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Ep6. How to build a successful project team with Joyce & Oksana

Joyce and Oksana, Business Consultant and Practice Manager at Hart Square discuss why people are the key to delivering successful projects and explore how to build a successful project team. They also discuss the importance of considering the different organisational cultures which come together in a project team, to ensure you can achieve success.

Ep5. What does digital transformation really mean for a non-profit? With Helen, Matt & Andrew

Helen, Matt and Andrew, Senior Business Change Consultants at Hart Square explore the term ‘digital transformation’ what it encompasses and whether it is just a buzzword trend or if it is something we all need to be thinking about to adapt and keep pace with the digital world.

7 top tips for Preparing for Go-Live

The go-live date is the one eagerly anticipated date everyone in the project works hard towards. However, there are many go-live activities that need careful planning and preparation to ensure it is a success.

Following the numerous go-live days we have supported, we have gathered our 7 top tips for preparing for go-live.

1. Share supporting resources:  

  • Ensure all project stakeholders have the resources to support go-live including any 3rd parties affected by the go-live date   
  • And get their time booked in and protected 

2. Plan clear roles and responsibilities:  

  • Have clear roles & responsibilities for your project team on the day of Go-Live 
  • And make sure these are published so everyone affected by the go-live knows who’s doing what 

3. Agree communication channels:  

  • Agree on suitable communications channels & frequencies to update each stakeholder group on the Go-Live day 
  • And allocate one person whose first priority is to respond to inbound communications 

4. Complete checklist:  

  • Ensure you have completed a pre go-live checklist of all key actions which is signed off before the go-live is committed to 
  • And equally, draw up a clear post go-live checklist for the Project team to sign off as agreement that the go-live is secure and robust 

5. Agree amendments 

  • Agree with the technology partners a timeline for any post go-live amendments to be completed from the testing phase 
  • And ensure everyone is clear on whether this is within the agreed budget or go-live or additional to it 

6. Plan final meeting and agree backup plans:  

  • Schedule in a final no/go meeting on the day of Go-Live with everyone present and an agreed set of decision criteria to assess 
  • And make sure you have backup plans to allow for every scenario from approving go-live to executing a rollback, with interim options for extending the go-live period, again based on clear milestones and criteria 

7. Agree post go-live support:  

  • Agree on a period of intense post go-live support with all technology partners  
  • And make sure all system users are expecting a period of disruption while the system beds in 

For guidance on delivering successful projects, choosing the right technology partner, or embarking on a digital transformation programme contact us to find out how we can help you. 

Ep 4. What can technology really enable for a non-profit? With Ian and Billy

In this episode, Ian and Billy, Business Change Consultants at Hart Square, dive into what technology can really enable for charities and membership organisations. They explore the benefits that new technology can provide both internally to the organisation but also externally to their members, supporters and donors.

Agile Planning Done Right

Agile…

It’s a term that you are sure to hear from nearly every one of the technology partners that we work with. While a few claim that they are fully Agile, many others will tell you that they work in a hybrid way.

Typically, in my experience, the majority of our partners will combine a Waterfall discovery process and full, end-to-end specification, with an iterative Agile development. But there is more to Agile than simply developing and releasing in bursts. While you may be nervous starting a project without defining all your needs in detail, Agile is not a methodology that lacks a plan. In fact, a cycle of planning and re-planning is baked into the method.

Agile is not a methodology that lacks a plan

Where’s my specification?

Yes, it’s true…

When working in a fully Agile project you will not be given a detailed specification. Instead, after the discovery process you will receive a number of high-level Features. These features will describe the functionality required but not at the same level of detail as a ‘Waterfall’ specification. The full project team, both partner and client, will then meet to agree the Feature roadmap, assign effort (budget), and agree the ‘minimum viable product’ – the smallest, most high-value, functionality that you require for your business-as-usual at go live.

This approach is not disadvantageous; it is highly collaborative, with the partner able to comment on the likely complexity of the work required to support your needs, with you providing insight into your business priorities, and the highest value functional items, to agree a delivery roadmap. The process cannot work without this symbiotic relationship between partner and client.

And, importantly, this relationship continues throughout the development sprints.

