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Computanews 155
 

Computanews 155

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* Project management - let's work together - project management methodologies abound, but Aba Maison argues that the people side is as important as the processes.
* Look back in tech - the editors take a look at what might be happening in 2010 - and what ICT life was like 10 years back
* Tips 155 - Using project management tools - 12 tips to help with the project management process
* Answr up - Gunner at Aspiration talks to Computanews about their exciting new knowledge aggregation "FAQ on steroids" project.
* Data Protection - Paul Ticher looks at the latest developments affecting the sector and we review his revised essential data protection book
* Building Bridges - Ian Goodman from Lasa tells us how the latest project is going
* Managing Technology To Meet Your Mission - we review NTEN's essential new tech book

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    Computanews 155 Computanews 155 Document Transcript

    • computanews 155 February 2010 People & Projects - Let’s Get Together Project management methodologies abound, but the people side is just as important as the processes. Aba Maison, Information Systems Team leader at Lasa, reports back from a recent NetSquared Net Tuesday event which looked at some tips and tools for working successfully with people on projects, and takes a brief look at some online project management tools that can help. T here are several project management methodologies and processes, for example PRINCE2, • Planning • Managing intellectual property (IP) • Skills development (e.g. to use the in this issue People & Projects which is widely used in the public tools) pages 1, 4-6 sector. For a more in depth look at • Meeting facilitation project management methodologies • Agenda planning Look back in tech see the knowledgebase article • Minute taking page 2 Project Management Which Method? (www.ictknowledgebase.org. ...are at least as important to the Tips #155 - using uk/projectmanagementmethods) or success of a project as project project management download the full Lasa Computanews management processes. tools page 6 Project Management Guide (www.lasa. org.uk/publications/computanews-guides/). Building Bridges to ICT Problems that can arise on Excellence update - Whilst project management processes projects and collaborations page 7 can undoubtedly be useful in keeping on top of projects, it’s important not Because projects involve working with Data Protection new to get bogged down with them. For other people you’ll need to anticipate guidance and book the best chance of success, ensure that and have a plan for resolving issues that review - pages 8-10 project management techniques are can arise. Being well prepared can help used appropriately and adapt them mitigate issues including: answr project to your particular purpose. Always pages 11-13 remember why you are doing the • Scope or mission creep – when the project! project starts go grow beyond its Managing Technology original conception book review Remember that skills including: pages 13-14 • Communications cont’d on page 4 155 issue december 2008
    • Contribute Disagree with an article? look back in tech Believe there’s an issue we should be looking at? The editors of Computanews still not managing their ICT successfully. Know of an initiative we take an ever so slightly tongue Perhaps this will be the year that the should mention? in cheek look at what’s likely latter changes – with the growth of We welcome all feedback about to happen in the ICT world this online services for organisational Computanews so if we’ve missed something out send us your year. databases, creating and storing office thoughts or news, or submit an documents, backing up and running article for inclusion in a future issue. It’s that time of year again. And, various security systems perhaps we amazingly, it’s 10 years on from when can forget all that. Er, probably not we all celebrated the turn of the actually. Many smaller organisations Subscribe century (even though it was a year are still battling with keeping their If you would like to subscribe to early) and when most folk in IT membership and client records on your own copy of were tearing out their hair over the outdated and unsuitable data systems, Computanews and other Lasa publications: millennium bug. Remember that? documents are still scattered across Planes were going to drop out of the a number of PCs and laptops which www.lasa.org.uk/lasa/mailing-lists/ sky, the world would stop turning and makes backing up virtually impossible the economy would go pear shaped. and networks are prone to viruses or Well, it took eight years for the latter malware. computanews to happen but otherwise we managed is produced by Lasa to survive. The ICT-savvy forecasters and gurus Editorial & Production: are predicting all sorts of nifty gadgets Miles Maier & Ian Runeckles So this is a time for looking forward coming to market this year such as Cartoons: – what are we expecting to happen tablets (which appeared originally Phil Evans in the ICT world this year? Before about five or more years ago and which we go there, we’ve been looking back no one took any notice of), fancier at January 2000’s Computanews 105 electronic book readers (so we can to see what was happening then and carry 300 books around with us) and what they thought might be happening mobile video streaming devices. Universal House now. We reported that ICL’s Chris 88–94 Wentworth Street London E1 7SA Yapp started his presentation at Organisations will use