Risk/reward management is the slightly scientific art of minimising risks and maximising rewards for an organisation. The techniques, encompassed by the Z/Ealous methodology sketched out in chapter "IT Strategy: What and Why" help organisations to manage uncertainty. We argue that IT management contains such uncertainty and therefore lends itself well to risk/reward management. This book seeks to help not-for-profit organisations to minimise the risks of using IT and maximise the rewards they get from IT. The other themes we set out in the introduction can be seen as means to that end:
Whatever aspect of your IT you are looking at, these principles apply, be it a refresh of equipment, a change of a core system, organising your human resources to manage your IT or your latest Internet-based initiative. Similarly, the mantra "plan, implement, evaluate" pervades any IT project or initiative you are attempting. Well-planned IT projects are less risky and more likely to yield the desired rewards. Implement your IT projects in manageable, bite-sized chunks. Do evaluate your projects, learning from the good and the bad, to help you minimise the risks and maximise the rewards.
IT can help not-for-profit organisations to:
Yet to many not-for-profit sector people IT remains a source of worry. Indeed many not-for-profit people confide in the current authors that the IT area worries them more than any other aspect of their work. Perhaps this is because, in many not-for-profit organisations, responsibility for IT rests with an individual who knows little about IT. Perhaps it is because, in the not-for-profit sector, it can be difficult to justify the significant IT spending using straightforward cost benefit analysis. Perhaps the worry is inevitable, caused by inherent technophobia and technoscepticism.
Putting it another way, the not-for-profit sector manager, perhaps as a result of responsibilities or perhaps as a result of inherent perception of the uncertainties involved in choosing and using IT, tends to make non-optimal risk-based decisions. Symptoms of the potential for such non-optimal decisions might be:
Contrast the above mood of worry with the easy attitude of many very young people, who seem able to enjoy IT and benefit from it almost effortlessly. Of course, those young people do not carry the responsibility for managing an organisation on their shoulders, nor do they have to justify whether the spending is in the interests of beneficiaries and stakeholders. However, perhaps there is a more profound psychological difference based on the willingness to accept inherent uncertainty and a willingness to experiment and "fail" as long as the downside of failure is not too profound.
We suggest that many very young people tend to accept and embrace new worlds without worrying too much about whether they understand them to the full. This "go with the flow" attitude can be observed in young people's attitudes towards other areas; observe their easy acceptance of other worlds such as Star Wars - a futuristic new technology world - and Harry Potter - a magical "old world", full of wizards (humans with magical powers) and muggles (humans who do not recognise magic even when it confronts them).
The IT arena is a fast changing and sometimes confusing place, but we do not need to understand all the technology and wizardry IT entails to be able to benefit from it. Indeed, many of the most effective stories shown in the case studies in this book have been the result of experimentation into the unknown, but done in a controlled that did not jeopardise the organisation.
We hope that this book will benefit readers, by which we mean (at least in part) to help readers to stop worrying and enjoy the benefits of IT. Go with the flow. In the same way as we advocate evaluation for continuous improvement of IT systems, we welcome your evaluation of this book to help us to continuously improve future editions. Please let us know.