Agile (Adjective); Able to move quickly and easily

A detailed specification provides reassurance; everything you think you need is written down and you have signed it off. But what if things change? The Discovery process missed something? Or, when Sprint 3 starts, the partner suddenly realises that the requirements are more complex than first assumed. All these items result in change requests, additional cost, and additional time. With little opportunity for you to understand or discuss them or investigate alternative approaches.

Because an Agile methodology continues to define the detailed requirements (user stories) throughout the development process, there continues to be a very close and collaborative relationship between you the client and the partner. This means that you can change, adapt, and reprioritise your requirements as the business changes. It enables discussion around the full range of potential solutions to a business need, whether a fully automated technical solution, or a change to your business processes, as you see and learn about your new systems, and it means that the project can flex within the budget available.

It’s a Sprint, not a Marathon

Each development Sprint is preceded by a dedicated planning session where the whole project team, including the partner’s business analysts and developers, will meet to discuss the users stories, the effort (and therefore the budget) required to deliver them and their value to the business. The backlog of undelivered user stories can be stack ranked (prioritised) and many user stories parked before development effort is spent on them.

This continuous cycle of discovery, user story prioritisation and planning for each and every Sprint empowers you as the client; it allows you to understand the impact on the project budget of each and every deliverable, and make better decisions based on the cost versus value of every item. This level of transparency and collaboration throughout the development, I believe, can often be missing from a hybrid approach leading to higher costs and an extended timeline.

 

There are many myths about the Agile Methodology, and it is certainly a very different project experience for a client. The lack of an upfront, detailed specification, however, does not mean that Agile lacks a plan. In fact, when Agile is done right the opposite is true, but with more opportunity to flex, change and adapt as the project progresses, and your business changes.

How Can Non-Profit Organisations Benefit from SEO?

SEO is not only essential for businesses, it is also beneficial for non-profit organisations. In fact, it is a practical and extremely cost-effective way of obtaining online traffic. Although optimising a website can take a lot of time and effort, it is still a lot cheaper than using any other marketing strategies.      

What is SEO and how can it help non-profit organisations?

Search engine optimisation is a strategy that organisations use to boost their search engine ranking. Appearing at the top of the search results can make it easy for:  

  • Donors to provide financial support  
  • Volunteers to offer their time and labour 
  • Potential members to find out more about membership opportunities and benefits 

Relevant content can also help convince people to invest in your cause. For these reasons, you could argue that non-profit organisations need SEO more than any other business. This article will outline the most suitable optimisation strategies to generate online traffic.     

What SEO strategies are suitable for non-profits?

  1. Identify and use the right keywords  

Keywords can help you:  

  • Write content that is relevant to your target audience 
  • Find inspiration for your article topics 

The target keyword or phrase informs search engines such as Google about the main topic of your content. By identifying the right keywords, you will be able to generate the type of queries that you are ranking for.  

Keywords are essential, but you need to remember that you are creating content for people not search engines. Don’t force the keywords; instead, make it a natural process. 

You should start collecting high-value keywords by identifying the words and phrases that are significant to your organisation, supporters and donors. In addition: 

  • Understand the search volume – the average number of searches for your target keyword every month 
  • Find out how competitive your target keyword is – do other sites use the exact same keywords?  

You can determine the search volume and level of competition by utilising keyword reporting tools. 

What SEO keyword tools are suitable for my non-profit organisation? 

If you take advantage of tools and software (such as SEMrush) that offer free trials or free versions, you will be able to determine:  

  • Your keywords and their search volume 
  • Your site’s ranking 
  • Which websites are ranking for your keywords 

These software tools can also monitor your ranking and progress. 

Understanding your keyword search volume  

A low search volume can be misleading. The keywords that non-profits use are often based on a specific niche. As a result, it is likely that the software may report a zero or low monthly search volume. 

It is essential that you optimise the words and phrases that explain who you are and your cause. For example, if you run an animal shelter or a dog adoption service a professional membership organisation, make sure your keywords are relevant to the searcher as this will boost your online traffic.  

Don’t focus on keywords with the sole purpose of targeting high search volumes. Pick the words or phrases that embody your mission and goals.     

           2. Incorporate engaging content that targets your readers and provide an excellent user experience  

Google tends to give higher rankings to sites that give people fast and accurate information. It is not a good idea to force your visitors to navigate through endless pages or huge swathes of text. Providing high-quality content involves giving something valuable to your readers. However, you also need to present the information in a format that is easy to follow. Make it appealing so it will have an instant impact on the hearts and minds of your target audience. 

