We received an RFP this week from a nonprofit looking for an IT assessment and IT roadmap. At CGNET, we do this work all the time for foundations and larger organizations. Assembling an IT roadmap can take multiple months and cost a fair bit, given the technology complexity that we find. For this nonprofit, the question is, can we find a way to deliver a scaled down IT roadmap?
Having an adequate IT infrastructure is a challenge for nonprofits delivering social services. Because nonprofits outsource their IT, they do not spend much energy thinking about IT. Executive staff often have little or no technology familiarity. Budgets are always a problem. When we have responded to these kinds of RFPs in the past, we have been disappointed in the results.
- We would often find a mismatch between our proposed costs and the budget expectations of the nonprofit.
- Sometimes the nonprofit would have second thoughts about the work when we explained the tasks required to provide a proper IT roadmap.
The Need is Real
I sympathize with nonprofits such as the one that issued this RFP.
- The technology is aging. Some of it may be out of warranty.
- The executive team knows they are not doing enough about information security.
- The team is asking what applications and services should be upgraded or replaced. They want to know the cost, so they can put the proper funding request together.
Moreover, the pandemic has ushered in the era of hybrid working. The nonprofit has as great a need as ever to collaborate. And yet they lack the tools to do that.
Fit the IT Roadmap to the Budget
Normally, we prepare an RFP response by enumerating the tasks needed to create an IT roadmap. From there, we estimate the labor hours and other costs required for each of the tasks. We also estimate how long each task will take and the dependencies between tasks. We put all that information into a blender, and we develop a cost estimate and timeline.
I am confident that this approach will not work for my small nonprofit. How can I square this circle?
For this situation, I plan to start at the money end. I can guess the budget this nonprofit has set aside for the IT assessment and IT roadmap. So, will fit the effort to the budget. I will see which tasks we can eliminate. For instance, we can forego interviewing each staff member. Instead, we can identify one or two key staff members (the ones spending the most time in front of applications) and talk to those people.
I can also reduce the depth I get to for other tasks. I could easily spend all the IT assessment and IT roadmap budget looking at their CRM. Or their accounting system. Did I mention their HR system? I could go on.
Instead, I can put together budgetary estimates for new or upgraded applications and services. Instead of developing Gartner-style reviews of leading applications, I can conduct a short search on the leading applications in each category. I can use CGNET’s experience implementing applications to guess at installation and licensing costs.
Give Smaller Portions to Smaller Mouths
I can still deliver a quality assessment and IT roadmap by solving the 20% of issues that are causing 80% of the pain. For instance, if we get everyone on a collaboration workspace such as Google Workplace, Slack, or Microsoft 365, we will solve several issues at the same time. Also, we can establish an anti-phishing training program and set up multifactor authentication. If we accomplish these two tasks, we will improve information security.
I can see another benefit if we scale down the assessment and IT roadmap. An organization of this size cannot successfully upgrade more than one or two major applications in a year. So, I can provide a less detailed plan for upgrading services and apps that are the last on the list. Not only was Rome not built in a day, it also was not planned in a day.
If I can create a successful formula for a scaled-down IT assessment and IT roadmap, then I may have a planning solution that is accessible to more small social sector nonprofits. Wish me luck!