3 Rules for Buying New Technology

Originally published on Sage70.com

Whether you’re just switching over from Constant Contact to Mailchimp, or taking the plunge and implementing a custom Salesforce solution, change is hard. For all the promised benefits of new technology, the success rate for adopting new tools is low, and that’s frightening.

What can leaders do to help staff adopt new technologies successfully?

Technology change isn’t easy. Workers need to adopt a new workflow, re-learn how to perform familiar tasks, sometimes on new equipment that they’re not familiar with. To help ease the transition, here are three rules for IT change management.

 

3 Rules for Users and Technology Change

  • New tools must be generous to the user. If users need to put information into the system, then they must be rewarded with useful and relevant information out of the system right away. If users need to interact with the system frequently, it should be user-friendly and accessible from within the user’s normal workflow.
  • Systems that are used prospectively are adopted more easily than systems that are used retrospectively. In other words, tools that ask people to report on their work are less attractive and relevant to users than tools that make their work easier to do.
  • Everyone who uses the new tool has the right to give feedback and receive training. If you need a lot of people to stop using one system and begin using another, getting their feedback about the move, providing training, and then getting feedback again is critical. It helps buy more people into the process, allays some fears, and can help identify unexpected problems or issues. Remember, some users will need training for even the most intuitive tools.

Technology change is really about people. New tools should help them do their job by providing new data and insights, simpler workflows, and more time leverage. If you’re considering a technology “upgrade” that doesn’t provide that to your organization, you may be headed down the wrong path. Listen to your employees, provide training up front, and let users experience the benefits of the new tool as soon as possible.

Isaac is the president and founder of Sage70, Inc. Isaac brings over a decade of experience in the non-profit and for-profit venture ecosystems. Isaac has served as Executive Director of Storahtelling, COO of Birthright Israel NEXT and is an experienced technologist and strategist.

Top 10 Reasons to Go to the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference!

On March 17-19, NTEN will host its annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, DC. The Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online will be there, and we think you should join us. NTC_vert_rgbWhy? Thought you’d never ask … 10) You’ll get to learn from experts in the nonprofit sector in person and learn from their practical experience. 9) Speaking of, where else will you get to attend sessions facilitated by rockstars like Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, authors of “The Networked Nonprofit,” Wendy Harman, of the American Red Cross and Stacy Monk, founder of Epic Change and Tweetsgiving campaigns? (See our list of the top 10 must-attend sessions.) 8 ) A wide range of nonprofit professionals—executives directors, marketing and communications professionals, development and program staff—and organizations will be there. 7) It’s a great way to step outside the silo of our community while creating partnerships and mentorships within it. 6) It’s fun! NTC is not your average stuffy professional conference. You get to enjoy ice cream bars at the mid-afternoon break and cocktails with friends at the After-Party. Yes, you read that right—ice cream and cocktails! 5) We’re offering a discount to the members of our network (see below for how to take advantage). 4) The adventurous-and-always-fun-to-learn-from Esther Kustanowitz will be there. 3) Can we get you a warm chocolate chip cookie with that ice cream bar? 2) Guaranteed free wifi throughout the conference. You’re encouraged to fool around on your iPad/blackberry/laptop during sessions—but only if you’re tweeting or live blogging. Finally, the #1 reason why we think you should join us at NTEN this year is … 1) We’re hosting two really awesome gatherings just for you! The first will take place on the morning of Thursday, March 17, before the NTC officially gets underway. We will gather from 9 am – noon, using these three hours to:

  • Get an update on the state of the Jewish digital union, including a debrief of the results of the Jewish New Media Innovation Fund;
  • Discuss the new rules of the digital game and how they apply to your work;
  • Hear a few case studies of leading practices in the Jewish and nonprofit sectors; and
  • Work through an obstacle-busting exercise based on the issues your organization is facing.

The second gathering will be Friday evening for a light and easy Shabbat dinner. Come to eat, schmooze and continue the conversations sparked by Thursday’s gathering. Nothing fancy—just food, new friends and some time to TGIF. You do not have to register for the entire NTC conference to attend these events (though we do encourage it). Sold? Ready for next steps? Great! A) Sign up for NTEN. To take advantage of our special rate, you will need to follow these steps:

  • If you’re new to NTEN, you’ll have to set up a free and easy account. (Or login to your NTEN account.)
  • Go to 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference
  • Select “Darim Online” in the “How did you hear?” field when registering to receive the NTEN member rate.

