The garden – a metaphor for your organisation’s strategy

I’ll start with an admission. I tire myself at times with house and car analogies. For some reason, in the context of technology change, they come in handy, if often painfully overused.

So in these times of Covid-19 restrictions and upholding our resilience in the face of much social concern, let’s step out into the garden for this one.

Indeed, my apologies, let’s get the “pulling up the weeds” and “sowing seeds” clichés out of the way quickly.

Some organisations’ strategies go to seed or become disastrously overgrown and intractable. They just do over time if neglected. Other organisations’ strategies are quite bald, scant on detail.

The metaphor of the garden for strategy is a helpful one.

Both gardens and strategies:

  • are all about growth, development, and survival over time
  • are by their nature cyclical and evolving
  • require foundation setting and a degree of groundwork
  • require planning and focus within several parts of one whole
  • must respond to sudden or creeping changes related to external or internal pressures.

The bigger the garden or strategy, the greater number of people required to keep the vision of the future or the blossoming present alive and in good condition.

Hart Square has always understood strategy within our work with clients.

It is fair to say we have been modest in the past concentrating on the allotment we share with our clients during projects.

After all, charities and non-profits have always had strategies, many doing fine in delivering the future.

The past two years have represented a period of change for Hart Square.

More and more, we are invited to engage at greater levels of detail at a strategic level with our clients. This is best exemplified through the growing number of programmes we help deliver.

In simple terms, our clients are more prepared to engage with us about a three-to-five-year transformation. They understand technology better and how it evolves over longer timeframes.

The discourse on technology strategy in the charity and non-profit space has become sophisticated.

A few further examples of our renewed work if you’ll permit me continuing with the metaphor:

We help more clients plan the future garden in full now – strategy development, setting and maintaining a vision for change, transformation planning and benefits realisation.

We work more and more on themes of cross germination now – how the erstwhile patches of people, processes, systems, and data are understood as a single interdependent ecosystem.

We work differently with our clients now on how they keep the garden tended after the flower show has come and gone – helping set up post launch stabilisation plans and future capability planning.

And a new wealth of exotic flowers and plant life have emerged, all needing new levels of understanding, with our guidance:

  • planning large scale transition from on-premise to cloud services
  • understanding how to embed AI in charity and non-profit surroundings
  • coping with an acceleration in the pace of digital change
  • harnessing the recent abundance of online collaborative ways of working.

So if the metaphor is familiar and you find your organisation seeking to grow and nurture a strategy in better ways and with a greater likelihood of long-term change and success, get in touch with us!

It is an exciting time to be a gardener / strategist!


For more insight into how to achieve project success which can drive your business transformation, join our free training programme “How to deliver successful projects”. Of particular interest among the 6 modules will be “How to deliver true organisational change” and “How to ensure your project delivers real benefit”.

Getting started with a content strategy

We’ve spent years being told that classic phrase “Content is King”. But what exactly does this mean, why does content always reign supreme and why should we even bother with a content strategy?

As we embark on our own content strategy journey here at Hart Square, those are just some of the questions we’ve begun to tackle. As we’ve found, getting started can seem daunting, so we’re sharing some of the initial insights we’ve gathered to help you get started with your own content strategy.

What is a content strategy?

Content marketing focuses on the audience. Its essence is in attracting the audience to you. It is the belief that when you deliver consistent valuable information and guidance to your audience, they will in turn engage and interact with you.

This begins with getting the right valuable content to the right audience at the right time. Consistent, quality content builds a relationship with your audience, it builds trust, it increases brand awareness and ultimately encourages your audience to come to you, knowing it will be worth their time.

What are our goals?

It’s important at the beginning of any new project or task, to ask yourself what do you want to achieve from this? When creating a content strategy, it’s no different.

What are your goals and KPI’s? Do you want to grow your audience, increase your engagement scores, build brand awareness or perhaps you want to achieve it all? Whatever your goals are, setting them out clearly at the beginning of the process will keep you focused, hold you accountable and be your guide throughout.

Who are our audience and what problems are we solving for them?

