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Tech Tips      

It's hard to believe that next weekend is the official start of the summer season in the US. Here in the south, the biggest indicator that vacation season is just around the corner is a $ .25/gallon rise in gas prices over the last several weeks...ugh. In fact, this is a good reminder that we cannot become complacent and that we are truly dealing with a new reality. We have to become creative and look at new ways to get our jobs done at a lower monetary and resource cost. 
Hard times require creativity to get all of your major goals accomplished in a timely manner. This month's RoadMap is a discussion of options for you to consider when trying to complete important Technology projects when funds are tight.
Hurricane season begins on June 1. This month's Tech Tutor column contains a link to the national hurricane preparedness website. I have also included a link to the Pandemic Flu information website, since this is a current national concern.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and a safe and happy summer!!
RoadMap: How to Accomplish Technical Projects when Funds are Tight
Many small businesses and non-profit organizations do not have in-house expertise to do technical support and software development projects. In good times, they hire the consultants they need to complete these projects. But what do you do when funds are tight?

Some organizations use volunteers to complete their projects. Utilizing the skills of highly trained unemployed or under-employed technology workers can be a win-win in the current economy. Today the average non-profit organization has funding challenges at a time when people are most in need. The unemployed professional, is highly trained and is accustomed to going to work every day, but is now left with time on his hands, is questioning his self-worth and is in great need of having some structure in his life. He needs to be needed and he needs to feel successful so that he can ace his job interviews and become employed again. Your projects will also allow him to add meaningful experience to his resume which will add to his appeal to future employers.

Student interns can also be a source of skilled technical assistance. Students are eager for an opportunity to use the skills that they are learning in school. Since they are still students, they have access to school faculty and their classmates to help them develop solutions for your projects. Most importantly, student interns need experience to land their first job out of college which they will gain from working with your organization.

If you decide to use either volunteers or student interns for your technical projects, it is essential that you follow a strict methodology to ensure that the project is successful. The project must be defined clearly, goals and products must be documented, and a schedule must be developed. You must also test the skills of each new technology worker on a small test project to ensure that they have the skills you need and to ensure that they fit into your organization.

  • Brainstorm with your staff to identify technical projects that need to be done to further your mission. Think about projects you would undertake if you could get a grant to hire a technical consultant for two weeks, for two months, or for six months. The results of this brainstorming session will identify high-value technical projects that your unpaid technical worker could do for you.
  • Identify several small test projects that utilize the same technical skill sets needed to complete your larger projects. If you do not have any small projects, break one of the large projects into several short phases. Your goal is to identify small segments of work to give to prospective technical workers to test their skills and their fit within your organization. 
  • Involve your entire staff in identifying technical resources in the community who may be interested in working on technical projects for the organization. Contact local colleges about students who may be interested in an intern assignment or to identify classes where intern placement opportunities are sought.
  • Approach the identified individuals to find out if they are interested in doing technical projects for you. Explain the test project you need completed and your time frame for the completion of the work. Do not discuss future, more complex projects at this time.
  • Assign one staff member to supervise your new technical worker. If the worker later undertakes another project for the organization, a new supervisor may be assigned, but he or she should have just one supervisor at a time.
  • Set up a meeting with your perspective worker and the staff member who will supervise the project work. Go over written specifications for the project, project milestones and project schedule, and expected products or outcomes. Create a project plan to be followed, including completion dates for milestones. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about the project at this meeting. Also discuss the procedures you will follow to solve any problems which arise during the project.
  • At the end of the meeting have the Technical worker and the project supervisor sign off on the project plan. Although this process seems quite formal, it helps to ensure that everyone involved in the project is on the same page and that each understands his or her role in the project. Technical people will appreciate this formality, as this is how they are used to working on the job.
  • Handle problems quickly. If you sense any problems, don't wait for the situation to get better on its own. Become involved early to prevent problems from escalating. Make sure that you follow your problem-solving procedures to resolve issues experienced during the project.
  • If you are pleased with the results of the test project, discuss your more complex technical needs with your technical worker to determine whether he or she is interested in doing additional work for your organization.
  • Repeat this procedure for each additional assignment made to your technical resource.
If you cannot find volunteer technicians who have the skills you need for an important project, or your project is too complex to give to a student intern, don't hesitate to discuss your project with a technology company. Explain your needs to them along with your financial constraints. A professional firm may be able to help you develop a less expensive solution to your problem or they may be able to create an alternate approach which will allow you to get what you need in a way you never anticipated. SmartSite Technology has helped many diverse organizations in this way. For additional information, contact us.
SmartSite Technology serves as a virtual IT Department for small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations.  We provide all of the information technology services that a business needs to compete in today's marketplace.
Our goal at SmartSite Technology is to help each of our clients to be a success!! We know that technology is not a core competency for many small business owners and non-profit professionals. We believe that every organization benefits when they automate their business processes. We work closely with all of our clients, even those who are uncomfortable with computers and technology, to help them introduce automated processes into their operations. 
Contact us today to discuss your technology needs.
Dixie Groutt
SmartSite Technology
Copyright 2009 SmartSite Technology. All rights reserved.
May 2009
In This Issue
RoadMap: How to Accomplish Technical Projects when Funds are Tight
Your Tech Tutor Says...
Useful Preparedness Information
tutor pic number 1
Next week, May 24 through 30 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Preparedness website for information about how to prepare your home and your business when a storm threatens your area.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a Pandemic Flu Information website which contains useful information about current flu conditions across the globe. It also contains information about how to prepare your business and family  to weather a Pandemic outbreak in your community.

Bookmark these sites so that you can access them quickly should conditions warrant.
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