Decision Science, Technology & Operations

New Perspectives Drive Innovation

GORE-TEX is an amazing material used to create breathable, waterproof, and windproof outdoor gear. Since its creation and the start of a successful outdoor clothing company, the material can be found in jackets, shoes, and spacesuits. However, it is also used for vascular grafts and heart patches.

As the story goes, in 1971 on a ski slope in Vail, Colorado, a group of unsuspecting friends uncovered a miraculous medical breakthrough. Bill Gore, the creator of GORE-TEX, was pulling the wonderous cloth out of his pocket when a member of the group, Dr. Ben Eiseman of Denver General Hospital, interrupted, “Hey, what is that stuff?” Bill explained the properties of GORE-TEX. “Feels great,” Ben exclaimed. “What do you use it for?” “You tell me,” Bill said. “Well,” Ben suggested, “give it to me and I’ll try it in a vascular graft replacement procedure.” Genius.

Four years later, Bill Gore launched a new medical device company. A new perspective made that happen.

Innovation happens at the junction where people understand and apply different perspectives. In the hands of a doctor, a material that was intended for a jacket now saves lives.

As we know, senior fundraising leaders don’t frequently come from a technical background. Instead, they bring a breadth of knowledge around how to effectively fundraise. Meanwhile, technical folks are tasked with providing feedback and validating fundraising strategy through organizing and presenting data. How does that happen when the technical folks don’t share the same experiences as the leaders? As such, the challenging and complex task of managing technical employees is frankly opportunity for innovation.

Leveraging Data for Actionable Insights

Business intelligence (BI) is getting the right people the right information at the right time—the process of leveraging data and utilizing tools to provide actionable insights in real time. While BI commonly and effectively highlights performance, advanced solutions will show leaders how to navigate the path ahead. The question then becomes, how do senior fundraising leaders build and manage technology operations?

The challenging aspect of leveraging complex data is that it takes complex skillsets. As expected, technical people who bring invaluable tools to fundraising will likely lack the perspective of a frontline fundraiser. The same is certainly true with senior leaders in that their experience and expertise differs from the people they manage. This concept is not new. While it may seem like a potential challenge, the breadth of diverse perspective is advantageous.

Think about a professional golfer trying to compete without her caddy. Caddies know the course intimately and which clubs to use in various scenarios, while the golfer has the skills to maximize that information for optimal performance. Like caddies, your data professionals are your data champions. They know it well, they know how to identify interesting patterns, and they know how to present it in an effective manner. Like the pro golfer, your role is to maximize that information for optimal performance. You might ask yourself, “Do I spend as much time with my data professionals as a golfer does with her caddy?”

With that analogy, the perspective gap may seem clearer. The goal now is to close it.

Aligning the Work to Maximum Effect

When we talk about project management, we articulate the importance of cross-functional teams. The implementation of BI is undoubtedly a valid scenario in which to follow project management best practices. As a decision-maker, the cross-functional team is the epitome of how to get involved. Bringing your experience to the group will ensure your expertise is baked into the final product.

Your data professional’s job description might include something to the effect of “ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time.” While focused so keenly on that deliverable, it is easy for the data pros to lose sight of the qualitative nature of the product. Ensuring the product works and the information is correct is far different from understanding if and how effectively it is used. To successfully answer these questions, data pros must understand the why behind their work. This doesn’t mean your analytics department should attend board meetings, though it does mean that they should understand the context. With a bit of transparency and communication, the how-to behind your strategy and vision development will be communicated. Consider these options:

  • Invite key data pros to strategy meetings with various departments
  • Send them relevant articles or blog posts that are helpful to your position
  • Utilize project management tools to share what it looks like to execute a high-level strategic vision.

At this point, your data professionals are your personal advisors. When BI is comprehensive in terms of perspective and concise in terms of alignment with strategy, you are many steps closer to a true data-driven culture.

How BWF Adds Value

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