As we mentioned at the top, a content strategy is all about attracting an audience to engage with you. So, it’s essential you know who your audience are, or equally who you want your audience to be. To achieve this you need to discover their needs and understand what would be of value to them. The answer to these questions will unlock the key to knowing the content you need to begin creating.

What content formats do we want to produce?

There’s such a huge array of content formats, from blogs, articles, infographics, videos – it may be hard to know where to begin. But let your audience guide you. Finding out what content forms they are consuming and engaging with most will direct you on the route you should follow. Consider also how you can re-purpose one content item into a variety of formats.

What channels do we want to publish on?

Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as “build it and they will come”. It’s important to explore a variety of channels to help understand which could work best for your content formats. Perhaps your video content will work best on your YouTube channel or maybe social media, but are your audience there too? It’s important to remember that your audience will not necessarily be on every channel.

How will we manage content creation and publication?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, consistency is key to creating a successful content strategy. To ensure you can consistently provide value to your audience, it is vital you can keep your content organised.

Create a space where you can store all your valuable content items and organise them in a way that makes sense to you. Then build out your content calendar and begin scheduling in when and where your content will be published.

How will we recognise success?

Finally then you need to be able to monitor your performance, and be ready to tune your approach at all levels. You can’t expect to get this right first time, and even if you did you will need to keep adapting to an ever-changing environment. Having said that, it’s important to understand that a content strategy takes time and patience to succeed, so agree your metrics, set your benchmarks and give yourself time to see the impact your content strategy has on your goals.

We’re in the early stages of our content strategy delivery, and will share more of our journey as it develops. Hopefully the insights here will help you build and execute your own strategy. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

How to incorporate a communications strategy into your change programme (part 1)

At the heart of any change programme are the people impacted by the change who need to accept and adopt new ways of working. If these people have not been engaged with the business rationale for the change and communicated with effectively throughout the lifecycle of the programme, then the change programme may fail because of the resistance by staff to the change presented to them.

At the beginning of a change programme, it can be, at times, difficult perhaps impossible to give a clear description of what the change will look like. This can result in a hesitation to deliver any communications at all after the initial big announcement, which can lead to the circulation of rumours and this may impact the integrity of the change programme before it has even had the chance to get off the ground.

So it is important to not wait until the full information is available, as you must build an awareness of the need for change.

In this 2-part article, we will explore some of the key considerations for developing a communication strategy within your change programme.

Why is the organisation making the change?

Being able to articulate the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring are key foundations for your communication strategy. People are likely to become interested when they understand what the change involves and from that they can start to understand what’s in it for them and how it impacts their job role.

For example, is the change related to a merger of organisations which means a business process alignment is required to ensure the organisation can operate effectively? Or has there been a change in member/donor expectations and the organisation needs to adapt to their changing needs or risk a decline in member/donor retention? Equally important is being able to link the change to the business strategy, which makes it easier for stakeholders to see and understand the change programme in the wider context of organisational business objectives.

Who are we communicating with?

Stakeholder identification is the next step so that you understand which audiences – both internal and external – that need to be communicated with and the type of information they need to receive given their role in the change and the impact it may have on them. By segmenting the audiences in this way, messages can be better targeted making the communications more personalised and improving the understanding of the messages to be relayed.

For example, a board of trustees will need to receive a different level of information and in a different tone to those who are the recipients of the greatest level of change.

In the second part of this article, we’ll look at setting objectives, developing key messages and identifying how they’ll be delivered.


For more insight into the importance of a communications strategy within a change programme, join our free training programme “How to deliver successful projects”. Of particular interest among the 6 modules will be “How to deliver true organisational change” and “How to ensure your project delivers real benefit”.


So, what does a Project Manager do all day?

We fill a lot of roles in projects for our clients, but our core disciplines are project management and business analysis. We often get asked, so what does a Project Manager do all day then? Well….

They spin!

They spin around like a disco ball. Relentlessly and tirelessly spinning plans, issues, risks, resources, stakeholders and priorities. Full of energy, a project manager sees round the corner and several steps ahead. Plan A highly risky? Here is Plan B and we can spin up Plan C if needed.

