Digital Transformation: How did we get here?

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In the last article we talked about digital transformation for charitable organizations. As a recap, digital transformation has three components that interconnect to create a digital ecosystem: systems integration, enterprise solution and user experience.

We reviewed suggestions on how to begin to understand a digital ecosystem, through design thinking and mapping of currently technologies being used. Using tools like use case diagrams, group mapping and staff meetings to engage in discussion and planning about digital transformation were important factors in the process. Understanding the impact of time and human resources as well as asking what the charity would look like if it was founded today, are important considerations.

Making technology part of an organization’s DNA

Technology has become an integrated part of the DNA of our generation. Whether you grew up with it or bought your first mobile phone when you were 20, society has had to learn to be adaptive throughout this digital tsunami. So what happens when an organization starts to look at pieces of their mission, vision, and mandate and realizes that technology is not a part of the DNA of the organization? In the case of Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, a small charity that helps those facing cancer, this was the case. In this article we will focus on how this organization digitally transformed, through design thinking, the iterative process, user experience and new ways of delivering their programs and services.

Like many organizations, Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto was working hard to create programs and services to support their members: people facing cancer. The organization offers over 170 educational programs and services with a small staff and operates on a limited budget. The health benefits of the psychosocial programming that Gilda’s offers are significant to their members. However, they faced the same challenges so many organizations do: how to best organize their IT, create programming that was tailored to members, and reach more people facing cancer. This was a big challenge for a very small organization. In addition, the bricks and mortar location was the most commonly used place for program delivery.

The first way the organization looked to transform was to ask the question of how members were being tracked when taking courses or visiting Gilda’s to use the Clubhouse. Like many small to medium charities, most members and volunteers signed up on a piece of paper at the front reception desk when entering the building. They would be asked to do the same again when taking a class, or volunteering. All of these papers were then gathered and entered into a database. This first point of entry was not efficiently using technology that could have benefitted the organization and the management of members, volunteers and visitors.

Understand how you track your data and create a digital collection point

This is the first step in building digital transformation. Being able to digitally check in members, supporters and volunteers to any organization is key for collecting your most important program data. What does it do? It provides you with important data on your user which you can then segment to learn more about who is using your services. It can help you market your services to specifics needs of your members, and tailor information about your programs.

You might be wondering how you can do this quickly? There are a number of cloud-based online check in systems that are easy to get up and running with little cost to the organization if any at all. Greetly is one example that not only provides customization, but also a cloud-based log-book. It also integrates with other applications like Slack, which is a team software application that in this case will notify you when a visitor has digitally logged in. This is a quick and easy way to start integrating digital technology into systems to create better efficiencies for the organization and understand your client base.

In the case of Gilda’s Club, user testing and iteration was done during the first few months of the testing of the digital check in system. Toronto-based industry partners Six Trends Inc. connected an iPad at the front desk to a server that pushed check-in data to a Google Spreadsheet for quick analysis but also set up links for comprehensive data reports via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to support the software mix that Gilda’s already had. It allowed members and visitors to provide feedback through user experience. This is a key element to digital transformation and it is worth taking the time finding expertise to do this quickly and affordably even if you decide to use software modules that are off the shelf.

Programs and services can be effectively converted to digital. Just make sure you get user feedback and explain the process.

At this point it’s good to look back at some of the steps in the first article to further expand your digital transformation. In the case of Gilda’s Club where, with over 170 educational programs available, converting content to digital to reach more people facing cancer was a long-term objective for the organization and the program team. Gilda’s Club looked at key programs that could be converted to live digital broadcast. This was conducted by looking at past member engagement to determine best practices. With help from Six Trends Inc. as an industry partner, they were able to map and establish where the content should be broadcast and stored. They also purchased low-cost but high-quality equipment to live broadcast. Disruption in live streaming has worked to Gilda’s advantage. YouTube Live is free but people are often stuck making terrible quality videos from a single mobile device, or paying a lot for a professional service. For $29/month a Switcher Studio software turns an iPad into a recording studio and allows multiple mobile devices to be cameras. The quality is great even with old iPhone 6s phones. Audio does need some attention but affordable compressors and wireless mics do the job nicely. Professional advice to ensure getting all of this right, and in training your team, is money well spent. Again, thanks to Six Trends Inc. this process was straightforward.

The organization used their transition to live streaming as an opportunity to reorganize a rather chaotic collection of great videos on their YouTube channel, taking full advantage of “featured video” options, playlists, likes and so on. This is critical to increasing the number of viewers and the time that they watch for. Video is the most compelling medium right now for audience engagement, but only if it is easy to find, well documented and of good quality.

Again with user feedback and testing in mind, Gilda’s chose to advertise the first live event on the same day to active members and encouraged members to provide feedback on watching the live content.  Sixty members attended in person. The program was received very well by users and the educational session had a 300% increase in active watchers online. Viewing continued after the event and reached five times as many people in subsequent weeks. Feedback provided was very positive and all staff were briefed on the process and what kind of information they needed to provide any users that were experiencing streaming problems. Which leads us to what I’ll be discussing in the final article.

Where is your organizational mindset, and who fuels it?

In 2015, Julie Dodd, Director of Digital transformation at Parkinson's UK, conducted research and produced a study based on interviews about digital transformation with over 50 senior leaders and digital experts from both inside and outside the nonprofit sector. The infographic 20 ways to achieve digital transformation overviews four key areas: mindset, people, process and tool. In the previous two articles we’ve talked about process and tools, while in the final article we will move onto mindset and people - which could be some of the most challenging components of creating digital transformation within an organization.

Lee Rennick is Vice President Business Development & Insights at Six Trends Inc. - a Toronto-based digital transformation business.

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