James Field, Customer Strategy Director at Smartdesc, gives his predictions for the biggest tech challenges and opportunities for the Charity and Non-Profit Sector for 2020;
Not surprisingly, this will continue to dominate the agenda and we can expect more high profile data breaches in the sector in 2020. The Government’s Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus is definitely a worthwhile accreditation for charities to obtain as a baseline minimum standard in IT security. Smartdesc helps charities meet the Cyber Essentials accreditation and will soon also be able to award it too. What’s not new is the simple fact that the most valuable investment you can make around data protection is in your staff awareness. Training around IT Security, for example by running a phishing / spam email training exercise that can include sending a fake spam email to staff and learning about who actually clicked it, in order to provide tailored training, is priceless.
2019 continued the trend in charities wanting to overhaul their CRM or databases, with varying degrees of success. The draw for individual apps that perform a single function, such as, Raisers Edge for donor management or QuickBooks for finance – to be replaced with behemoth platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, is obvious; in theory they offer the holy grail of a single platform to run your entire charity operation through. The power of these platforms and their ability to be customised to virtually any requirement makes them compelling, but many organisations fall foul of jumping into purchasing a platform without first mapping out all their existing processes, and thinking about how these would hang together in a single ecosystem. There is often an immensely high cost attached to bring in specialist developers to do the customising. These projects are big and require a lot more time and effort than staff may anticipate. It’s always wise to engage with an independent specialist, such as a Smartdesc Virtual IT Director, to help you strategize and think about ways forward before you commit to any change or CRM project.
Agile Working and the rise of Office 365
In 2019, Smartdesc helped many charities move to a more agile, flexible IT system to allow staff to work more effectively from anywhere. A few larger clients moved offices and implemented shared desks, enabling staff to work anywhere with their own laptop and a dock / screen. This proved extremely popular, and was enabled through a combination of engaging with staff groups to define their wish list for flexible working, backed up with HR policy, and underpinned by migration to cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365, moving data, such as shared files and emails, over to Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. This trend will continue in 2020 as more charities and non-profit organisations look to retire their physical servers and save office space by moving to an agile working model, backed by incredibly cheap running costs via the Microsoft donation scheme.
Brexit, compliance and data sovereignty
The UK has committed the GDPR standard to law, regardless of Brexit, and we can expect to see the Information Commissioners Office issue more fines to charities this year (last year the Bible Society were fined £100,000 for what amounted to the lack of enforcing complex passwords) – so ensuring your Policies, Procedures and Staff Awareness Training programme is maintained and refreshed in 2020 will remain as critical as ever; humans are ultimately responsible for every data breach, so knowledge is power. Microsoft also now makes it very easy to ensure your cloud data is stored in UK or European data centres, meaning there’s no excuse not to know where your data is stored, even if it’s cloud based. Our Information Governance team is here to help refresh policies, conduct GDPR health checks and training, and improve processes like responding to Subject Access Requests (SARs).
Automation and Machine Learning – using your data more effectively
Microsoft entered the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) game late in 2019 with Microsoft Power Automate, providing a low cost means to train a computer to carry out manual admin tasks that may involve logging into lots of different systems to compile data or reports, saving countless hours of your time. Microsoft’s generous charity discount scheme will include elements of this platform at a heavy discount, and investing time up front to automate boring repetitive tasks frees up teams to work on higher value tasks, so we expect this to be another huge growth area over the next few years – wouldn’t we all welcome an end to remembering passwords for hundreds of apps!
James Field, Customer Strategy Director, Smartdesc.