Like the hundreds of facets of a disco ball, a PM manages the detail within their sphere – plans, RAID logs, status reports, budgets, resources, board papers, agendas, notes and more. The multitude of issues that need unblocking in order to drive a project forward – a project manager never loses sight of those.

From hundreds of small shiny elements comes the whole sphere of a disco ball and the bigger picture of a project. Like a disco ball firmly attached to the ceiling, a project manager is strongly aligned with the original business case at all times.

They understand the vision and purpose for the project clearly, ensuring nobody on the project loses focus or forgets it either.

Like a disco ball, reflecting the light from everything around them, a PM does not act in isolation, happily and tirelessly communicating with their team in order to facilitate decisions and find solutions. Good communication means different things to different people and a project manager adapts their approach with subject matter experts, techies or board members – Zoom or MS Teams, emails or calls, video on or video off, or sometimes perhaps only a face-to-face meeting can work.

Adding a sparkle to everything around them, a project manager drives change as part of the project. No amount of excellent project documentation or planning alone can deliver a successful project with lasting impact. A project manager needs to have enough sparkle to get buy in from their team and win hearts and minds of the people around them to drive the change required to succeed.

Relentless energy, seeing the bigger picture, whilst keeping an eye on the detail, clear and flexible communication to drive the change, a project manager undoubtedly brings a lot to the party!


Hart Square are a team of specialist project managers and consultants, who have been dedicated to the non-profit sector for over a decade. We deliver hundreds of hours of expert guidance and support to charities,  membership bodies and other non-profits every month.

We’ve recently launched our Free (for non-profits) training programme “How To Run Successful Projects” so if you’re involved with planning digital investments, implementations and project management check out the 6-part course.

Minimising the risk of employee change fatigue

We all know that real change can ultimately only happen when employees adopt new processes, practices, systems, models.

There is also a lively debate playing out, discussing whether the pandemic is a time to hang on to as much of your core as possible, bunker down and hope to ride it out, or whether now is the perfect time to drive ambitious transformational programmes. For those who want to dance in the rain, with so much disruption in play an “all bets are off” mentality can take hold and suddenly a slew of initiatives are being spun up.

Truth be told, I’m with the dancers on this one, but it’s vital we all remember that people (your employees) have endured months of rapid and constant environmental and organisational change. They’re dealing with concerns about the economy, their job security, isolation, exhaustion, their health and the health of their loved ones.

Add in an unhealthy dose of cabin fever and understandably then, employees’ risk of change fatigue is higher than ever. To combat this, your change management programme has to focus on your employee experience, and you need to be sure to appropriately manage day-to-day changes.

Tips to combat employee change fatigue:

Of the many tips offered to help combat change fatigue among employees, for me these three are the most important and most effective.

  1. Up front, make sure that your change initiatives have very clear and defined outcomes which you can describe easily. More than that, start your initiative by talking about the objectives and outcomes, not about what you’re going to go through to get there.
  2. Place a premium on people’s time. Plan your change programme in the light of the capacity of the key people involved and affected. Don’t develop a timeline for the programme and then start assessing what needs to give to achieve it. Be sensible and appropriate upfront, make sure your people have the time to drive and adopt the change.
  3. You need to lead by example. If you don’t then employees will feel they are constantly told they need to adopt change, only for the leadership team to keep on doing what they always do, and for managers to maintain the same old routines. Despite an initial surge of enthusiasm, nothing ever changes.

The risk, and irony, then is that change fatigue can set in, despite “the way we do things around here” remaining very much the same.

To learn more about change management, join our training programme “How to deliver successful projects“. The whole course is invaluable and module 3 focusses on “How to Deliver True Organisational Change“.


How GDPR-led analysis should drive your CRM data migration plan

Last month I wrote a piece using the analogy of a house move for your organisation’s data migration. Whilst describing the expected migration stages it was admittedly a little light on GDPR factors.

At Hart Square, we continue to see great progress and much ongoing work on GDPR compliance. This is especially true where a project migration becomes another catalyst for increased compliance actions.

We find our discussions about “urgent GDPR action” have normalised into newer discussions on data strategy and governance: how best to plan and do the ongoing data “chores”.

