Information and Communication Technology
High quality information and communications technology (ICT) provides staff with valuable information when they need it, supports service planning and improves efficiency. Low quality ICT support reduces efficiency and limits organisational effectiveness because staff do not have the information they require to proactively manage the organisation or service delivery.
On average, organisations that we work with spend 3.2% of their total organisational expenditure on ICT. The largest proportion of this investment is in communications services, followed by the base IT environment.
Since we started working with NFPs to benchmark their ICT services, there have been substantial shifts in how ICT services are delivered and the associated infrastructure and software practices and costs.
Additional benchmarking data is also available in the ICT in the not-for-profit sector study that Nous completed with Infoxchange, Connecting Up and TechSoup NZ in 2015.
What we have learnt
ICT investment is affected by many factors - The number of sites an organisation operates from, the number of staff, whether and how volunteers are supported, and the scope and quality of ICT services are just some of the variables that affect ICT investment.
Underinvestment is common - Historically many NFPs have under-invested in ICT relative to other benchmarks in other sectors.
An organisation’s size is not a barrier to achieving adequate ICT services IT - Size and complexity are not always barriers to establishing satisfactory IT capability.
Securing skilled IT resources and deciding where to direct scarce resources are the biggest challenges for CIOs - For most NFPs the challenge is two-fold: where to improve their IT and how to achieve it. They worry about keeping pace with technology changes to identify where to direct their IT investment, and find it difficult to recruit the right people to implement these changes.
Staff satisfaction is significantly affected by system and helpdesk responsiveness - If staff rely upon systems which are physically remote from their location, sufficient communications bandwidth is a key consideration. Helpdesk responsiveness, knowledge and approach to customer service are also critical to ensuring staff are satisfied with IT services.
How to deliver more efficient and effective ICT services
Develop an ICT plan - The presence of an ICT plan allows NFPs to clearly identify areas of investment in ICT operations in order to operate efficiently, generate revenue, and measure program outcomes. The absence of a formal plan can therefore impact an organisation’s ability to focus on the ‘right’ IT areas and be aware of what capability is already available.
Openly communicate with business lines –Working closely with business areas ensures that consistent and optimal ICT services are provided and minimises the risk of ‘rogue’ ICT services that misalign with the organisation’s ICT strategies, guidelines and policies.
Get on the right telecommunications contract - A wide range of contracts are available to NFP organisations, which can provide organisations with cost effective telecommunications services. However, the contract must be matched with an organisation’s usage profile, service offers and pricing changes regularly. The advice of a telecommunications specialist can be well worth it.
Get the foundations right for efficient and high quality helpdesk services - NFPs with high levels of staff satisfaction with helpdesk services: communicate their response times and protocols with all staff; ensure that helpdesk staff have excellent customer service skills; understand the environment and have a good relationship with staff; and track most common tasks over time to identify how these can be automated or incorporated into a self-help facility on an intranet site.