more services December1999’s IT think tank with the in the “cloud” so we can be connected Editorial: comment that “In the year 2010, every to our documents and data at all Tel: 020 7426 4473 Email: computanews@lasa.org.uk lamp post will be on the internet” times, whether we like it or not, and – well, that hasn’t happened quite more devices (possibly including those • yet (although we’re not exactly sure lampposts) will be internet connected. what he meant, to be honest). Other Other Lasa resources: articles showed how to use Outlook Social activism will “explode” across the www.lasa.org.uk 2000 address books for mail merging, web with the increasing use of social http://ukriders.lasa.org.uk managers were stating that they found networking tools for fundraising and IT difficult, CPAG had issued their involvement whilst geolocation will hit www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk welfare benefits CD-ROM after a five the big time (so that not only will we www.suppliersdirectory.org.uk year gestation period (just in time to know that someone is having a coffee see everything move onto the web…) via their Twitter account but exactly http://ictchampion.lasa.org.uk and the CABnet 2000 programme was what table in Starbucks they are sitting Lasa has been providing the widening the use of ICT at CABs. at). Google may or may not release voluntary and community sector with high quality and impartial its operating system and bring out its ICT advice since 1984. Fast forward 10 years and we see a Android phone to compete with the vastly different and yet in many ways iPhone. And Microsoft will release familiar scene. Apart from lampposts, Office 2010 – perhaps we’ll be able to pretty well everything else is on the get that Outlook mail merge working. This work is licensed under a web but we still have problems mail Creative Commons Attribution-non- commercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License merging and many organisations are cont’d on page 7 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by-nc/3.0/ 2
    • Computanews now accepts advertisements If you offer a technology product, service or event aimed specifically at the voluntary sector you can draw attention to it through the pages of Computanews. Computanews is a specialised magazine covering the use of technology within the voluntary sector. It has a key audience of: • organisation managers and trustees • staff responsible for their own organisation’s IT • Circuit Riders who provide advice and technology support to other organisations Computanews rates: • 1/8 page £60 • 1/4 page £100 • 1/2 page £180 • 1 full page £300 A 10% discount applies if advertising in multiple issues. The circulation of Computanews is currently around 2,500 copies per issue, distributed 4 times a year. We anticipate that the circulation will increase now that it is available as a free, downloadable file. To place an advert, or for more details about rates and dates, please email: computanews@lasa.org.uk or phone: 020 7426 4473 AIMS client Contact Management System? • task automation • key date reminders • extensive design & reporting tools • affordable and flexible • 200 users across the UK For a free fully working DEMO version email demo@lasa.org.uk For a free fully working DEMO version or call 020 7377 2806 email: demo@lasa.org.uk For more information go to phne: 020 7377 2806 www.lasa.org.uk/aims web: www.lasa.org.uk/aims 3
    • cont’d from page 1 project team – in order to succeed • Forced changes in project teams need to direction have a balance • Managing different expectations of people with amongst project stakeholders different skills and • Communication and getting roles. The Belbin responses model suggests • Creative vs technical people teams work best managing projects with a mixture • Flexibility (or lack thereof) of people with within current processes action oriented, • “Forced” collaboration – people oriented, organisations or departments and thought that may not be a natural oriented roles. fit being thrown together More information by funders or other project on this is available sponsors in the Mindtools. • Managing up and out – you com article on Belbin’s team – identify early on what won’t always have direct roles (www.mindtools.com/pages/ processes will be put in place. management control over the article/newLDR_83.htm) and on Communicate with the right other partners in the project Belbin.com (www.belbin.com/) people at the right time. • Concerns about intellectual • Identifying strengths of Remember to document the property / sharing ideas partners and playing to project – especially decisions. them – some partners may • Letting go of control – be better at providing more you might just need to close Preparing for and avoiding creative than technical input, or your eyes and trust… potential problems have the right sort of contacts • Scheduling – As well to move your project forward as creating timelines and There are various strategies and for example. Involve them in milestones for completion of techniques that can be used to the right parts of the project! project tasks, remember that avoid problems. Two useful tools • Resources – identify these, not everyone involved in the are a collaboration toolkit including how much time you project needs to be involved at and stakeholder mapping: are willing able to put into the all stages of the project. Bring project the right people in at the right Collaboration toolkit • Values / vision / dream time. – “future mapping” exercise – Alison Coward of Bracket (http:// what will a successful project Stakeholder Mapping Tool bracketprojects.co.uk) suggests