Smart Technology Selection

By: Nancy Mann Jackson

Is that new software, hardware, or technology service right for your association? Consider this advice on making the right choices when faced with tough technology decisions.

Wondering if a hot new technology is a good fit for your association? Start with these tips from Chris Peters, global technology analyst at TechSoup, which offers technology information, resources, and support for nonprofit organizations.

Consider the total cost of ownership. At TechSoup, TCO is a term used to describe the idea of measuring the long-term costs of a new technology within an organization. To determine TCO, Peters suggests asking questions such as: How much time will your IT staff spend learning, installing, configuring, and maintaining this new technology? How much time and money will your organization spend training end users? Will you need to replace or upgrade the technology at some point? How much will that cost? Does the technology require additional space, wiring, cabling, or other changes to your physical infrastructure?

Build a "culture of assessment." "Evaluate your staff every year to learn what technology skills they have and what sorts of training they need and what kinds of technology make them more or less productive," Peters says. "Every time you evaluate a new technology, try to imagine the reception it will receive from the various stakeholder groups in your organization."

Ask for input. "Don't go it alone when making technology decisions," Peters says. "IT staff, frontline staff, and clients all have insight into the potential costs and benefits of a proposed technology implementation."

Get educated. Learn everything you can about the technology you're considering, from books, blogs, current users, and free educational information provided by manufacturers. Peters likes to browse the tables of contents of relevant books on to familiarize himself with the concepts and vocabulary surrounding a new technology. There are also thousands of classes, both live and online, available to educate you.

Give it time. Perhaps most important, don't rush your decision. "Decision makers need time and resources when selecting new technologies," Peters says. "Don't set a tight, arbitrary deadline for a decision and expect that you and your staff will make the best possible choice."

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. Email: [email protected]