Mapping your digital infrastructure is a key part of digital strategy planning. Read our 6 steps to get you started
Almost every charity uses digital technology in one form or another, and every charity should have a digital strategy – or at the very least be in the process of designing one.
This strategy can help inform planned changes to the way the charity operates.
But for a digital strategy to be successfully formulated and implemented, it is first necessary to have a complete picture of the charity as it is in the present. That means understanding the current organisational structure, culture, and staff skill sets, as well as the digital technology that is currently being used in the charity.
When it comes to understanding what digital technology is being used, how it is being used, and what business processes are using it, the best way to build up a picture is by mapping your digital infrastructure to your business processes – an exercise which is known as business process mapping.
A business process can be defined as a collection of linked tasks or activities which all work towards accomplishing one goal. For a charity, these typically fall into three types:
Each of these business processes can usually be subdivided into more specific processes. For example, human resources may be subdivided into payroll, time, holiday and absence tracking, human resource management and recruitment, and so on.
At first glance this step is much more straightforward, because many processes have their own dedicated digital application. This may take the form of a CRM for fundraising, a spreadsheet or accounting package for financial management, and a website for marketing.
But it is important to remember that many processes use multiple applications. Marketing, for example, may use the charity’s CRM and marketing automation software as well as a website. Some applications, such as email may be used in almost all business processes.
It’s also important to include digital services (such as cloud-based applications) into the mapping.
For medium-sized and larger charities, the best way to compile a software inventory is to use a software asset management (SAM) tool such as ManageEngine AssetExplorer or Emco Network Software Scanner.
To formulate and execute a digital strategy effectively it’s important to know details about each of the supporting applications.
A good way to do this is to add information to your application list that might include the application’s age and version, any dependencies (for example, it requires Windows 8 or earlier to run properly, or it requires a particular version of a linked database), details of any support contracts, new features or functionality which are on the product’s roadmap, and any notes on how well the product suits the charity or any notable features which are missing or are unavailable in other products.
In addition to the charity’s business processes and applications, it’s also important to take a survey of all the digital infrastructure currently in use.
The most easily identifiable infrastructure includes desktop and laptop computers, printers, smartphones and tablets, as well as IT department equipment such as servers, and networking equipment.
But it’s also important to recognise other forms of digital infrastructure that the charity may use, such as 4G mobile networks, VPNs, VoIP phone systems, home broadband connections (used by remote workers), and all the supporting infrastructure such as identity and access management (IAM) systems, security appliances including firewalls, and cloud storage services.
Additional details that should be collated include how the infrastructure is managed and supported, including staff training, technical support, off-site backup provisions, and disaster recover/ business continuity measures that have been put in place.
As well as creating a map of your digital infrastructure and business processes (and how they relate to each other) it can also be useful to carry out a digital maturity assessment to get an idea of where the charity stands in relation to other charities.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s (NCVO) digital maturity matrix offers a checklist providing an insight into everything needed for an effective digital operation, and provides a score sheet so charities can map where they are on their digital transformation journey.
For example, Parkinson’s UK used the overall digital maturity rating to set their targets and bring clarity to the areas of operation they should be focusing on. The charity also used the digital leadership digital maturity framework to give the whole organisation visibility into what their digital transformation programme was doing and how it progressed.
Another tool that charities can use is the Digital Maturity Self-Assessment Framework. This tool is a measure of how ready an organisation is to transform digitally, evaluating them against fifteen key competences.
For more information about digital infrastructure mapping and digital strategies, be sure to get a free copy of Charity Digital’s ebook - "Digital strategy design: A step-by-step guide for charities"