B) Fill out this form to let us know you are coming and if we can expect you for Thursday’s gathering, Shabbat Dinner and/or the entire conference. Again, you don’t have to register for the NTEN conference to join us at one or both of these events. C) Take care of the details like transportation and hospitality. D) Let us know if you have any questions. Until next time! Your friends at CLSFF and Darim Online

Jewish Education 3.0: A Revolution in the Making

je3 logo

Kudos to the Lippman Kanfer Institute at JESNA for launching their JE3 project, Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making! [Full disclosure: your friends over here at Darim were involved in its development]

The project revolves around the question: “What does it means to ‘do’ Jewish education in a 21st century digital world?” The JE3 site features a core narrative that explores various aspects of the integration of technology-facilitated: visions of Jewish learning, the transformation of learning and teaching, examples from the field, concerns and challenges. Along with this context-setting narrative, the site provides a platform for articles from leading Jewish educators.

Want to get in on the conversation? Read, reflect, respond… submit materials, add comments to articles, tweet using the hashtag #jed21…. C’mon over….!

The Reform Movement Should Make the Most of this Moment

As far as Rabbi Eric Yoffie is concerned, Reform congregations need to get with the program, technologically speaking, and they need to do so now. At the recent URJ Biennial in Toronto, the movements head delivered his annual sermon and used the opportunity to encourage every congregation to think seriously about harnessing the power of the internet to enhance their communities:

[T]he web potentially at least empowers our members and democratizes our synagogues. The synagogue is the grassroots address of the Jewish world, and the web gives us an instrument to involve and include Jews as never before. Are our synagogues doing great things in this area? Absolutely. Are we making the most of this potential? Not even close.

Yoffies challenge to congregations is to be applauded. Too many synagogues and Jewish schools have an attitude towards tech thats generations (a relative term, I know) behind their congregants and students who all have Facebook accounts, use Twitter, and are never more than an arms length from their Blackberries and iPhones. But the movements approach to addressing this issue an organized program to train lay leaders to create and maintain congregational blogs is only a first step. The Reform movement has an incredible opportunity on its hands, a chance to take the next steps and to get a lot more serious about using technology to build and strengthen communities.

Four suggestions for maximizing this moment:

1. Congregations should form committees (or task forces) to develop thoughtful strategies for using technology to increase the efficacy of communication. Rabbi Yoffie is right that blogs are a great way for synagogue members to connect online. But there are lots of other technologies social networking, microblogging, podcasting, mass texting that also might be useful to synagogues. And there are those congregations for whom blogging might not be the best fit. Every synagogue should gather their most technologically savvy members (and some socially savvy connectors, if were going to take Malcolm Gladwells advice) to make these sort of decisions for the community. Should the temple have a Facebook page, and if so what kinds of things should be posted there? If the synagogue has a Twitter account, who should be charged with maintaining it? And how often should they tweet? The URJ could be indispensible in providing consultants and experts to help congregations get on this path.

2. Technology can help Reform congregations do an even better job of running organizations that live up to the highest values of the movement. Imagine if a synagogue lived up to its commitment to environmentalism by going totally paper-free. The synagogue staff uses Google Docs to collaborate on projects. Rabbis project Temple announcements (and other administrivia) up on a screen during services so that programs dont need to be printed every week. Instead of spending lots of paper and money on a newsletter, members receive a monthly email newsletter, as well as frequent updates on Facebook and Twitter. Lots of congregations are using all these technologies, and theyre preventing lots of paper waste in the process. The Union can support congregations new to these technologies by teaching professionals to use these tools, empowering congregants with tech skills to be leaders in their communities, and by pairing temples at the beginning of this journey with those whove already found success.

