The amount of information and data that we are creating every day is truly staggering. We have created more data in the past 3 years than in the entire previous history of the human race.
Information has always been the driving factor for our advancement; the only difference is that now it is easier to create a wide range of information with the use of digital technology.
But where does all this data go? Where do we store it? A study by the University of California found that the information capacity of the world’s analog and digital storage is 295 billion gigabytes. This isn’t even taking into account the ever expanding cloud based storage which is expanding so rapidly that obtaining an accurate figure of how much data is stored there is virtually impossible.
This amount of data is impossible to fully comprehend, and fortunately, we only have to deal with a tiny fraction of this in our day-to-day roles, although that amount can still be overwhelming. The main pressure points that come from our reliance on data rarely actually come from the amount of data, but from the way that this data is stored.
Many organizations are struggling to cope with the transition from paper-based systems to IT based systems for managing and storing data. For some, the adoption of technology has come easy. They have large IT infrastructure teams and vast resources to be able to cope with data storage and the migration from paper-based systems. The same cannot be said for non-profit organizations.
Time is almost as limited as budget and resources for most non-profits and organizing their data is very low down on their list of priorities. When time is this limited, the urgent crowds out the important, but by embracing technology and digitizing your organization, you will begin to unlock your potential and actually begin to focus on the important matter in hand, fund raising.
If you’re still working from paper then don’t worry, a lot of other people are too, but perhaps you have missed some of the benefits that come from going paperless. Yes the environmental aspect of this is important, but in terms of benefits that directly impact your organization, switching to a fully IT based system to store and maintain your data will save you money in the long run, and will allow you to work more efficiently and effectively.
When you migrate your information to a digital system, you are truly making this data. Data can then be referenced, searched, manipulated and used to interact with other data sets. In short, you can make this information work much smarter and work for you.
This may all sound well and good, but the lack of time and resources are still factors you believe are holding you back. The least tangible benefit of paperless working is perhaps the one with the greatest benefits.
If you’re all working from a digital system with a central data repository, then whenever an amend is made to a document, this updates for everyone and the whole organization is kept up to date.
Out-of-date information, or the possibility of people making important decisions based upon old information is potentially a governance scandal waiting to happen. Working from out-of-date information leads to key decision makers being out of touch with what is truly going on. Once the decisions being made no longer align with the goals and objectives for a non-profit, things can quickly spiral out of control.
Assessing the information that you have is an important step on the road to becoming data driven. Firstly, conducting a data inventory allows you to assess exactly what you have, rather than just letting the data pile up in silos ready to rot. There may be things here that you didn’t realise you had that gives the answer to a question your organization has been failing on for years, you simply didn’t realise the answer was right under your nose.
Secondly, assessing this data allows you to tackle the issue of security and compliance. The amount of new regulations coming into place worldwide around data and cyber-security can be tricky to keep on top of, but if you know exactly what data you hold and exactly where it is, it gives you the best possible chance of compliance.
The distribution of documents and the security around this is a hot topic currently, especially after the email hacking scandal that surrounding the recent US election. Emails are not a secure way of sharing important and confidential files, and even without the security issues, ensuring your emails battle through the noise to be seen and digested by the intended recipient is also fraught with issues. By 2019, it’s estimated that the amount of emails sent on a daily basis will reach 246 billion. By putting all the information they need at their fingertips, or just the click of a button away rather than sharing it via email, helps to minimize this risk almost entirely.
All of this boils down to embracing digital transformation and realising the potential benefits that it will bring to your organization.