It is quite easy to publish and share content online, but there is also intense competition. In a saturated market, it is vital that you publish distinct and focused content.       

How to create focused content 

Before drafting your content, you need to understand what your target audience may be interested in. Try to identify what the readers will consider valuable from their perspective. How can you inspire them to support your cause? Incorporate concise and tailored information that is designed to grab their attention. 

High-quality content should be: 

  •  Written in easy-to-understand language 
  •  Always on topic and well-organised 
  •  Presented from a different perspective  
  •  Created for a specific audience and purpose 

Your content can take various forms, such as: 

  • Blog posts 
  • Video posts (for example, YouTube) 
  • Visuals – infographics, photos or screenshots 

It is also vital that you provide the best user experience possible as this will enable you to obtain a higher ranking. Google prefers websites that: 

  • Are quick to load 
  • Use intuitive navigation 
  • Provide easy-to-locate content 
  • Are mobile-friendly 

This last point is crucial as Google follows a mobile-first index. This means that mobile-friendly sites are often listed on the first results page.  

Many websites offer a beginner’s guide to search engine optimisation. Most if not all experts agree that eye-catching content and an excellent user experience are the most important SEO factors.    

          3. Apply on-page and off-page tactics to your website   

‘On-page’ refers to everything directly affecting your website and its impact on: 

  • How Google and users understand your content 
  • The types of keywords you are ranking for  

Here are the on-page elements you should utilise: 

  • Title Tag – This is the clickable blue text in the search results. You can optimise title tags by creating a unique but engaging title. Don’t forget to include a keyword for the page. If possible, place the target keyword at the very left-hand side of the title tag. Google may only display 55 or 60 characters so you need to keep the title tag within the limit. 
  • Meta description – This is the text located below the title tag. Although meta descriptions may not directly affect your site’s ranking, they can boost the number of clicks. Make sure that each page contains a unique meta description that is relevant to your readers. Also, include a call-to-action to encourage users to click on your other pages.     
  • Headings – The titles and headings give structure to your writing and manage your readers’ expectations. When keywords are added to the headers, Google can evaluate your page’s relevance to a search query.  
  • Search engines cannot read an image. This is why you need to include alternative or ALT texts. They will appear if visitors cannot see the image. You can also include keywords in the ALT texts to optimise your pages and increase their relevance 
  • Internal linking – Linking internally to your other pages can help visitors discover new content on your site. You can link sections which detail your past events to upcoming activities. 

Meanwhile, off-page refers to ranking factors outside your website. The most effective off-site strategy involves creating backlinks. The more backlinks the better as Google considers them to be a sign of a website’s authority and credibility.    

You can gather these links by reaching out to online publishers and news sites. Ask for them to be included in their upcoming articles and enquire as to whether they will incorporate a link to your website. You can also provide a link to your campaign page that will help readers to: 

  • Learn more about your non-profit organisation 
  • Make a donation 
  • Purchase a ticket 

           4. Use local SEO to increase awareness 

Local SEO is a specialised strategy that is designed to increase awareness within your community. The best method is to obtain a Google My Business (GMB) listing for your non-profit organisation. You can also include branded keywords that you are associated with, such as: 

  • ‘Home for Pets adoption’ 
  • ‘Pet adoption, England’ 

Conclusion

You should think of SEO as working out to get in shape; it is beneficial every time you do it, but it may take some time before you and your target audience notice the difference. Nevertheless, if you want to succeed, you need to implement an SEO strategy that is suitable for your non-profit group. This will help you increase your site’s organic traffic, donations and visitor engagement. Tools such as Moz and Google Search Console can provide helpful hints for your SEO efforts.  

Why sorting your data is critical to the success of your new CRM implementation

Driven by the need to improve engagement with donors and supporters, services for members, and their own internal effectiveness, non-profits across the UK are routinely looking for new digital systems. Now facing the constraints of pandemic-hit funding and the recession which may well be on the horizon, many need new systems to enable them to meet the demands to “do more with less”.

Whilst it’s not always easy to know where to start, for many the imperative is to implement a modern CRM to bring their people and processes together, to connect up and be the home of their data, and to become the power behind their effective operations.