a outcome look like? collaboration toolkit that involves • Benchmarking – how will Rachael West of Left Brain Right thinking about factors including: you know when the project is Brain advocates using stakeholder “finished” and whether or not mapping to inform your • Me to we – remember you it has been a success communications plan on a project are working with other people, • Clarity about sharing or collaboration. plan ahead and think holistically ideas / ownership – from • Self analysis – Identify what the outset be open about The tool involves listing all the you want to achieve personally discussing, considering, and stakeholders in a project, what you and organisationally from the agreeing who “owns” an need from them, and what they project and where you need idea and how any intellectual need from you. Depending on help. Scope out and identify property will be assigned. your situation, you might want to the skills and roles needed for Contracts or written use the tool on your own, or as project tasks agreements may be necessary an exercise with members of the • Having a balanced • Effective communication project team. 4
    • An example (below - stakeholders and requirements shown are not exhaustive) might be for a community organisation currently running a range of activities that is planning a new ICT project offering internet training. By mapping stakeholders, it’s possible to see in this example what elements and features the website might need to have, and ensure that it meets the needs of all the potential stakeholders. Stakeholders What you need from them What they need from you Trainees Money (if offering paid-for service) Quality / effective training Information on their training needs Information Current level of skill Value for money Relationship / referrals to other potential Support during and after training service users Timeliness Feedback on service Funders Money to fund the project Grant applications Monitoring guidelines Project plan Grants officer Monitoring data Clarity of expectations Reputation / kudos “feel good factor” Ongoing associated with supporting project Acknowledgement / credit Confidence Assurance / accountability Supporters/Members Subscriptions News updates Feedback on organisation’s activities Sense of involvement Trustees Strategic guidance Project plan overview Appropriate level of governance Project updates Organisation staff Trainers to run the project Engagement in the project Support staff for management, publicity, Information administration Resources and training Salary! ICT staff Hardware and software resources to carry Requirements brief out project Timetable Management of ICT resources Online tools for managing • Google apps (www.google. and project-management. projects com/apps/) – document • Bubbl.us (http://bubbl.us) – There are dozens of useful (and collaboration / sharing / free brainstorming tool often free) online tools for calendaring and more • Twiddla (www.twiddla.com) – planning, managing or collaborating • Googlesites (www.google. free whiteboarding tool on projects. It’s important to use com/sites/help/intl/en/overview. • Shozu (www.shozu.com) – the right tool for the job, justify html) – free websites and wikis Image sharing the benefits of the tool(s) you • Mindmeister (www. • Shout ‘em (www.shoutem. wish to use and get buy-in from mindmeister.com/) – free web- com) and Yammer (www. the project team. Alison Coward based collaborative mind yammer.com/) – tools for suggests some of the following: mapping tool for brainstorming creating your own public 5
    • Tips154 using project cont’d from page 5 • or private micro blogging community (like twitter) to share files, photos, links and management tools more • Basecamp (http://basecamphq. com/) and Huddle (www.huddle. With collaborative projects becoming more common, the net) – more “traditional” use of online tools to assist the management is becoming project management suites offering file sharing, task more common. We offer up some tips which might help assignment and more. the smooth running of the project. Registered charities can access donated licenses for Huddle through the CTX 1. Appoint one person to be the workspace manager. This may or may (charity technology exchange) not be the overall project manager. programme (www.ctxchange. org). 2. Think about what tool is appropriate for your project. If the workspace manager is familiar with Basecamp, then maybe that’s the Knowledgebase system to use. • Online Collaboration Tools 3. Work out and agree protocols for how you’re going to use the tool. (www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/ onlinecollaboration) 4. If the tool includes features that aren’t useful or appropriate, don’t • Work Smarter, Quicker, and feel you have to use them. Cheaper with Online Tools (www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/ 5. When users are signed up to the system, allow them to introduce worksmarter) themselves and their roles in the project. If there’s a user profile • Web Office Tools – The Virtual area, get them to update it with pertinent information relative to the Office (www.ictknowledgebase. project – yes, it’s great that they have 10 cats but… org.uk/virtualoffice) 6. Don’t assume that everyone needs to be involved in everything. About this article Collaboration is great, but it doesn’t mean that every cook has to take turns in stirring the broth. This article was adapted from the Knowledgebase article Project 7. Have an FAQ document or pointers to tutorials somewhere obvious Management – the people side! on the site. www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/ projectmanagementpeopleside and 8. If possible, have an induction session with the project participants on is based on presentations and use of the workspace. This may be possible online. experiences from the November 2009 NetSquared Net Tuesday 9. Discuss and agree protocols for signing work off meetup. Thanks to NetSquared’s Amy Sample Ward, session 10. ave a plan for following up on late tasks. H facilitators Alison Coward of Bracket (http://bracketprojects.co.uk) 11. ry to contain essential project management discussion within T and Rachael West of Left Brain the workspace, rather than allowing external email in addition, for Right Brain (http://rachaelwest. example. wordpress.com/), and all the London NetSquared Community (http:// 12. ead Idealware’s Six Views of Project Management Software R netsquared.meetup.com/31/) www.idealware.org/articles/fgt_project_management.php members for these insights. 6
    • cont’d from page 2 voluntary sector ICT community Whatever happens, we wish can continue to help organisations all Computanews readers So our hope is that during make the right decisions on and contributors a happy and 2010 through using information using scarce time and money to successful new year. resources and forums such as create a safe and secure working the Knowledgebase, the Suppliers environment which serves the Ian Runeckles & Miles Maier Directory, the ICT Champions, needs of our members and clients. Computanews, Lasa Circuit Riders and the UKRiders list (oh, and Computanews!), the Building Bridges to ICT Excellence L asa is working with the City Bridge Trust (www. bridgehousegrants.org.uk), Wates staff member to oversee and take responsibility for ICT. • Where to buy discounted software Foundation (www.watesfoundation. We have also worked closely To access the service or for org.uk) and the Cripplegate with a recycling agency to assess more information see www.lasa. Foundation (www.cripplegate.org) their ICT infrastructure and help org.uk/circuitriders or contact Ian to offer support and advice on all plan a database development. Goodman at Lasa on 020 7426 aspects of ICT through its three- The input of the project helped 4473 email igoodman@lasa.org.uk year Building Bridges project. reassure the organisations fears Lasa’s Ian Goodman updates us on about the implications of moving Even if organisations don’t the project. to an online database. By working qualify for this project there’s with the Building Bridges project a vast range of free ICT advice In the first year of the project we the organisation was able to and resources over at Lasa’s have worked with a number of plan their required networking ICT Knowledgebase (www. organisations across London on a developments and be sure that ictknowledgebase.org.uk) and wide range of issues, including: their new database would function Suppliers Directory (www. without any problems. suppliersdirectory.org.uk). • Helping organisations find an ICT support company As well as working directly with The project builds on Lasa’s • Advising on planning an groups funded by the City Bridge successful Circuit Rider project, organisation’s database Trust, Wates and Cripplegate funded by The City Bridge • Carrying out ICT Foundations, the project is able to Trust and the Big Lottery, which Healthchecks offer signposting to organisations ran between 2005 and 2007. • Developing ICT policies considering application to these Project evaluations can be bodies, such as: downloaded from http://ukriders. Specific examples of the work we lasa.org.uk/publications/ where have undertaken include helping • Where to find ICT support you can also find a link to the an advice organisation who were companies Trust’s overview of building ICT relocating, to work through a • Making good use of social capacity in London’s Third Sector number of ICT recommendations media organisations through Circuit which resulted in a smooth office Riding. move. We also assisted them • How much to spend on buying with the recruitment of a new new computers 7
    • Data Protection: Clearer guidance and tougher enforcement on Data Protection T he Information Commissioner regenerated in June 2009, when Christopher Graham comparing good and bad practice. In clear and non-technical language it covers the statements you need Protecting your mobile data took over from Richard Thomas. to make and the options you Perhaps by coincidence, recent need to offer, as well as discussing If your mobile phone, laptop or developments suggest that situations when you don’t have to USB stick should fall into the since then the priorities of the give people a choice. wrong hands, have you thought Information Commissioner’s about how to prevent access Office have shifted slightly away Anyone who collects information to the data and minimise the from Freedom of Information from individuals, for any purpose, is potential harm? and privacy, in favour of day to strongly recommended to get hold day Data Protection. Paul Ticher, of this short and accessible Code You should think about methods author of the recently published of Practice and read it thoroughly. such as: Data Protection for voluntary organisations reviewed in this Understanding Data • If possible, avoiding the Computanews, looks at what’s new. Protection necessity for information to be on physical media How to be fair You probably have loads of by giving authorised users reference material on your shelf secure remote access to When an organisation asks you to already about the Data Protection your system instead provide them with your personal Act and what it means. If not, the information, how do you decide first thing you should get