Returning to the house analogy – as it has some depth – what happens when:

  • You sit down to sort through all those data drawers as part of a house move and realise there’s more sorting to be done than you thought,
  • You find several items stacked on shelves still reading: “why have you kept me?!”

The good news is that you can and must use all activity conducted before and after 25th May 2018 to double down on your GDPR efforts during a migration – it is the perfect time to take further action.

Quick tips for blending GDPR and migration approaches for best outcomes:

  1. Source data analysis/GDPR compliance checks
    • When identifying and analysing data for migration, you naturally go back to GDPR principles:
      • What have we got and where is it?
      • Upon what lawful bases do we hold it?
      • How well is it protected and what are its retention rules?
  2. Decision making
    • GDPR-led analysis is a perfect path to the right decisions about what to migrate or not.
    • Responsible proactivity like: “we do not run that function any more so let’s not keep the data”, or “we must migrate that data. We hold it under legitimate interests”.
  3. Exclusion/Inclusion rules
    • To help with the classic dilemma – “how far back should we keep?”
    • A clear set of GDPR retention rules sets certain migration rules for you, e.g. “seven years data back for contacts’ order records as we must retain an audit trail for HMRC”.
  4. Risk management
    • These processes help with the reality if certain data sets are being retained or processed in a way that presents risk to your organisation and data subjects.
    • You may simply enforce a GDPR recommendation previously made yet not fully actioned.
  5. Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIAs)
    • It is ICO guidance and music to Hart Square ears to hear clients are conducting DPIAs for all new projects now where personal data will be affected.
    • And remember, a migration itself can be subject to its own discrete DPIA.
  6. Consent opt ins, preferences
    • Lest we miss the startlingly obvious: your migration must assure how preference centre management continues GDPR compliance in the new system and how preference data is accordingly mapped, loaded, then managed day to day.
  7. Marketing tools
    • A lot of implementation projects we see “put in” a replacement marketing tool.
    • Become the expert on how your preference data securely flows to and from all new systems
    • Know the exact points where someone may update their preferences with you

Remember – data still exists even if held in archive so do consider what constitutes data deletion, or anonymisation where deletion is not an option in migrating your data.

There is a huge payoff here regarding investment value if you focus on aligning all decision makers on the true value of the data to your organisation and your data subjects.

You can achieve both goals: abide with ICO GDPR principles, and hold highly valuable data.

One last dig for victory into the analogy then:

Doing this work well, you should reach a point in your project where you pejoratively slam the doors shut on the data van and say, as you see it sweeping off to your new home.

“I’m glad we spent the time on that. We only packed what we really need in the new place!”


Successful implementation

To learn more about system implementation management, join our training programme “How to deliver successful projects“. The whole course is invaluable and module 5 focusses on “Delivering a Successful System Implementation” including Data Migration

How to succeed at User Acceptance Testing (UAT) in a virtual environment

At Hart Square we have had to adapt to delivering projects successfully in a virtual world. We continue to focus on managing all stages of our projects and supporting our clients at the same levels of quality and effort as we did pre-pandemic. This includes running User Acceptance Testing (UAT), which forms a critical part of any technology implementation project and is critical to going live.

There are two key elements to ensure UAT is delivered successfully, which I will explore here: preparation and delivery.

Preparation is the most important element and confirms that you are ready to undertake UAT. Firstly, it is important to understand what a test script, user story and acceptance criteria are; the key lies in agreeing clear roles and responsibilities not just for for who is responsible for preparing the scripts but also explaining what the purpose of them is.

By planning enough time to get ready and understand the process for putting your scripts together, you will feel more comfortable and confident in understanding the strategy. In addition, it is critical to put in place clear roles and responsibilities for the team, including your lead for triaging issues and agreeing a process for feeding back on issues that are found.

Finally, you need to have a clear definition of a showstopper which could significantly affect the progress of the project, and other critical tasks, in advance of UAT.

Once you are fully prepared, you are then ready to move into the delivery phase of UAT. The delivery of UAT virtually will require all stakeholders to be flexible for any technology disruption. Ensuring the right technology platform is used and following a clear and detailed testing plan, which has been put together in advance, will minimize this.

