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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Beyond the user experience

This week the e-newsletter put out by consulting giant McKinsey ran a piece about how Merrill Lynch, the global financial services firm, has combined its Information Technology and Operations departments. Their purpose: to enhance the delivery of service to the customer, which more and more depends on the IT infrastructure.

Diane Schueneman, who is overseeing this integration, says:
So the whole reason to combine technology and operations rests on the customer’s needs. And to deliver against those needs requires the best operational processes and the best technology. But you can’t start with one and graft on the other. It’s the integration of technology and operations, from beginning to end, that really allows you to serve customers effectively.
It got me thinking about the structural placement of IT in non-profit organizations. In a great many of the non-profits we've worked with over the years, Information Technology is situated in the finance and administration wing of the org chart. Yet any one of these organizations would probably agree with the statement that the purpose of IT is to enhance mission, not simply to improve administration.

One of the YMCAs we work with recently removed responsibility for our Members Only applications from the CFO's office and gave it to the Marketing Director. Our app is used to manage every one of their programs, and directly feeds their financial system. At first I thought the move was irrational. But I've changed my tune.

The person directly responsible for outreach and retention of clients at this organization is now also responsible for their mission-critical applications. In the past, evolving software requirements were often phrased as "Here's some new information we need to track" or "Here are some business rules we need the application to enforce." These needs are not forgotten about now, but under the new regime we also hear things like "We are trying to improve the experience of the member at the front desk, so we'd like to... "

There is a lot of talk about "user experience" in IT these days. But the focus on experience needs to be expanded beyond your direct users. There is a wide community -- donors, clients, board members -- who are not users of your information system per se, but whose experience with your organization is profoundly affected by it. Delays, user errors, down time, incomplete information - these all interfere with program delivery, client service, and fundraising efforts. Shouldn't more non-profits consider organizationally tying the evolution of their IT infrastructure to the development of their programs and services?
Image originally uploaded as http://www.flickr.com/photos/knobil/75758280/

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Comments on "Beyond the user experience"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (July 9, 2007 at 9:18 AM) : 

That was a geat article, Michael. Glad to hear you are getting similar feedback from your clients. Our operational evaluations usually end up suggesting this as well.

Lisa McGrath,
Apex Digital Systems
www.apexds.com

 

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