces existing non-digital approaches.
      Examples:Email
      Webinars and video conferencing
    • Disruption – Technology introduces new models that fundamentally change the dynamics of communication, content, relationships, and commerce.
      Examples:
      Crowdfunding
      Apps that displace email and phone communications
      The sharing economy, which displaces traditional providers
    • Data byproducts – When the data generated as a byproduct of technology represents an asset beyond its original purpose.
      Examples:
      Google search term analysis used to predict flu outbreaks
      Collective fitness band data used to target health initiatives and measure outcomes
      Cell tower and GPS connections data generating real-time traffic congestion maps

All of these models are in play, to one degree or another, in most nonprofits, and will, over time, have significant impacts on how nonprofits raise funds, design and implement programs, engage with donors and other constituents, and measure impact and success.