IT gameplan for charities
Charities face complex communications challenges in order to meet the needs of their service users, according to technology provider Dynamic Edge.
The Aberdeen-based business specialises in assisting charities and third sector organisations manage their IT and communications requirements effectively – from software discounts to procedures for information security and disaster recovery.
David McCready, technical business manager at Dynamic Edge, is well aware of the IT challenges facing the sector, having previously worked at VSA, formerly Voluntary Service Aberdeen, for nine years.
He said: “The north-east’s charitable sector varies hugely from large, professional organisations to smaller outfits that don’t necessarily have the required infrastructure, processes and procedures in place. Often, people don’t necessarily realise the complexities involved in the day-to-day running of a successful charitable organisation. Regardless of budget and available resources, they all share the same need to communicate quickly and effectively with key stakeholders.
“In my previous role as IT manager for VSA, for instance, I was involved in a major programme of modernisation across the organisation. Following a strategic review, a new virtual server and wide area network (WAN) infrastructure were introduced which significantly increased connectivity, performance and productivity for the organisation’s workforce.”
David has identified seven key areas which charities need to consider in terms of their IT requirements:
Absolute uptime – It’s critical to have access to all systems at all times whether that’s by phone or email. This is especially the case for social care charities where the basic needs of other people are being looked after.
Remote working – Increasingly people are working from home or in the community, often over a large geographical area; therefore, they need to be able to access all required files and applications via the cloud or another medium.
Training – Sometimes the level of IT knowledge can be lacking, particularly for people who aren’t used to working in an office environment. Ongoing training, held at central locations, can be provided to help familiarise all end users with the different processes.
Additional support – Providing inclusive and assistive technology for service users as well as staff who may have learning difficulties or additional support needs.
Value – Every penny needs to be accounted for as it comes direct from donations. Charities should be aware of significant discounts available to them from software vendors such as Microsoft for operating systems and office software. There are a range of options available to provide charities with a fully-functional desktop service.
Information security and data protection – Charities cannot afford to lose any sensitive data so it’s vital to have policies and systems in place that help to safeguard information and, most importantly, support end users to understand best practice and safe-working.
Disaster recovery – It is easy for any organisation to overlook disaster planning but it is vital to have robust systems, mechanisms and planning in place should the worst ever happen. If a major incident should occur then the long-term impact and cost could be more than the charity is able to survive. Managed IT services can ensure appropriate plans and systems are provisioned and updated as required.
David added: “The ability to be creative is imperative as charities often need to find a way to secure enterprise-level resources on a shoestring budget. We take a long term view to the needs of the charity; working closely with service managers to understand what long-term funding is going to be available for the service so that we can provide solutions that are built to last.”