hold of • Insisting that people who whether you trust them enough is the Information Commissioner’s are authorised to take data to give it? How do you decide new Guide to Data Protection out of your building for any what information to give, and what (see ‘Source material’ below), a reason use equipment or to withhold? You would probably 92-page plain English explanation media provided, or at least want to know what they are going of the basics. It’s not specifically checked, by the organisation to do with the information, and written for the voluntary sector how much choice you have. If (unlike Paul’s Data Protection for • Strong passwords on laptops they’ve done their job properly voluntary organisations – Ed.) but you will be in a position to make it has the significant advantage of • Encrypting media whenever clear decisions. being free. possible No organisation now has any excuse for failing to do this Fancy being fined • PIN access to memory sticks properly. The Privacy Notices £500,000? Code of Practice which came out • Remote wipe to delete all in 2009 (see ‘Source material’ The Criminal Justice and data on phones and PDAs if below) sets out good practice Immigration Act 2008 gave the they are lost and – more usefully – gives a Information Commissioner whole series of worked examples, new powers to impose punitive monetary penalties for data 8
    • security breaches. When these “blacklist” of construction workers. come into force on 6 April 2010 the Commissioner will be able Charities of any size will still pay to order organisations to pay up the lower fee, currently £35 a to £500,000 for serious breaches year, but there is a new higher of the Data Protection Act. The tier annual registration (or penalties are intended to act as a Notification) fee of £500. It applies deterrent, and the Commissioner to organisations with over 250 will take into account factors staff or a turnover of more than such as the seriousness of the £25.9 million. breach, and the extent to which the organisation had taken steps The European Union is reviewing to prevent it (see ‘Source material’ its electronic marketing rules. below). There are also indications They may be toughened up, though that the government might there is also some pressure for The Guide to Data Protection introduce jail terms for people charities to be exempt. www.ico.gov.uk/tools_and_resources/ who trade illegally in personal data document_library/data_protection. - the present maximum penalty is a To watch out for: the Scottish aspx fine. You have been warned! government intends to extend Freedom of Information to some Information Commissioner’s Do you encrypt your private organisations that are guidance about the issue of portable media? carrying out public functions. monetary penalties prepared and There are no plans at present for issued under section 55C (1) of Several organisations have recently anything similar in England and the Data Protection Act 1998 been taken to task for losing Wales. www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/ portable media containing data library/data_protection/detailed_ that was not encrypted even, in Source material specialist_guides/ico_guidance_ one case, when a laptop was stolen monetary_penalties.pdf from a locked room. The seventh The organisation of the Data Protection Principle says Information Commissioner’s Knowledgebase that you must take ‘appropriate’ web site makes it difficult security measures, but accepted to give snappy links. All the Introduction To The Data practice on what counts as documents mentioned above are Protection Act appropriate seems to be evolving in the document library on the www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/ in the light of high-profile data Information Commissioner’s web dataprotectionactintroduction losses. site (www.ico.gov.uk). There is a link to this on the right-hand side of Data Protection Policies Anything that could easily leave the home page, under ‘Information www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk/ your premises with data on it is for organisations’. Note that items dataprotectionpolicies a risk. Laptops are obviously a in the library are indexed by the tempting target for theft, while full title (even if the first word is Data Protection And Web Based memory sticks are easily lost, and ‘the’) and that there are several Applications www.ictknowledgebase. other devices – such as phones, fairly arbitrary sections. org.uk/dataprotectionandweb PDAs or cameras – have more and more capacity to store data. The full titles and links are also About the author given below: Other developments Paul Ticher is a freelance trainer, Privacy Notices Code of Practice consultant and author, covering There have been several high www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/ many aspects of information profile enforcement actions library/data_protection/detailed_ management, ICT, Data Protection against blatant breaches of the specialist_guides/privacy_notices_ and risk management. paul@ Data Protection Act, including that cop_final.pdf paulticher.com against Ian Kerr for maintaining a 9
