Knowledge Management: Salvation

May 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

The Human Component in Fundraising Information Systems

My spouse and I went to see “Terminator: Salvation” last weekend, and it got me thinking about the merging of people and technology in fundraising knowledge management systems. When we create systems to manage the daily onslaught of information that we all face, our tendency is to focus solely on the technology and resist acknowledging that people are an integral part of the system. Information management systems are like cyborgs in that the human component is necessary for the technology to work efficiently.
Too often we think of technology as being totally evil, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Terminator when he comes back in time to kill Sarah Connor (I spell my name differently), or totally good, like in T2 when the good Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back to protect her. Either way, we give technology too much power; it will either entangle data in an irretrievable mess, or it will be the magic bullet that will meet all of our information needs. While some tools are better than others, they are not going to solve our problems for us. 
In order to save the world, we need the Terminator, but we also need Sarah Connor. With technology, we have tools that house information. It is the human component that turns that data into knowledge. 
Since people don’t yet have the ability to install a USB plug into our brains and do a data dump into the network, people need to learn and give shape to their organization’s knowledge management system and abide by the policies. Whatever the role, fundraising professionals are responsible to and dependent on each other. Ultimately, the frontline fundraisers are responsible to enter their contact reports, prospect researchers must enter the latest ratings and philanthropic associations, gift processors need to make sure that gifts are entered accurately, and the events manager needs to enter the latest activity. Over time, these data points become an organization’s institutional memory.
However, knowledge management systems are more than the database, hard files, and email system. While tracking the data points in your information system is significant, the protocols and policies that dictate how communication channels are facilitated are equally important. It is easy to forget that the information in peoples’ heads or is shared in a conversation are also information assets. Just as important as the technology that houses the data are policies and guidelines that give shape to formalized relationships and how that information exchange is communicated and captured. A knowledge management system must provide guidelines for how those mushier data points are exchanged and captured. The regular prospect meetings and formal liaison assignments within organizations are critical aspects of managing your information assets. 
The knowledge management system as like a cyborg: the technical and the human are integral parts of the whole, and they don’t work well without each other. Your individual and collective success depends on it. Resistance is futile.

My spouse and I went to see “Terminator: Salvation” last weekend, and it got me thinking about the merging of people and technology in fundraising knowledge management systems. When we create systems to manage the daily onslaught of information that we all face, our tendency is to focus solely on the technology and resist acknowledging that people are an integral part of the system. Information management systems are like cyborgs in that the human component is necessary for the technology to work efficiently.

Too often we think of technology as being totally evil, like when in the first Terminator,  when the cyborg goes back in time to kill Sarah Connor, or totally good, like in Terminator 2: Judgment Day when the good Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back to protect her. Either way, we give technology too much power; it will either entangle data in an irretrievable mess, or it will be the magic bullet that will meet all of our information needs and be our salvation. While some tools are better than others, they are not going to solve our problems for us. 

In order to save the world, we need the Terminator, but we also need Sarah Connor. It is the same with information technology tools; we need the hardware to house the data, but it is the human component that turns that data into knowledge. 

Since people don’t yet have the ability to install a USB plug into our brains and do a data dump into the network, people need give shape to their organization’s knowledge management system. Whatever the role, fundraising professionals are responsible to and dependent on each other. Front line fundraisers enter their contact reports, prospect researchers enter ratings and biographical information, gift processors make sure that gift data is entered accurately, and events managers enter the latest activity. Over time, these data points become an organization’s institutional memory.

Like the cyborg, knowledge management systems are more than just hardware; the also have a human component. While than the database, hard files, and email are significant, how people communicate and facilitate relationships is equally, if not more important. It is easy to forget that the knowledge in peoples’ heads or that is shared in a conversation are also information assets. Policies and guidelines formalize relationships and how information exchanged and captured. The regular prospect meetings and formal liaison assignments within organizations are critical aspects of managing your information assets. 

The knowledge management system as like a cyborg: the technical and the human are integral parts of the whole, and they don’t work well without each other. Your individual and collective success depends on it. Resistance is futile.

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