Best Ways for Charities to Plan and Create Digital Workplaces

Not-for-profit organisations are potentially the employers with the least available cash to invest in modern technology. This means many UK charities are playing catch up, trying to match the expectations of their stakeholders with their communications and management capabilities.

However, just like all other UK organisations, they need to become far more lean and agile in their business processes and systems in order to remain “competitive” and face the challenges ahead.

Apart from needing to find the money to invest in new software and cloud platforms, charities need to make sure new system implementation is as smooth as possible. No charity can afford to be distracted or unstable, especially when the fight to stay in the public’s consciousness is harder than ever.

So what do charities need to do, to create a digital workplace with a tight control on costs and timescales?

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Measured planning

Firstly, create an overarching plan to take your digital capabilities and capacity well in to the future. Piecemeal “patches” and ad hoc updates may seem to be the most cost-effective solution, but they may be counterproductive long-term when the cracks start showing.

Instead, create a vision for what your digital workplace needs to look like and the benefits you want it to bring. Include in that your current status, in terms of management demands and communication needs. Also factor in how your working practices and systems may change going forwards.

With careful thought and planning, you can be far more sure that the investment you make provides software and systems with ample room for growth and fluctuation.

Careful planning and thorough research also enables you to be far more focused on the ways in which your chosen software will streamline and improve how your organisation functions. This means a far more succinct rate of return.

At the very least, you need to create a digital workplace to automate as many of the mundane but crucial tasks as possible, especially when it comes to financial management and compliance. This can leave your management and staff with far more time to work on innovation and experimentation – the activities that can bring in more grants and donations and stimulate more fundraising initiatives.

Road map implementation

Charity managers, when provided with a “new toy” in the form of far more responsive and versatile digital working systems, can sometimes get a little carried away. System implementation should never be rushed, even when the need is great and the investment substantial.

Create a measured road map for how the new digital workplace will be introduced. Your software supplier will be a great help with this, providing proven timescale suggestions.

What are the likely sticking points and obstacles of a new system implementation? How can the changeover be organised to avoid admin bottle necks or seasonal variations in your workload? Is there a stepped process to go through that enables either software e-learning or actual staff training to slot around work schedules?

The planning you do to switch over to your new digital work system, can potentially take as long as actually making the changes. However, this time investment is crucial to ensure a seamless adoption of a digital workplace, with little or no disruption to the charity’s daily functioning.

Engage staff and keep them informed

There needs to be an equal emphasis on time invested in securing “buy in” from staff and volunteers – and potentially your client groups too – if your new digital workplace system will impact on the way they interact with your charity.

Your stakeholders all need to know the reasons for the changeover, how this will affect them, and the clear benefits of passing through a transitional phase. Even change for the most positive of reasons can be viewed with suspicion, particularly if your charity employs staff or volunteers who were former service-users.

Your reliability and “comfort” factor can’t be undermined – you don’t want to make your clients or teams feel disorientated or disenfranchised during the new system implementation.

This could mean building numerous communication exercises and initiatives into your planning. It may also mean providing clear points of contact at all times, to iron out any confusion or concern about switching your digital workplace systems over.

Measure and promote value

The need for your new digital workplace to offer a clear return on investment has already been mentioned. However, as a charity it is recommended that implementation plans include ongoing methods and processes to measure effectiveness.

This can help you to make any necessary tweaks and changes during the transitional phase. Any software provider and technical support team worth their “salt”, should be ready and able to respond to changing needs.

Constant measurement of the effectiveness of your new digital workplace has other benefits too. It provides you with unequivocal evidence of why the investment was needed and you can go back to stakeholders with performance value criteria. It also gives you vital building blocks for the future.

One of the most strategic advantages of a digital workplace is that it provides capacity to grow and develop, and it will keep pace with your not-for-profit organisation’s ever-changing needs.

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