The third sector is all about relationships, so having a CRM solution at the heart of your digital engagement strategy is a must-have for any modern non-profit which wants to prosper. Moreover, it needs to function as the hub of your integrated digital solutions suite.

Having a CRM solution at the heart of your digital engagement strategy is simply a must-have for an effective modern non-profit

I’m certainly not suggesting having a well-designed and implemented CRM is the panacea for everything we face right now, and if you’re reading this and thinking “yes that’s where I’m at right now, we’re going to need to find and implement a new CRM” then I have many questions to ask, but can I start by asking you whether you’ve got full knowledge and governance over your data? If not, have you initiated a project to get your data in order?

That’s right, you haven’t even made the business case for a strategic investment in a change programme driven by new technology, let alone define the series (and sequence) of the projects which will form your digital transformation programme, and I’m asking whether you’ve made a start on your data migration!

Seriously, isn’t data a dull backwater we’ll just sort out when we need to?

Not at all is the answer there. Your data is fundamental to your ultimate success. Your future engagement strategy and related investment in new technology are based on being able to leverage your data, as information which informs your priorities, your plans, your actions.

So having good clean data you can access, mine and use is a key goal which means you need to know what you’ve got, understand its value, keep the information which will help you and ditch that which won’t.

Hark back to GDPR principles, catalogue your data, justify holding it, appoint guardians and owners, and get to work on it. Yes, I know you’re still writing your business case but time is of the essence here and we see way too many CRM implementation projects take far longer than they should – than they needed to – just because the data isn’t ready. Honestly, it’s a really expensive mistake to make.

Now start to plan the migration. To get an appropriate amount of data out of old, disparate, disconnected systems and into a new highly-functional, connected CRM you’ll need to consolidate and rationalise, you need to clean and de-dupe, and to document what you’re going to want in your new solution.

I’ll write more about the actual data migration strand of your project in the next weeks but will stop here for now, noting that none of the tasks and activities I’ve recommended you get started on is reliant on you knowing what technology you’re going to implement. So you don’t have to wait for the business case to be agreed upon, requirements gathering, or a tendering exercise to take place, you can make a start now.

Hey, even if you don’t end up initiating a change programme and a CRM replacement project for months or even years yet, this will be a valuable piece of work. You’ll have cleaner data and a better understanding of it so you can then put it to work!

 

Are you looking to get started on your digital transformation journey?

Get in touch to find out how we can help you achieve your digital ambitions 

High-level CRM principles to adopt

We often get asked by clients for some high-level principles they need to adopt to ensure they get the most out of the new CRM solution they intend to implement.

The purpose of sharing them is usually to ensure that they can stay focused, maximise the benefit to be achieved from the product and solution, and keep within scope of the project.

In no particular order, some of the key points we make are

  • CRM is not a technology, it’s a strategy and a culture
  • Automate where appropriate, not just because you can
    • Prioritise standard processes where you’re looking to build in efficiency for staff and consistency for members / audiences
    • The biggest wins are the heavy lifting of base administration, with no real value add, examples being
      • Welcome letters
      • Renewal reminders
      • Nurture programmes
      • Event joining instructions
      • Surveys
  • Adopt best practice where possible, from the technologies and from the partners
    • There will be areas which are very specific to you, but not too many. You’re unique because of what you do and the cause you serve, not because of how you do it
  • Give everyone access to the system, it is not for the chosen few
    • Lead from the top, your CEO must have an account, use it and talk about it
  • Capture all interaction with all audiences
    • Categorise and classify as much as possible, minimise free text entry
  • Use Case Management to handle multiple scenarios, it’s a really powerful for collating tasks around processes where tracking and visibility are important and multiple people may be involved
    • Start with basic inbound enquiry management using task queues & workflows
  • Give suitable priority to search / query / find / reports / dashboards
    • Staff will value the system most if it’s easy to find the information they need to perform their jobs
  • You need Champions, ongoing beyond just the project
    • This is not a status or hierarchy role, you need influencers, a mix of supporters and doubters, who will be engaged
  • Set out to enhance incrementally but continually
    • With changes managed and gatekept
    • Suggestions sought, pipeline shared transparently
  • Training documents, user manuals are vital, written by the business teams, and maintained by them
    • Short videos are a great format for these
  • Data, data, data
    • Be strict on what you migrate, think GDPR minimalism
    • It is the first visible sign of success or failure for staff
    • It must be governed on an ongoing to maintain integrity, as an active activity with responsibilities across teams for the data they use

These have evolved over the years of course but our clients have found them useful, I hope you do too. Do use the Comments to add your thoughts, we’re always keen to hear from you!