    • Data Protection for voluntary organisations By Paul Ticher Published Directory of Social Change 2009 £18.95 + £2.75 P&P I f you’ve ever been to a voluntary sector seminar or workshop on data protection, either it will background to the law, initial chapters look at have been led by Paul Ticher or how to approach his name or publications will data protection have been mentioned sometime compliance, during the event. Members of the role and the UKRiders list have benefited responsibilities enormously from Paul’s input on of the Data data projection queries and issues. Controller, what personal This is the third edition of the data actually is book which originally appeared in and who the 2000 when the Data Protection data subjects Act of 1998 (which replaced are. There the earlier 1984 law) was finally then follows enacted. In Paul’s words, this detailed examination of each of the key points covered at the edition “includes additional of the eight Data Protection start of each chapter. There’s a and revised material based on Principles which is the core of useful summary of the key points experience with the Act during the book. A separate chapter at the end of each chapter and the five years since the second looks at confidentiality which, as examples throughout in the form edition… takes account of new Paul explains, overlaps with data of possible situations and also and updated guidance from the protection but does not cover typical questions that organisations Information Commissioner, key exactly the same material. Further raise about data protection. cases… policy development and chapters cover email and the web, other legislation…” providing data subjects (the person All in all, this is an essential you are holding data on) with publication for medium to large The book is a medium format information, the aforementioned voluntary sector organisations and paperback of just over 200 pages notification, enforcement, auditing should be in the reference libraries broken down into 24 chapters and and policy development and, last of all second tier and development four appendices. If you thought but not least by any means, staff support organisations. that data protection was just a training and good practice. There case of registering with – sorry, follows a resource list and the Data Protection for Voluntary notifying, showing my age there appendices covering incorporation Organisations is available from - the Information Commissioner and charitable status, processing www.dsc.org.uk/Publications/Law once a year and not handing out sensitive data, references, police your mailing database to all and and CRB checks and using sundry then you’re somewhat photographs. short of the mark! The book is well laid out, with a After an introduction giving brief introduction and overview 10
    • The answrs to your technology questns W e’ve been hearing on the grapevine about a new information resource for Allen Gunn, Aspiration (AG) - Aspiration works to help NGOs (Non Governmental the same. Our Social Source Commons platform (www. socialsourcecommons.org) is an non-profit technologists called Organisations) make more effective inventory of NGO-related Answr (Aggregated Nonprofit use of technology, and to get software, rendered in a social SoftWare Resources) which is better software tools created network model where users of the being developed in the US by to meet their needs. We work site can share their favourite tools, Aspiration. Lasa staff have attended across the range of stakeholders in and see what other NGO techies the excellent open source Penguin NGO technology, talking to both are using and what they think about Days and project management (so-called) end users as well as those tools. And Answr, which we’ll events which Aspiration have software developers, and with the explain in a minute, is the latest facilitated and which were not always-under-appreciated techies offering in that effort. only inspirational and informative who toil in between those two but huge fun (if you’ve been to extremes. And yes, we absolutely love to host any of the recent Circuit Rider NGO technology events all around Conferences you’ll have a rough In terms of end users, we focus the globe (http://aspirationtech.org/ idea of how they work). So we on helping NGO staff develop events/history). were keen to find out about it and sustainable technology processes. talked to Allen Gunn (aka Gunner) We have an “eAdvocacy Capacity IR – You mentioned software who is Aspiration’s Executive Building Program”, where we coach developers earlier, what have you Director… NGOs on how to design and been doing with them? maintain online communication Ian Runeckles, Lasa (IR) - Hi strategies and campaigns. We do AG - We provide strategic Gunner, thanks for agreeing to talk training and mentoring in tech consulting, both on product design to Computanews about Aspiration’s strategy, and offer coaching services as well as community processes. latest project. Before we get into where teach NGOs how to take We’re currently working with Answr, what other projects and control of their technology destiny. great projects like FrontlineSMS events has Aspiration been involved (http://frontlinesms.com/) and the in? For the IT crowd, we focus on Open Simulation Platform (http:// knowledge sharing and capturing opensimplatform.org/), helping those 11
