The Back-office IT Guide: Not just another toolkit

  • Ernest Ostro, Director, Software Systems, International Rescue Committee
  • July 14, 2016
The Back-office IT Guide: Not just anoth

It’s unlikely that many NGO staff worldwide woke up last week and thought to themselves, “I have finally worked out what’s standing between us and achieving our mission. It’s not funding and unmet need, it’s…a guide to improve our back-office IT operations! Now I can rest easy, knowing NetHope has it covered.”

...So why publish yet another guide on how to run IT operations? With so many different resources on IT already available, what will this guide add to the conversation?

The fact is that most of the resources published on IT best practices to date are targeted at for-profit companies who enjoy the luxuries of larger technology budgets and face smaller contextual challenges than most non-profits. Books about networks and perimeter security abound, but we have yet to see a resource discuss connectivity and beneficiary data management particular to the needs of a refugee camp. Even within the sector, larger NGOs have technology resources and practices of which small- and medium-sized nonprofits can only dream.

The new Back-office IT Guide attempts to take the best practices and lessons learned from across the sector and distill them into useful suggestions for decision-makers at small- to medium-sized NGOs who need support in better understanding and managing back-office information technology (IT).

Similar to the SDG ICT Playbook, the Back-Office IT Guide is built on the foundational premise of NetHope that there is no limit to what the technology sector and international NGOs can accomplish with effective collaboration and understanding.

All around us, we see examples of how new digital products and services can deeply affect local communities and accelerate progress towards our collective missions. However, the pace of change and the modern complexity of IT are hard to absorb successfully, especially for nonprofits with limited budgets, limited IT experience, and missions based in very challenging contexts.

For that reason, while there are tips and tricks, this guide does not feature “top 10” lists of the best gadgets, servers, or firewall technologies. Instead, it focuses on best practices to design and deliver lasting, transformational technological value in spite of challenge; how to build and manage a department and projects; how to plan for operational success; and how to meet the needs of typical nonprofit departments. If the foundational structures for IT decision-making are aligned with an organization’s mission and business model, the specifics of technology will naturally flow. Without that foundation, success will always be haphazard.

It’s been an exciting journey for all involved as we’ve thought about, discussed and built the Back-office IT Guide over the past year. We hope it reflects our passion for using technology for social good, and that it provides both immediate and lasting value to the incredible colleagues we work with every day. [Click here to download.]

We also hope to continue to build out the resource over time to be even more useful. Have suggestions or recommendations or ideas for the future? Please send us your feedback in order to help us iterate and improve the guide.

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