What does digital transformation mean in reality for non-profits

Lunchtime at TechsmartNFP 2019 saw a panel discussion around one of the sector catchphrases of 2019: digital transformation. The premise being, it may be all the rage but what does it mean in reality for non-profits.

It was a lively session, addressing important topics, and some key elements were captured below for a wider audience to benefit from.

To discuss this hot topic, we put together a panel comprising gigital technology experts

  • Gordon Glenister, Global Head of Influencer Marketing, Branded Content Marketing Association
  • Marc Goblot, Founder/Digital tech Consultant and Architect, Ina Ciel Digital Ltd
  • Panel Chair Sarah Hathaway, Chief Operating Officer, Institute of Student Employers

Evolution or revolution?

To kick off the debate, Marc and Gordon filled delegates in on their own work backgrounds and what they are doing now, with Marc spending many years in the creative industries as a lead technologist before joining Accenture and then founding Ina Ciel, a specialised digital experience technology consultancy. Gordon has been a business professional for more than 30 years, helping organisations understand that membership communities are a key part of their marketing strategies.

Marc says: “Digital transformation is embedding digital technology into everything you do and how you work, but it’s really about how it’s going to help you deliver more value, operate more efficiently and deliver what members/customers/constituents want and need from you.”

“An organisation’s strategy is extremely important but digital transformation means different things to different people. You have to really think about your audience and their personas – how are you going to communicate with them?,” says Gordon.

Question: What can technology enable?

Marc: Technology can automate, centralise and manage your data, derive value for you, enable you to scale your activities, connect everything you do together so data flows smoothly both internally and externally.

It allows you to deliver your messages and creates channels for you to do that, so that you can reach the people you want to reach. However, to get out to where they are, you have to be aware of the channels you need to use to achieve this.

Gordon: Technology should allow organisations to be completely member-focused. However, organisations don’t always have people and resources for a large CRM change. AI is important but focus on the CRM that you need, that is fit for purpose and imagine what that might look like or what you might look like over the next few years.

Question: What does transition look like?

Gordon: It’s a step change – gradually involve all your stakeholders and staff – don’t hit them with everything at once. Think about a new website but involve your constituents/customers – what do they want out of it? Remember, audience first.

Marc: Many organisations are working in their traditional silos. Think about what needs to be done – everyone should be aligned to the common goals of the organisation. Develop teams based around capabilities and an end to end journey – align yourself to that rather than functional silos.

Question: Many organisations are operating with very small teams – they don’t have dedicated technology people/data scientists – what are their options?

Marc: Build more collaboration – partner with someone who can provide the capabilities that you need – develop the links you need outside your organisation.

Gordon: Until you start to collaborate, you won’t know what is out there – it’s a question of finding the resources you require – think about what you need.

Take-away quotes:

Gordon: “Digital transformation is not just something that might be nice for you to have, it is essential.”

Marc: “I have seen how non-profits have developed since the 1990s and what I believe now is that it is very important for you to take the lessons learned in other sectors to help on your own digital transformation journey.”

Sarah: “Staff should feel that they have been part of the transformation and it’s not something that has just been done to them.”