Does Your Association Have the CIO Mindset?

David DeLorenzo | 11.07.18
Topics: CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity

You never know where mayhem lurks in your association or nonprofit. On the surface, everything seems like business as usual. The IT department is busy keeping the network up and running. However, dig deeper and you can see problems looming. When it comes to technology, everyone does their own thing. Rather than dealing with IT, employees prefer to go out on their own to acquire the tools they need.

This is how a dysfunctional technology culture takes root. The consequences of this approach soon become clear. Systems aren’t integrated. Data is trapped in silos. Staff follow their own technology agenda. No one is looking at technology from a holistic and strategic perspective.

Unfortunately, what you have here is a failure of technology leadership. Luckily, once you recognize the problem, a solution is within reach.

brain bulb

An operational IT mindset is a barrier to progress.

Your IT staff isn’t doing anything wrong. After all, they’re only doing the job assigned to them: tending to the operational needs of the organization—the network, servers, and hardware. They have neither the time nor the skills and knowledge (through no particular fault of their own) to focus on the strategic needs of your organization.

As a result, your organization isn’t equipped to deal with constant change and disruption in the marketplace. Even worse, staff isn’t using your data and technology as effectively as they could to deliver value to your members and community.

In the for-profit world, the IT model has changed, but many associations and nonprofits are still living in the past with on-premise servers and IT leaders whose primary focus is—to their detriment—on keeping the network running. Meanwhile, other departments are increasingly acquiring and using cloud-based technology. These colleagues need a new type of IT support: in-house technology consultants, not sys admins.

The old version of IT leadership no longer serves your organization. You need 21st century IT leadership—technology professionals with an association CIO mindset. In fact, it’s more important to have a CIO mindset than to have a full-time CIO on staff.

Association and nonprofit IT staff must have a CIO mindset.

Technology professionals with a CIO mindset focus on strategic, not operational, concerns. Their goal is to understand:

  • How people, processes, and technology can work together to serve the business needs of the staff and the strategic objectives of the organization.
  • How data can be used to inform business decisions.

IT staff with a CIO mindset focus on building a technology ecosystem to support a member experience that exceeds expectations. They don’t manage hardware—they manage relationships with business departments and technology partners. They’re strategic thinkers, business analysts, and project managers—traits not usually associated with old-school IT directors.

two heads are better than one

Transform your old-school IT department.

It’s time to throw out your traditional assumptions about the roles and responsibilities of your IT department. Modern associations and nonprofits host their infrastructure in the cloud because holding on to a legacy infrastructure impedes their ability to develop a strategically-oriented IT staff.

Software development is another task to outsource. Most associations and nonprofits can’t compete in the talent marketplace for developers. You’ll get a better return on your budget by outsourcing software development to a specialized contractor than by hiring a full-time employee.

In attempting to take a more strategic approach to technology, many associations have given their IT directors an elevated title and a seat at the senior leadership table. Nevertheless, they continue to focus on their old duties. Instead of being a strategic in-house technology consultant, they’re stuck in the weeds of printer repair and patch management. They’re not evolving into IT leaders who work with the C-suite to find solutions to business problems and pathways to strategic objectives.

Ask your technology leader, “What did you work on today?”

Find out if your IT leader is truly working with an association CIO mindset. Were they solving network problems or business problems? Were they helping the association run in place or move forward?

Network management, equipment maintenance, and software development are not the core competencies you need in a technology leader. You need a strategic business consultant with a technology focus—a solutions architect with communication, project management, change management, and leadership skills.

You have options for bringing an association CIO mindset to your organization.

Let’s face it: the association community has a CIO talent gap. Many organizations don’t have the resources to compete for CIO talent. Keep in mind, though, that it’s more important to have the association CIO mindset than to have a full-time CIO on staff.

Start by assessing your technology needs and talent. What operational or specialized technology tasks can you outsource? Use your resources to hire technology professionals with the skills to support the strategic needs of your organization. If you aren’t able to hire a full-time CIO, you can contract with a technology management consultancy, like DelCor, for CIO as a service.

An outsourced association CIO provides strategic direction while controlling IT management costs and increasing operational efficiency. Plus, you avoid the salaries, benefits, bonuses, and other perks often required to attract and retain an in-house CIO.

Whether you look to someone in-house or seek an outsourced solution, you need a technology leader with a CIO mindset to help your organization become future-ready.

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About David DeLorenzo

Lifelong association guy and Volunteer, David brings a sharp, C-level perspective to our clients and our blog.

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