    • platforms to engage and establish mailing lists and other resources resources on relevant web sites, open source communities that to offer information about NGO blogs and other online venues. can both expand the reach of technology, but so much of the the projects and contribute to knowledge that’s shared in those IR - So where did the idea come the ongoing development of the venues doesn’t get captured in a from in the first place and who’s software. way that can be maintained and been involved up until now? accessed over time. IR – I’m sure I’m not guessing if AG - The idea has many parents. I say that open standards, open The second challenge the platform We’re grateful to have worked source, open everything are is addressing is how to better with Idealware, TechSoup, watchwords at Aspiration, right? leverage the knowledge extant in BCT Partners and many other social networks like Facebook and great folks in conceptualizing AG – Absolutely! We now also Twitter. So much great information and developing both the need oversee the Nonprofit Open flows through Twitter feeds and definition and the initial solution. Source Initiative (NOSI, www. Facebook conversations, but rarely And the Surdna Foundation has nosi.net), which works to educate is it captured in a usable format for been very forward-looking in NGOs about Free and Open posterity. supporting the development of the Source Software and connect them current platform. to open source developers who In short, Answr is sort of an can help address their needs. “FAQ on Steroids”, a place IR – You talked about pulling in where frequently asked questions knowledge from mailing lists – We’re also passionate about Open about NGO technology can this is something that has come Translation (www.aspirationtech. be aggregated. We’re trying to up time and time again about the org/programs/opentranslation), complement and link to great UKRiders list – in fact, following which is the use of free and open resources that are already out last year’s Circuit Rider conference source software to support the there - the Lasa Knowledgebase, we had a debate onlist about what translation of open content. We’ve TechSoup’s discussion boards, we should do to address this. In recently published a book in Idealware’s reviews - with a the end, the vocal majority felt that partnership with FLOSSManuals. platform that’s designed to build the existing list did a good job and net (http://en.flossmanuals.net/ focused knowledge sets by tapping that we should stay as we were. opentranslationtools) social networks. I’m wondering whether there’s documenting the state of the field a possibility of discussion from in Open Translation and explaining IR – That’s a huge amount UKRiders being integrated into core concepts. of knowledge to deal with - Answr somehow? whereabouts are you starting? There’s plenty more on www. AG – Absolutely, we’d love to aspirationtech.org, but I bet you AG - The first version of the make that happen. We’re working didn’t expect me to be so wordy in platform is limited to email-related with early adopters and users of the first place! topics. We’re trying to develop the platform to define community community processes for sharing processes that would enable folks IR – Sounds like you have a lot and managing tech knowledge, to flag great discussions that might on your plate already. So what’s and then we’ll broaden the focus generate ideas for new question/ Answr all about? to other areas including online answers. Though we’re also campaigning, web publishing, CRM, working to be respectful of each AG - The Answr project is security, and beyond. list culture; pulling knowledge out an attempt to address two of mailing lists has some serious fundamental challenges in NGO The Answr platform is also etiquette associated with it. technology. integrated with Social Source Commons, so that when users are A different answer to your The first is the capture, or viewing the answers to questions, question is that any data set/ aggregation, of up-to-the-minute they’re also able to see listings of web site that has an interface knowledge about NGO tech. related tools and platforms. And (“API”) for accessing and searching There are so many amazing all of that is linked with related relevant content is something 12
    • we want to integrate into the is still smaller than we would like, Answr and all of Aspiration’s other platform. The SSC integration is and there are still some usability projects. I hope you’ll let us know just the first step, we’re hoping to and workflow issues we are how things are going – and also link questions on Answr with lots working out to make it easier to if there’s any input that would of directly related knowledge from both find answers and contribute be helpful from Computanews others sources, including the Lasa knowledge. And then there’s the readers. Knowledgebase. issue of establishing a believable ratings system for identifying high- AG – We sure will, and we thank IR – So, is Answr officially live quality answers. We’re saving the you so much for shining some light now? “go-live fanfare” for when we think on all the work we’re doing. We we’ve earned a bit of the same, are quite passionate about building AG – Yes, and we are slow and we’re so grateful for all the Answr into a resource that really launching the site, inviting anyone amazing feedback we’ve already help folks do NGO tech better, who cares to come and look gotten. and we’ll definitely keep you up- around to have a go and let us to-date as we move this forward. know what they think, especially IR – Gunner, thanks so much You can visit the Answr project at about how Twitter is integrated for taking the time to talk to us, http://answr.net into the process. The content set we wish you all the best with Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission – A Strategic Guide for NonProfit Leaders Editors: Holly Ross, Katrin Verclas and Alison Levine Published Jossey-Bass 2009 Available from amazon.co.uk from around £17 www.meetyourmission.org T his recently issued 291 page book from NTEN, the US non profit technology network, is very as TechSoup.org In the first part, the book starts by It’s not your fault You are not alone You can do it much a set of master classes from looking at how mission shapes an leading non-profit ICT activists and organisation’s ICT requirements, The book acknowledges a number commentators. The 11 chapters how