3. Technology is an important part of the future of Jewish education. Im not talking about educational video games. Im talking about using tools to help learners connect deeply to Jewish text, about helping schools better communicate with parents, about using inexpensive video conferencing to bring diverse teachers to isolated Jewish communities. Education is a central part of a synagogues mission, and we need to be asking new questions about how learning is changing. How can we utilize new technologies like Google Wave, Twitter, and YouTube to allow for collaborative (hevruta for the new generation!) learning? How can the internet help us engage (and empower!) parents and families in new ways? How can we use technology to open up the world of Jewish education to better integrate the arts, science, and communication?

Thirty years ago, innovative Jewish educators were using filmstrips, slideshows, and video to bring Torah to life. Now, equally innovative educators are using Flash animation, social media, and hypertextuality to accomplish those same goals. The URJ should nurture and support these sorts of projects and help to bring those tools to congregations and their learners.

4. Technology is an excellent opportunity for collaboration. In the few days before the URJ Biennial, a group of educators gathered for a pre-conference symposium on Jewish identity. One of the teachers at that gathering was Professor Ari Kelman who shared research that suggests that the current generation of young, involved Jews (many of whom are digital natives, if you dont mind sweeping generalizations) are redefining affiliation by resisting joining a single organization, and rather participating in lots of diverse parts of Jewish life. For these Jews, no single institution is the center of Jewish life.

Institutions that pay attention to thinkers like Kelman realize that successful Jewish organizations of the future will be marked by cooperation and collaboration. They also know that efficient and financially responsible Jewish organizations are the ones that dont insist on re-inventing the wheel but rather seek out partner organizations with different types of expertise. To truly move forward to empower member congregations to embrace a 21st-Century social-media-savvy technologically-engaged existence, the Union should seek out organizations, educators, clergy, innovators, experts, academics and thinkers who can help congregations do their best work.

Perfect example: Darim Online has lots of experience helping Jewish organizations effectively utilize social media technology (including blogs!), and that expertise could really help (and in fact already is helping) Reform congregations look at new ways of communicating. Instead of trying to invent their own wheel, the URJ should seek out partners whove already invented pretty good wheels.

Lets be clear: The Reform movement is taking unprecedented steps forward. Rabbi Yoffies sermon and the related URJ initiatives launched this week mark the first time a major movement is encouraging and supporting member congregations to take this trend seriously. This is an important moment, and it would be a shame to waste it.

Josh Mason-Barkin, director of school services at Torah Aura Productions, is a member of a Reform congregation and a graduate of HUC-JIR. He blogs at tapbb.com. You can find his twitter feed at www.twitter.com/barkinj. He frequently contributes to a conversation about Jewish Education in the 21st century on Twitter under the hashtag #jed21

Renegotiating Boundaries: Technology in the Home in Sh’ma

Peggy Orenstein, in her New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, considers the impact of opening up her family via Skyping with her parents 1500 miles away. She writes:

Now, I like my parents. A lot. I really do. Thats why I make the 1,500-mile trip to visit them three or four times a year. I did not, however, spend the bulk of my adult life perfecting the fine art of establishing boundaries only to have them toppled by the click of a mouse. If I wanted them to have unfettered access to my life, I wouldnt have put the keep out sign on my room at age 10. I would have lived at home through college. I would have bought the house next door to them in Minneapolis and made them an extra set of keys…
To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. [too much information] and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.

Every new technology, from the telephone decades ago, to streaming video cams these days, and everything in between, beg many questions about how much information we want to share, where we will draw our boundaries, why, and how.

In this month’s Journal S’hma, I offer some thoughts on how these tools can enrich and starve our Jewish homes, and how we can draw on Jewish concepts of community, home, family and values to guide our intentional decision making about how, when and why we will use (or not use) particular technologies. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships.

Read the S’hma article and share your thoughts, experiences and approaches on the new S’hma website, or leave a comment here on JewPoint0.

Your Turn To Brag. Come On, Really.

Reform Judaism magazine is planning an upcoming article on how Reform congregations are integrating cutting-edge technology in the service of community. We know if you’re reading this blog, and you’re a staff member, lay leader or active member of a congregation you’ve likely got something good going on. Tell us about it! NOW! Leave a comment (see “comments” link above) or email us at [email protected] and tell us your story, including links. We’ll pass along stories to the folks at the URJ, and/or you can copy them on your email at [email protected]

We have found that many congregations think what they’re doing isn’t so special — until they start to tell others about it, and eyes light up. It doesn’t even have to be fancy techie stuff. When Temple Israel Center really started sharing their web stats (a report to the board to show value, a report to staff to show their writing is really being read, and a report to members to illustrate how many people find the web site content valuable), it changed the conversation about the use of the web site in their congregation. And once they shared the practice with others via the Darim Online Learning Network, many other congregations adopted the valuable practice.

