In 2012, Idealware worked with our friends at MAP for Nonprofits on Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services. Since then, the folks at MAP tested an approach to helping nonprofits identify viable opportunities for innovation. You can read all about the pilot program and read a number of case studies in MAP for Nonprofits’ Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program; we’re reprinting a few of the case studies here because we think they’re of interest to our audience. This is the first…

Residential Services, Inc. (RSI)

RSI entered the program having recently implemented several technology systems, including a new database. Through the Identifying Needs and Understanding Technology survey – which they chose to send to the entire organization – they realized that internet bandwidth issues were making it difficult to use the new technology. They responded immediately by systematically checking every location’s internet connection, troubleshooting problems, and upgrading network components where needed.

Survey Helps Organization Connect to Internal Tech Concerns

Reflecting on this later, the executive director was glad they had decided to extend the survey to the entire organization, rather than limit it to management and the technology steering group. The survey helped RSI leadership realize that employees – although expressing enthusiasm for adopting new technologies – had become frustrated with the rapid roll-out of recent changes.

As a result, RSI delayed the planned rollout of a new electronic medication administration record system in order to be more thoughtful about managing the change, and ensuring that infrastructure was ready to support the new technology. “We were seeing the signs of problems and frustrations among our staff,” said Executive Director Jon Nelson. “We put everything on hold while we implemented a plan to improve the equipment (modems, routers, firewalls) and work with the developer of the software to make needed improvements.”

Improving Integration of Systems

Through the pilot program, RSI identified that improving internal processes and systems like scheduling, time and attendance offered the most return on  investment. Data silos were leading to inefficiencies, and stood in the way of data analysis. As it turned out, employees were eager to try new tools. Within a month of RSI completing the pilot program, two locations were already piloting and evaluating two different timekeeping tools. Nelson explained, “If we had proposed a change to our timekeeping system from the top down instead of getting the idea from the people who use it, the change would have failed. The chance to learn and demonstrate responsiveness, as a result of this program, definitely built momentum for change.”

The scheduling and time and attendance project is moving ahead at RSI. They have been piloting multiple options at different RSI homes and have been working with a developer to fine tune a scheduling application. They also have broadened the scope of the project to look at software that would better integrate the scheduling and time and attendance data with other payroll data. In addition, they have been sharing questions and ideas with Community Involvement Programs, another participant in their cohort, looking for some common solutions. Holding the implementation of their new electronic medication administration record system, in response to employee concerns, allowed the organization to identify and implement a plan to improve the equipment (modems, routers, firewalls) and the software.

The bottom line is that RSI is using several ideas that came from the pilot program to improve the use of technology at RSI, in an informed, prioritized manner.