change can be managed, of challenges to VCS management. are arranged in two parts, namely return on investment measured, As regular Computanews readers Planning and People and The Tools ICT planned, how to recruit and will already be aware the pace and covers a large amount of retain IT staff, and budget and of change is getting faster; ICT ground. fund for technology. Part two jargon can be a barrier; choosing starts with a technology primer the ICT which will help with the Those readers who have attended and then moves online examining organisation’s mission is hard; Lasa Circuit Rider conferences stakeholders, communications, failure is scary (because it’s very will recognise some of the authors fundraising and a look to the easy to fail with ICT projects and such as Beth Kanter and John future. investment); and that managing the Kenyon so this will give you an idea change is not easy. of the level of expertise on offer. The introduction opens with what The other twelve authors also have might be a haiku but probably isn’t The book notes that three key long non-profit tech track records – if you are trying to make sense themes emerge from nearly every with respected organisations such of ICT in your organisation: chapter: look at the mission 13
    • This probably isn’t a book you’ll read in one sitting, although it’s written in a way which isn’t dry like so many tech manuals or management books. The fact that it is American means that the examples of legislation in the recruitment section are obviously for a US audience so less relevant to the Computanews audience. Although aimed at those who are tasked with managing technology in VCS organisations, anyone with an interest, professional or otherwise, in the subject will gain from the material and resources. I’d suggest that this book should be mandatory for circuit riders and other ICT development workers and we’ll certainly be including it as necessary reading as part of the Lasa ICT Learning Programme. Highly recommended. The book’s website www. meetyourmission.org provides an overview of the book and the authors and the Jossey-Bass site gives access to “premium first – if that hot looking online Lo and Willow Cook at TechSoup content” at www.josseybass.com/ database tool that everybody is – it’s an excellent overview of go/nten There is also a webinar talking about won’t help meet hardware, software, networks, that features many of the book’s your mission, then pass – if it looks security, internet access, websites, authors in conversation with like it could then you have some support and so on. But I doubt Holly Ross, www.nten.org/events/ serious work to do. Secondly, you’ll find too many PCs on sale webinar/2009/03/31/managing- people come second – staff, boards now with 256Mb RAM, 1Ghz technology-meet-your-mission-book- and stakeholders need to buy processor or a 40Gb hard drive release-party into mission-focused technology that will function adequately with a and the technology has to be modern operating system. adequately supported. Finally, every technology project needs That’s a minor quibble though. to be evaluated and re-evaluated. There’s much to admire in the I’d also suggest that planning for book – I liked John Kenyon’s technology rears its head again and notion of the “clickability” of a again throughout the book – and website to mimic a conversation is something that is very often with a potential visitor to the site, lacking in organisations. Steve Heye’s table for assessing what stage your technology is The limitation of any book is that it at and Peter Campbell’s use of a is of its time. With ICT moving at technology SWOT analysis for the a rapid pace it can date fast. This introduction of (in the example is noticeable in the technology given) smartphones. primer chapter written by Kevin 14
    • Computanews Lasa services About Lasa Established in 1984, Lasa has provided ICT advice to the voluntary sector for 25 years. Its two main aims are to promote social inclusion through independent ICT information + advice access to social welfare law, information, advice and guidance; and to www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk promote an efficient and effective sector through improving access to impartial ICT advice and support resources – such as Computanews and SUPPLIERS the London e-bulletin (www.lasa.org.uk/lasa/mailing-lists) DIRECTORY connecting you with trusted technology suppliers Our online ICT Knowledgebase (www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk) is www.suppliersdirectory.org.uk a comprehensive source of independent expert ICT advice for VCS organisations, now containing over 300 articles. The Suppliers Directory (www.suppliersdirectory.org.uk) connects VCS organisations with over100 approved suppliers of ICT products and support services across England. Lasa is also noted for its consultancy work and leadership in developing the Circuit Rider model of local ICT support. (http://ukriders. lasa.org.uk/) advice + information management system www.lasa.org.uk/aims Supported by Big Lottery Fund Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Capacity Builders The Law Society Charity The City Bridge Trust Legal Services Commission City Parochial Foundation London Councils Cripplegate Foundation The London Legal Support Trust Wates Foundation Credits Computanews has been published Lasa, Universal House, 88-94 by Lasa since 1984. Wentworth Street, London E1 7SA Editor: Ian Runeckles Web: www.lasa.org.uk/ict Design: Miles Maier Twitter: @lasaict Cartoons by Phil Evans. Email: computanews@lasa.org.uk Tel: 020 7426 4496 Registered charity no: 800140 Published: February 2010