Are you doing anything with social networking? Online video or podcasting? Distance learning for adult education? Blogging? Have you restructured your e-newsletter recently? What products or services have you found most helpful? What’s been key to moving your work forward (adding staff, recruting volunteers, getting a budget, etc.)?

Consider it my Hanukkah present. Take 3 minutes and tell me your story.

Baltimore Jewish Leaders Assembly, Powered by Teens

Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum
Allison Fine signs copies of her book, Momentum

Allison Fine, author of Momentum was the keynote speaker at ACHARAI, the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute’s “Technology: Threat or Promise” event on Thursday, November 20. After setting the stage to help participants see the landscape of the field, Allison pointed to the group of teens seated at the back tables. These people are the future employees, and consumers of what our Jewish organizations have to offer. Allison urged us to listen to them, carefully. How are they using these tools, how are they making decisions, what do they want? The bottom line: communities are no longer being built from the top down, they are powered from the bottom up. We must empower and engage these young people to bring them into our community and organizations.

These teens came to the program to both learn and teach. One of the several break out sessions, led by Darim’s Director of the Learning Network, Caren Levine, employed the teens to help participants get hands-on experience with social media tools, such as wikis and blogs. The teens were able to help lower barriers to entry, so participants could experiment with the technology in a safe and supportive place.

Teens debrief at the end of the day
Teens debrief at the end of the day

While the teens were instrumental in assisting the program, I think they walked away with more than they expected. Those who attended my session on social media theory and practice told me they had many “ah-ha moments” — that while they don’t think twice about the technology, they’d never paused to think about how it can be used strategically to help achieve a specific goal, and they were excited to see examples of really fun stuff happening online in the Jewish world.

Hats off to Debs Weinberg and her team for organizing such a thoughtful, educational and inspiring event. In my vision, the next stage of Jewish organizational life will fuse experienced strategic thinkers with younger “we’ve grown up on this stuff” staff to shift organizational practice into relevant 21st century modes. These young people may have walked in thinking they were contributing to the teaching, but they left with much more. Sitting in on the debrief after the conference, I was amazed to hear what they had learned. The skills they developed in this one day will position them to be incredibly valuable in the job market as they graduate in the coming years.

Preparing for Successful Technology Change

Adding a new technology to your organization’s toolbox is not as easy as it might initially seem. In addition to research and making a decision about which tool and vendor to select, the project management often takes more skill, time and focus that one assumes. Furthermore, management of a technology project really is quite different than other projects, so making sure you’ve got the right person on the task can make an important difference.

Implementing the technology in your organization isn’t like flicking a light switch. In his book Managing Transitions, William Bridges discusses how change is situational, but transition is psychological. It’s not just enough to launch a new web site — all stakeholders (staff, board, members, volunteers, etc.) need to move through the transition to maintain and use the new tool smoothly and effectively. Bridges gives many suggestions about how to do this, and recently Dahna Goldstein from PhilanTech has offered her own useful insights and advise on the NTEN blog:

“In our personal lives, we tend not to like change, particularly changes over which we feel we have no control. The same is true in organizational changes.

People may be concerned about how a new technology will affect their jobs or day-to-day work life, or may be worried about their ability to learn the new technology. The most important element in mitigating anxiety related to organizational changes is to understand that it exists.

Anxiety can also be mitigated through good communication, involvement and empowerment, creating opportunities for feedback, and allowing people to voice their anxiety in a safe way so that they know that the anxiety they feel about an impending change is understandable, normal, and manageable.”

She expands on the following points:

  • Set a clear direction from the top.
  • Tie tech changes to mission.
  • Communicate early and often.
  • Involve and empower staff.
  • Tech changes need champions and influencers.
  • Recognize that change causes anxiety, and work to mitigate it.

Check out her post to learn more. What have been your tricks to manage successful implementation of new tools? What have been the challenges? What have you learned?