6 Tips Veteran-Serving Organizations Should Consider When Evaluating New Technology
By Dannielle Pope, Director of Innovative Technology at America’s Warrior Partnership
From tracking donations to monitoring referrals, veteran-serving organizations have countless tasks to manage in their day-to-day operations. Information technology (IT) platforms offer a critical tool for collecting and analyzing information related to these tasks so organizations can spend more time serving veterans and less time on paperwork.
As the director of innovative technology at America’s Warrior Partnership, I was heavily involved in the development and implementation of our WarriorServe®application, which is built on the Salesforce platform and enables veteran-serving organizations to streamline data collection and reporting as well as enhance information sharing with community partners.
Here are a few tips I learned along the way that should help your organization select a new technology platform the next time you’re in the market for an upgrade.
1. Determine your budget and stick to it – Too many organizations neglect to consider their budget and the cost of purchasing new IT solutions until they’ve already selected a product or service that they like. It’s critical for all organizations, particularly non-profits, to look at their available budget FIRST before conducting any research into their options. Decision makers that have an unbiased understanding of their available funds will have a much easier job of finding a system that will meet their unique operational needs.
2. Evaluate what other organizations are using – Take a look at the type of IT systems and platforms that other groups in your space have successfully implemented. You might be surprised at how much you can learn. If you hear of another organization experiencing trouble working with a particular service provider, then you may want to consider engaging a different company to avoid those same issues. In addition, if you consult with a partnering organization that uses the same technology that you choose to implement, then you may gain insight on how to ensure your team experiences a smooth rollout as your new system is installed.
3. Posture your organization for the future – Technology is constantly changing, which means that the type of IT services and capabilities available on the market today may not be viable a few years down the road. This is particularly important when your organization needs to ensure its technology will be compatible with key partners both now and in the near future. As a veteran-serving organization, it’s likely that you will interact with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at some point, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what type of technology the VA and other national organizations are implementing so that you can ensure your operations will be ready to collaborate when the time comes.
4. Consider training needs – Implementing any sort of change within an organization is time-consuming, and this is particularly true when technology is involved. Once you’ve installed new hardware and software, you have to train everyone within the organization on how to use the system. Make sure to consider how much training will be required for each team member to become comfortable with the technology and then factor the cost of that training into your budget.
5. Involve everyone in testing – In addition to training, you also should consider looping all levels of your organization into test runs that you conduct with a new IT platform that you may purchase. It can be easy for a decision-maker to get excited about a new platform and forget to consider how others in the organization may react. Give everyone who will be using the new platform the opportunity to test it and provide feedback. This will allow you to proactively identify and address concerns from your team before they become problems.
6. Ask about discounts – Many technology providers offer discounts on their products and services for non-profits, but these offers aren’t usually promoted on their website. As you’re deciding on a technology partner, don’t be afraid to ask if a non-profit discount is available. You might be surprised to find out that the answer is “yes” more often than not!
Researching and implementing a new IT platform may seem like a daunting task, but the outcome will be well worth your investment if you select the right technology. By keeping these tips in mind, you should have an easier time finding a solution for your veteran-serving organization that gives you the most bang for your buck.
About the Author
Dannielle Pope is the Director of Innovative Technology for America’s Warrior Partnership, where she oversees the organization’s proprietary WarriorServe® application and helps to streamline systems that enhance the ability of communities to holistically care for their hometown veterans, military service members, and their families. She was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Signal Corps in 2007 after earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from the United States Military Academy at West Point.