Working it Out is Tasmania’s only dedicated LGBTIQ education provider. As a small not-for-profit, resources are spread very thin and Lynn Jarvis’s role as CEO includes everything from ordering stationery to meeting with the minister.
IT had taken a backseat prior to Lynn’s arrival in 2019 and had become a huge source of frustration to the organisation’s 13 employees. Even the casual IT support person couldn’t decipher the ad-hoc systems that had been stitched together over time.
“It really impacted my productivity because I had to spend a lot of time trying to work it all out at the start,” says Lynn.
The organisation needed systems that could help staff focus on providing services efficiently to clients rather than spending precious time finding files or dealing with website and email outages. They also needed good remote working tools because staff are based throughout Tasmania.
Working it Out was already a member of Connecting Up and Lynn came across our IT Strategy on a Plate course through an e-newsletter. Being part of such a small not-for-profit, she was successful in applying for a scholarship for the course, which was a huge advantage in helping her get the organisation’s IT environment up-to-speed.
Lynn says that prior to the course, "I had an idea about Microsoft 365 and SharePoint and that there might be not-for-profit licenses but I needed to figure out how it all worked.”
Lynn particularly liked how structured the course was and how it provided step-by-step advice which brought clarity to the organisation’s IT landscape. They did have some cloud-based capability, but the course helped to shine a light on gaps and helped her to work out what the priorities were.
Through this renewed focus on IT, Lynn was able to secure pro-bono IT support from an organisation who assisted in the implementation of the strategy.
The first step was to set up Microsoft Office 365 licenses including SharePoint, which brought with it the need to re-think knowledge and information management. Staff were involved in mapping data, and now information is organised according to work groups with privacy permissions activated where necessary. This has given control back to staff over their work.
Creating a strategy enabled Lynn to see that it was a high priority to upgrade hardware. Now, all staff are PC-based with re-imaged machines and standardised operating systems rather than split between Macs and PCs. This means they are able to work together much more efficiently in a consistent environment. Implementing Microsoft Teams proved a blessing when staff moved to work from home at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and meant communication internally and externally could continue seamlessly. Teams continues to facilitate formal and informal teamwork.
The changes triggered by the IT Strategy on a Plate course have been so far-reaching in fact, that Working it Out’s IT environment is now almost completely unrecognisable.
A brand-new website has been built which is much more reliable than the previous version, which used to crash, bringing down email communication with it. The website has been built with the community’s needs in mind and is reaching far more people seeking information and resources than ever before.
By bringing in Office 365, Working it Out has been able to make good use of Microsoft apps, for example using Microsoft’s booking system to allow service users to book appointments online and Forms to help create a successful online buddy system called “Working it out together”, which connects volunteers with people seeking support.
The organisation has also implemented a new membership management platform, Join IT, which has reduced the administrative overheads, allowing members to sign up and pay online, and automating membership renewals.
Our membership has increased at least 100% since we have implemented all these things, says Lynn.
Mailchimp has made quarterly e-newsletters simple, and helped the office become almost paperless. The organisation no longer has paper filing cabinets, which not only makes for a more comfortable working environment but has helped Working it Out’s commitment towards sustainability.
As part of the strategy we have instituted a number of efficiencies in all sorts of different areas which has meant we have capacity to do other stuff, instead of worrying about whether someone has paid their membership, or where that file is, says Lynn.
Advice for other not-for-profit organisations
We asked Lynn what advice she would give to other not-for-profits who are thinking about creating an IT strategy. This is what she told us:
- You need to have someone keen to lead the charge. Enthusiasm is infectious and helps bring other people on board by selling the benefits.
- Set up systems with sustainability in mind to free up your time and resources long term.
- Know what your priorities are and have a plan to work through them.
- Explore getting an IT company to come on board to support you, especially if you are a very small not-for profit.
Find out more about our IT Strategy on a Plate course, a 12-week program of online workshops providing practical guidance in how to re-think your organisation's IT environment.