There are some elements that can be included to ensure the smooth running of UAT, including starting each day with a huddle with all testers to allow any questions to be asked and ensure that everyone is clear on the approach. Clear communication is vitally important, even more so in the current environment, to ensure that any issues are identified quickly and resolved efficiently.

During the periods when testers are undertaking their UAT tasks, you should maintain a continuous central online meeting to act as a hub. Regular catch ups must also be scheduled to ensure teams can raise questions or screen share to replicate a specific issue. By having regular catch-up sessions in the day, it enables the team to raise issues and feel supported.

Throughout the testing period, it is vital to have a dedicated resource to triage issues and ensure that showstopper items are escalated first, followed by high impact items. High impact items must include those which stop process completion and therefore block further testing of key functionality. This will ensure these are prioritized for fixing and can be resolved to enable you to move forward.

Despite the challenges with running UAT virtually, by ensuring clear preparation, processes, and flexibility – with support from your technology partner – they can be delivered successfully and fulfil their purpose.

The two most important elements to any successful virtual UAT are strong and reliable communication channels and a clear and well-prepared testing plan.

With both elements in place, you can ensure that being virtual is as effective as being there in person.


Successful implementationTo learn more about system implementation management, join our training programme “How to deliver successful projects“. The whole course is invaluable and module 5 focusses on “Delivering a Successful System Implementation” including running UAT.

Do me a favour and give me a ring

I invite you to cast your minds back to a time when meetings took place in the office meeting room, when staff engagement wasn’t measured by whether or not cameras were left on and the infamous “sorry, I’ve got to jump on another call” wasn’t uttered at the end of every discussion.

Back then we were able to differentiate between a scheduled meeting with a clear agenda and a quick informal catch up, and calendars didn’t seem to be quite so focused on maximising output.

One of the (many) adverse effects of home working has been the shift in working patterns and with this a tendency to diarise and map out the entire week. Whilst it can be very useful to keep track of when colleagues are available, I can’t help but feel like having to sift through someone’s calendar for a window of availability does not encourage collaboration or even communication, and is creating distance between teams.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the unplanned and unconstrained exchanges over a coffee, after all, many of our best ideas or solutions come from agenda-less and spontaneous exchanges between colleagues.

A second adverse effect is the increase in emails that fly back and forth. With colleagues no longer sat within shouting distance, we are now resorting to email for those quick questions, but what happens when the answer isn’t so quick? We end up with a chain of 15 messages, interrupting workflow and increasing frustration with each reply that lands in your inbox. And what’s worse is that when we eventually realise that email isn’t serving for this discussion, we are now by default checking diaries to see when we can schedule a meeting to pick up the question in hand (cue cycle of sifting through colleagues’ calendars and finding a 30-minute window in 3 days’ time).

But all of this could be avoided with a simple phone call.

Yes, there is a chance that the person won’t pick up, or worse, that they do pick up only to tell you they’re unable to talk, but what if that doesn’t happen? What if you’re both able to step away from your screens, stretch your legs and maybe even share a laugh whilst being able to find the answer to the quick question.

This is not only more time efficient than both the lengthy message exchange and the scheduled meeting (which always seems to last 30 minutes, even if there is just one quick question to discuss) but let’s not forget the considerable role that chit chat has in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as being the foundation of good working relationships.

And if stress relief and relationship building aren’t good enough reasons to persuade you to reach for the phone, how about the added bonus that the invaluable task of nurturing connections can be done from anywhere. The pandemic is giving us an excuse to combine a call with a power walk, so take it!

I don’t doubt that we should continue to schedule catch-ups and watercooler sessions into our calendars to allow for regular team conversation, but such meetings serve a different purpose to the impromptu and the uninhibited chat, and cannot replace it.

So next time you want to talk to someone, do yourself a favour and give them a ring.

Top challenges faced by non-profits in 2020

The end of one year, and the start of another, offers us time to not only reflect on what was a tough year for many, but to also plan for the year ahead.