 

How can my organisation become digitally mature?

How can my organisation become digitally mature?

At Hart Square, we have the privilege of working with a range of different organisations right across the non-profit sector. Recently many of them have been placing a strong emphasis on improving their digital capabilities and their all-round use of technology.

Against this backdrop, one question arises regularly: how do organisations become ‘digitally mature’ or a ‘digital first’ organisation?

Understanding what being digitally mature means can be a challenging first question, and it will mean different things for different organisations.

McKinsey Consulting, in their article “What Does Digital Mean” defined it as:

Digital is less a thing and more a way of doing things

So how can your organisation develop its level of digital maturity and reach a place where you’re happy with your way of doing things? There are several elements which an organisation should consider, and we will analyse a couple below.

Critical factors in this are the culture and skills within the organisation.

In a digitally mature organisation, there needs to be a focus on developing people’s skills, allowing experimentation to take place and creating a culture that values the learnings that come from failure. Of course, skillset is an important aspect but equally important is the culture of your organisation. Conditions need to facilitate new ways of working and giving people the tools they need to push the organisation forward.

This is acknowledged in the 2019 Charity Digital Skills report by Zoe Amar, where 56% of charities are asserted to be taking active steps to improve their culture so digital can flourish.

Customer experience and understanding your audiences are other important factors.

This does not necessarily mean you should just have the latest digital ‘fad’ but instead understand how and where your audiences are engaging. To ensure you can continue to respond to your customers’ needs, you need to put the right infrastructure and processes in place to implement a continuous cycle of development which evolves over time.

Each organisation will have their own way of judging if they are ‘digitally mature’ but in a rapidly changing digital ecosphere the goal posts will continue to move.

That is why its more critical than ever to put in place the right processes, people and infrastructure that will allow your organisation to flourish and evolve. If your organisation can do things in the right way, it will be more than capable of reaching and sustaining the digital maturity you desire.

Is a digital strategy a thing of the past?

At Hart Square, we have a lot of conversations around digital strategy and digital transformation with clients across the NFP sector. As organisations continue to rapidly evolve their thinking in this area, one question keeps coming up again and again; is having a digital strategy an organisational necessity or should digital simply be integrated into wider organisational strategies?

For years, charities and NFP organisations have been trying to increase their digital capacity with increasing focus on developing more web-based offerings and harnessing new technology to raise more funds, engage more deeply with their audiences and collect higher quality data. But when asked in the Charity Digital study, conducted by Zoe Amar in 2019, 67% said that they still want to use digital to increase their impact. This would suggest that digital is still not ingrained in the culture and strategies of these organisations.

This is also something that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been looking at, concluding that,

Transformation should be the focus not technology, technology enables an organisation to change and enhance strategies.

But how does this translate into practice? What would your organisation need to make lasting transformation happen? How do you focus on transformation without technology being your focus?

A critical factor here is that behind any change, there needs to be a focus on how this would integrate with your organisations’ overarching strategy and vision. When you know what you want to achieve and what benefit it will bring to the organisation, you can then start to look at what tools, resources and skills are needed to make it happen.

Equally key will be ensuring that there is enough digital leadership within the organisation. As with delivering on any strategy, everyone will need to buy into this transformation, understanding its impact and their part in making it happen. This will naturally need leadership at all levels of your organisation, something that not everyone feels they have.

To quote the 2019 Charity Digital study, 58% of respondents said their charities have fair to low skills in digital leadership.

With digital now permeating across everyday business as usual activity, it’s more important than ever to ask yourself how digital transformation can support the vision and aims of your organisation. Digital should be a key pillar of any organisational strategy, front of mind when looking at how to achieve your aims, whether that is in supporter engagement, delivering services or growing impact.

Digital and technology will continue to be omnipresent across the sector and leaders will need to adapt to ensure that they are able to leverage the full value of organisation-wide digital transformation.

Interested in leading digital thinking and best practice? Join us for chase.livestream from September 8th to 10th for more great insight. Register for free at https://chase.live