5 Barriers to Overcome When Consolidating Your Technology Platforms

Sign up to access the white paper.

In our work with nonprofit organizations, particularly human service agencies in the United States, we see firsthand the struggles our clients face in effectively consolidating their technology platforms. This can be a huge source of friction for organizations who are required by their funders to report on the outcomes of their programs and measure their impact. Many organizations lack the internal capacity to handle the challenge of consolidating tech platforms effectively, which can result in wasted budget, pressure on internal team members and decreased efficiencies. 

We have identified the five most common barriers to consolidating the supporting technology for program management in this totally not boring (wink!) and helpful guide. These challenges include: funder mandated systems, insufficient resources, internal agreement on data standards, an evolving required data model and resistance to change. We will outline strategies on how to overcome these most common barriers and set up your organization for long-term success with your information systems. So, join us and read on!

Challenge #1: Funder Mandated Systems

American speculative fiction author William Gibson once said, “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” This is painfully true of nonprofits who are commonly a decade behind corporate America in their adoption of technology and, quite often, it’s the funders who are largely to blame. Funder Mandated Systems (FMS) are a key challenge for nonprofits who wish to consolidate their client data systems. 

Challenge #2: Internal Agreement on Data Standards

It is surprising how difficult it can be for a multi-program agency to agree even on the most basic of demographic profile elements. [maybe some anecdote relating to gender?] This lack of internal alignment creates friction and barriers to adopting a single consolidated system. That internal friction can be enough to prevent an organization from moving forward.

Challenge #3: Insufficient Resources 

The unfortunate reality is that most organizations engaged in the critical work of providing human service programs suffer from insufficient resources to some degree. This is a huge contributing factor to their inability to invest in information systems and increase their data management efficiency.

Challenge #4: Evolving Required Data Model  (e.g. HMIS)

Standardized data models for human services information helps funders understand how money is being used, researchers find what is working and organizations better coordinate care with other organizations. HUD’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data model is the most robust and extensively adopted data model standard among US human services nonprofits. HUD, VA and HHS are three federal agencies that make tracking data within the standard a requirement of funding. Many states and local governments have also jumped on that wagon. The standard directly benefits the funders and policymakers and is helpful to nonprofits who can pool their client data with other local nonprofits to better coordinate services.

Challenge #5: Resistance to Change

You may have navigated your way through all four of the prior challenges, but there is still one remaining challenge that can derail you – fear of change. There is no technology, process, policy or resource that can be brought to bear to solve this one. What works is vision, leadership and empathy. With all three in place you’ve got the best chance of overcoming that resistance.