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Top Five Technology Strategy Trends for NFPs

Our Top Five Technology Strategy Trends for NFPs from Transform 2019!

May 8-9, 2019, 500 technology-focused not-for-profit sector representatives amassed at the Melbourne Convention Centre for Connecting Up’s Transform 2019 annual technology conference.

Maxsum was proud to support our partner Connecting Up for the second-year running at this peak technology enablement event for the sector, this year as Bronze Sponsor, Exhibitor and Keynote Speaker!

So, what went down and what did we learn? Read on for a sum up of our favourite bits of Transform 2019, including the Top Five Tech Strategy Trends for NFPs we saw discussed in high rotation over the two days of the event. So, let’s get started

Artificial Intelligence – Addressing the “why” in the room!

The 2-day conference event kicked off with a leadership breakfast talking all things AI followed by several other sessions talking about different ways machine learning and digital automation are impacting the sector, from examples of robotic “friends” being used to assist children with autism to examples of the unintended negative impact automated benefit overpayment correction processes in Australia have had on already vulnerable people in our country. Alongside some insights into the nuts and bolts of what AI and machine learning can “do”, we took away a few key considerations for organisations looking to leverage AI, machine learning or more digital processes.

Firstly, the essential ingredients needed to leverage AI or machine learning capabilities span both the human and the technical and include:

  • Computational resources
  • Algorithms & tools
  • Training examples
  • Creativity & ingenuity

Secondly, while the technical iterations of AI look impressive, as Maxsum’s Joe Ciancio pointed out in question time, it is critical for NFPs to address the “why” before delving into the “what” and the “how” of machine learning, AI or any digital process, to ensure we are not building solutions that are looking for problems to solve.  Rather we need to be asking ourselves what big problems are out there we haven’t been able to solve to date, and seeing where AI, machine learning or digital progress could augment our efforts in resolving these challenges.

Watch here for Joe Ciancio of Maxsum’s TEDx talk on Maintaining Human-Centric Connectedness in a Future AI World.

Digital Transformation – Opportunities and Implications

The opening keynote by ACOSS’ Cassandra Goldie sought to reframe our view of our inherent national capacity to support our societies’ most vulnerable, citing recent OECD statistics that put Australia at the top median income per capita in the OECD but at the 7th lowest tax rate across the OECD group. Cassandra called for a serious look into our support of the NFP sector in Australia, and in particular, more detailed consideration of the implications, both positive and negative, of digital transformation on the sector in terms of how transformation technologies may result in a combination of:

  • More effective, efficient and better targeted services
  • Improved safety and standard of living
  • Some people experiencing poverty might be left behind
  • Some people experiencing poverty might be harmed

To ensure the best outcomes she encouraged organisations and policy makers alike to consider the three elements of digital inclusion – access, affordability, and ability – across both online and traditional service offerings to protect and promote inclusion.

What are the key strategic considerations are in any digital transformation journey – Are you on the right track? Jump start your strategic journey here

Busting the overhead myth!

In a highly engaging session, Dr Ruth Knight of the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies heartily challenged the assumption that high overheads equals poor management and that only direct program costs achieve good outcomes in the sector. She called for new and more inventive ways to define success and measure performance and outcomes across the sector that are not tied to a direct correlation measuring performance against overheads. This really struck a nerve with many in the room and echoes strongly Maxsum’s approach to enabling NFPs to invest and leverage technology to deliver sustainability and efficiency gains for purpose.

Read more about why we think Profit is Not a Dirty Word for the NFP Sector here!

Your data – It’s not the enemy!

In what was to become a central theme of the 2-day event, ACOSS’s Cassandra Goldie also talked about the need for the NFP sector to embrace technology and data in new ways for new outcomes. In a slide entitled “Data and technology don’t need to be the enemy!”, Cassandra described why NFP organisations could and should be looking to leverage their data better:

  • For policy and research development
  • To help target prevention and early intervention
  • To table complex and entrenched disadvantage and inequality
  • To improve the capacity of community services to deliver better long-term outcomes
  • To help with service planning & design
  • For advocacy and to amplify the voices of people experiencing poverty and disadvantage

This was further echoed later in the Technology for the good (the bad and the ugly) panel discussion where the panel examined some examples of the good – building apps for better service and information provision to clients, as well as the bad and the ugly, including what it’s really like to build an app and when NOT to! Other considerations raised were around data privacy concerns in the handling of information supplied to data platforms by already vulnerable individuals, as well as the importance of moving your organisation out of its dependence on traditional data collation and storage formats like Excel and into more agile and insightful data management and visualisation tools.

Read more about the importance of leveraging your data better and how you can build a data-driven business here

IT Security for NFPs – It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”!

The other major recurring discussion around technology and data was that of security and privacy. Maxsum’s own Joe Ciancio briefed the delegates on IT Security essentials for NFPs, where he addressed (and busted!) some of the most common “myths” surrounding IT security in NFPs, including:

  • Cybercriminals only target the top-end of town!
  • But what would they want with our data?
  • We have an IT guy/team, and he’s got all of that covered
  • Our Board of Directors is responsible for all things risk management.

In giving the room some insight into the transforming cyber threat landscape Joe talked about some of the latest trickery involving phishing, ransomware and business email compromises malicious actors are using to evade technology protections and play on human vulnerabilities as a primary attack vector. This was followed by a discussion around the risks to reputation, privacy, and service delivery NFPs will face by not getting their IT security house in order at both a practical level with:

And on a governance level with:

Top tips for NFPs in dealing with current and emerging cyber threats! Stay Aware – Spread the Word – Build your Team

Find out more from Maxsum about reimagining cybersecurity for your organisation here.

Thanks to all the Connecting Up Transformation Partners, Sponsors, Exhibitors and Attendees for an engaging and conversation-filled two days. We look forward to engaging with the connections we made and continuing to Enable Opportunity and Realise Potential in NFP organisations. Call us on 1300 629 786 (MAXSUM) or go to to find out more!