To explore your thinking at this time we asked over 1,000 non-profit leaders two big questions: what were the biggest challenges they faced in 2020 and what are the priority projects they are planning.

Download the infographic to discover the top challenges faced by non-profits in 2020 as well as the top projects being considered for the next 2 years.


Click here to download the Top challenges facing non-profits infographic to find out more

For guidance on developing your strategies, choosing the right technology partner, or embarking on a digital transformation programme, contact us at

There’s no shame in outsourcing to specialists, especially where data (migration) is concerned!

In any climate, as a responsible organisation, there is no shame in outsourcing to specialists.

I mean data in this instance, and specifically your upcoming complex data migration project.

Let’s roll back a bit first, though.

A friend and data specialist I have worked with for some time now offered a version of the house analogy during a recent conversation:

“I am the person you contact if you need help moving home!”

It is almost that simple, and the analogy has depth.

No one can tell you in infinite detail what you have in your home, why you have it, what it means to you, how you use it, what you value most and what you’ve wanted to get rid of for ages that SOMEONE insists on keeping!

I make no suggestion you outsource all responsibility, accountability or decision-making power to a third party under any circumstances.

Yet in the standard stages of data migration – analyse (collate, categorise, prioritise, clean), extract, transform, load, test, and sign-off – there is plenty of valuable support on offer.

Indeed, Hart Square has specific support built into business case, preparation and implementation services on how best to budget and plan for your data migration. We are simply not the movers!

Back to the analogy…

You may have a very proactive family with the time and expertise to sort, tidy, bin, “charity shop” and label your possessions to be shipped to your new home.

We recognise this is not always the case. Recent projects with our clients have involved crucial scrutiny of internal resource capacity and capabilities to perform data migration tasks.

This is one of the major elements of your change project to get right from the outset.

And to strike further Hart Square balance and objectivity: of course your chosen technology partner may offer these specialist data migration services for the early stages of data migration.

Remember: you have given them the big job of building your new home, fitting it out, receiving your possessions, helping you decorate and fix snags.

You must make sure your chosen partner has the resource capacity and commitment to assist you in these early stages of the process.

Before I lay out simple examples of how a specific data specialist can help you if budgets allow, let me remind us all of three key advantages of outsourcing when done well:

  1. Focus – under scrutiny, a specialist will focus on delivery undistracted by business-as-usual.
  2. Efficiency – under scrutiny, a specialist must be efficient in delivering a contract.
  3. Cost control – under scrutiny, a specialist must control the cost of this delivery.

Some practical guidance then on how and where a data specialist can support you if contracted.

Stage 1 analyse

Someone internal has got access to all existing data for its analysis. A specialist will instruct you on exactly what to export for collation, in what format, saving time and helping you start with structure.

Certain specialists offer source data analysis with recommendations. This may help you confirm suspicions about missing data, data errors, data not frequently used. This is a major catalyst in your decision making on what to keep and what to leave behind.

Certain specialists will take your data to a fresh environment and cleanse it. This needs strict scrutiny yet when well commissioned, it returns efficient, clean, structured data for migration.

Stage 2 extract

As most data is now migrated to cloud based environments, a specialist will have relevant skillsets to help you extract data from source databases and “stage” this in preparation for its migration.

Stage 3 transform

This is a real focal point for specialists. Your data is inside fields in one format now, described in code. It needs to be transformed into a new format. A specialist knows how to order data and can help you describe it in technical terms for its transformation by your technology partner.

Stage 4 load

This is interesting as it is a primary task expected of your technology partner. However, in recent experience, the weight of heavy loading may be shared between third parties. Also, a specialist can “manage your end”, ensuring data loads safely and smoothly from its current to new environment.

Stage 5 test/Stage 6 sign-off

A caveat.

You must test your own data. It is yours and you know how it should work even within new systems.

You are also responsible for accepting the final data migration before you go live. What we find is that a specialist remains valuable here as a key reference on steps taken during migration.

So look, if your internal team takes a brief like the one above, look you square in the eye and states unshakingly, “we’ve got this!” you should listen. If doubt exists, consider a third party as an option.

There is no shame in that.