Assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact

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Take a positive impact perspective

You can help your organization and assess how technology shape your organizational positive impact.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

For your organization to embrace technology as a tool for positive impact, it needs to understand its potential and pitfalls first. You can help and assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact. The assessment will be more effective if you approach your technology from a positive impact perspective rather than a technology perspective.

This post is part of a series about technology and organizational positive impact

  1. A guide to organizational positive impact, tech edition
  2. Doing good drives profitability
  3. Major events and big statements
  4. Be consistent about your positive impact
  5. A strong purpose proposition requires agility and resilience
  6. Agility and organizational complexity, beware of the present
  7. How to create positive impact with technology? Foster critical thinking
  8. Technology as an accelerator for positive impact
  9. Assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact
  10. Reframe technology’s purpose and strengthen organizational alignment

A positive impact approach

To understand technology’s strengths and concerns, assess your digital tools through the lens of 5 key focus areas for positive impact. These areas are inclusion, empowerment and collaboration, personal safety, environmental footprint, data and privacy. You can find a description of these areas and their relation to technology at the end of this post.

Step1, quick scan of digital tools

Most likely it will be too big an undertaking to assess all your digital tools in full. Maybe there is a large number of very diverse or complex digital tools. Maybe there is a lack of support, cooperation or resources. Or a lack of experience in the field of impact assessment. You can mitigate some of those impediments by forming alliances, automating and outsourcing testing and by building on existing tests and audits. But even then, you might want to focus on a limited number of digital tools. So, start with a quick scan to select digital tools and to allocate resources.

For a quick scan, assemble a group of cross-functional experts to assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact. For this, plot your digital tools on two axes: impact on planet and society (positive vs. negative), magnitude of that impact (high vs. low). Make a chart for each of the 5 areas. Ask a facilitation expert to prepare and lead your quick scan session. Limit the duration of the session to half a day or less, aiming to get all required input and results during the session.

Step 2, setting priorities and allocating resources

Use the graphs to prioritize actions and to allocate resources for a deeper assessment of your digital tools. Move the items with a high negative impact to the top of your to-do list. Be aware of interdependencies. Digital tools are connected on a deeper level. Select the full group of connected tools if some of the tools have a high negative impact.

Step 3, deep scan of selected digital tools

The next step is a deep scan of the selected digital tools. By assessing your digital tools from the perspective of the 5 key focus areas, you’ll take a different vantage point. One that will make it easier to connect to non-tech stakeholders. You’ll find more information on the 5 areas at the end of this post.

Step 4, sum-up learning and prioritize actions

The last step is to sum-up learnings and prioritize actions. For this, use the same graph you used for the quick scan. Again, make a chart for each of the 5 areas.

When you present the outcomes of the scan, describe the desired outcome from the perspective of each of the 5 key focus areas. Work your way from the desired outcome to the digital tools assessed and the next steps. This will ensure your narrative will be both aspirational and practical.  

After your assessment, you’ll have insights on what to improve on your digital tools and your organization to accelerate a positive impact. Which is a topic that goes well beyond the boundaries of technology. So, you need to build bridges between tech and non-tech. More on that topic in the last post in these series, “Reframe technology’s purpose and strengthen organizational alignment”. You’ll find my posts and more at SogetiLabs.


Key focus areas to assess how technology shapes your organizational positive impact

There are 5 key focus areas in which technology shapes your organizational positive impact. Below you can find further insights into each of these 5 key focus areas tailored to technology.

  • Inclusion
  • Empowerment and collaboration
  • Personal safety
  • Environmental footprint
  • Data and privacy

Inclusion

Essence
Inclusion is the practice of providing equal opportunities.

Outcome of a strong purpose proposition
Digital tools designed to welcome and to be accessible to a wide group of users including the disabled, illiterate, challenged, and underprivileged. – Digital tools that do not contain nor create biases such as racial, gender, or ideological bias.

Examples of technology

Examples of technology- Mobile apps and websites
– Dashboards and forecasts
– Tests and assessments
– Application, complaint, request forms
– Design and UX
– Automation
– Artificial intelligence/ big data

What to assess
Assess the accessibility of digital tools.
Assess bias in digital tools. Be especially alert if automation is applied. More so in the case of artificial intelligence.  

If bias is present in machine learning/ artificial intelligence, assess the quality of inputs (big data, applied models), the learning models (machine learning), the digital tool itself (code and design).  

If digital tools are insufficiently inclusive, assess considerations, guidelines, processes and actors for buying, designing, deploying, and improving digital tools from an inclusion perspective.

What can be learnt
– Quality of digital tools from an accessibility perspective.
– Priorities, choices and trade-offs regarding accessibility.
– Prejudices and assumptions in data, models, tools and mindsets.
– Processes put in place to identify and correct exclusion.
– Strength of the organization’s culture regarding inclusion.

Empowerment and collaboration

Essence
It’s essential to empower stakeholders if you want to truly collaborate. Empowerment is giving others the means to have an impact. Collaboration is working together based on the premise of mutual benefits, rather than acceding to the other side’s position or imposing your own position. Collaboration is creating something together. By comparison, with reciprocity you give as much as you receive.

Outcome of a strong purpose proposition
A variety of digital tools that bring value to the collaboration by sharing data and advancing interaction.

Examples of technology
– Digital community and marketplace
– Platforms to digitally share data, information and ideas
– Virtual workspaces shared with stakeholders
– E-learning

What to assess
Satisfaction, effect and success of digital tools. If digital tools insufficiently empower and advance collaboration, assess considerations, guidelines, processes and actors for buying, designing, deploying and improving digital tools.

What can be learnt
Opportunities to tailor digital tools to stakeholder needs. Levers for both your organization’s and your stakeholders’ willingness or ability to learn from and collaborate with each other. For instance, perceived benefits, awareness, motivation, enablement, alignment, cultural fit, legal risks, and sensitivities.

Personal safety

Essence
Personal safety is the absence of physical and emotional harm.

Outcome of a strong purpose proposition
Digital tools that protect the physical and emotional wellbeing of your stakeholders.

Examples of technology
– Design and UX
– Applications that describe safety procedures. For instance, when visiting a production plant.
– Features that enhance safety. For instance, a panic button in the Uber app, contactless delivery during the Covid-19 crisis, health features on a smartwatch, automated moderation on interaction platforms.
– Hardware and architecture (reliability and availability).

What to assess
Assess perceived and actual safety. For this, you can use questionnaires and you can use internal reports about harm, incidents and complaints. If digital tools insufficiently shelter your stakeholders from physical or emotional harm, assess considerations, guidelines, processes and actors for selecting, designing, deploying and improving digital tools.

What can be learnt
– Exposure of your stakeholders to harm.
– Effectiveness of continuous learning.
– Boundaries that inhibit change.

Environmental footprint

Essence
An environmental footprint, in the context of this post, is the effect an organization has on the environment.

Outcome of a strong purpose proposition
Digital tools, including their infrastructure and data storage that minimize energy usage and uses renewable energy sources (electricity as a first layer and the source of that electricity as a second layer), absence of harmful materials in hardware, recycling of hardware.

Examples of technology
– Green coding, data storage and data governance.
– Green procurement and recycling of hardware.

What to assess
Amount and source of energy required for your applications and hardware to function. Availability of alternatives. A year’s worth of mail of one person for instance, is roughly equivalent to driving 200 miles in an average car.

The extent to which code and data is used and useful. Saving draft or outdated documents do add-up. Presence of harmful materials in your hardware and the availability of less harmful alternatives.

Level of and approach to recycling hardware. If digital tools exceed an acceptable level of footprint, assess processes, actors, monitoring and learning models on reducing footprint.

What can be learnt
– The footprint of your digital tools and opportunities for improvement.
– Priorities, choices and trade-offs regarding footprint.
– Effectiveness of continuous learning.
– Boundaries that inhibit change.

Data and privacy

Essence
Privacy is the freedom from unauthorized intrusion and concerns the self-determination of both organizations and individuals with whom to share their data.

Outcome of a strong purpose proposition
Keeping data safe when collecting, storing, sharing, using and deleting data. Both private and proprietary data and both your organization’s and your stakeholders’ data.
Examples of private information: names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, opinions, relations, beliefs, memberships.
Examples of proprietary information: views, policies, products and services in development, industry insights, organizational projects, roadmaps, reviews, processes.

Examples of technology
– Policies for and monitoring of information protection and privacy
– Cybersecurity and data governance

What to assess
The extent to which policies are current, accessible and known.

The strength of your cybersecurity and compliance with your organization’s policies and regulatory restrictions. Potential areas to focus on are recent data breaches, their cause, and remedies. Or the policies themselves and their underlying identified risks. Alternatively, you could assess your incident response mechanisms. As a final example, you could learn from reports or fines from regulators.

If data is insufficiently safeguarded, assess processes, actors and the monitoring and learning models on data security and privacy.

What can be learnt
– Level of data protection and privacy.
– Weaknesses and strengths of digital tools and infrastructure regarding data safety and privacy.
– Organizational levers for improving on data safety and privacy.

Léon de Bakker

About

Léon leads digital transformations with a core focus on future-proofing organizations and putting purpose into action. Aligning teams, business and technology across all layers of the organization and its key stakeholders with a wide lens and an open mindset. He studied business economics, has technology experience since 2001 and has supported organizations with their transformation journeys since 2003. Léon is passionate about all that is tech, new gadgets and visual design. Currently, Léon is working on connecting purpose and technology as key drivers for organizational change. He’s exploring innovative ways to redefine and remeasure growth and success in a world in urgent need of more businesses moving positive impact front and center.

More on Léon de Bakker.

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