Posted Thursday, August 6, 2020 by Team Northwoods

How to Buy Human Services Technology (Even During a Crisis)

Buying technology for human services can be hard, especially for agencies that have never done so before. (Of course, working through this process amid a global pandemic and economic instability adds a new layer of complication!)

It’s exciting to imagine the positive impact you can make with new and emerging technology, but it’s also overwhelming to navigate all the options available. What solutions will truly support workers and empower your practice? Is now the right time to invest in new tech? Who should you partner with? How are you going to pay for it? What return on investment can you expect?

We know these are troubling times for everyone and we want to help you make an informed decision that’s right for your agency and community. So, we created a new resource to guide you along the way.


Technology Toolkit: An Essential
Buyer's Guide for Human Services

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In this guide, we cover key considerations, challenges, and questions you’re likely to have at each stage of the technology buying process. Here’s a little preview of what to expect:

How to plan, purchase, and implement the right technology for your human services agency


Part 1: Prioritize the problem.

Today’s agencies face a myriad of business problems, meaning decision-makers are inundated with potential tools and technology solutions that could solve each one.

When everything seems to be top priority, how do you decide where to focus?

This section covers some of the most common issues we hear from agencies, offers advice to help you dig into root causes, and includes a downloadable template with a matrix to help you identify and quantify your most pressing problems and their impact on the community.


Part 2: Assess your readiness.

Is my agency willing to change? Is it worth it? Do we have the resources to be successful over time? Stepping outside your comfort zone can seem scary, but with a little preparation, it doesn’t have to be.

Find surveys, self-assessments, and other tools to evaluate your agency’s readiness for change. We also weigh the pros and cons of feasibility studies, consultations, and other options to dip your toes in the water before committing to a full technology implementation.


Searching for human services technologyPart 3: Search for a solution.

You’re ready to search for a solution, now what? It’s important to carefully consider all options available to find the right one to meet your agency’s unique needs.

Build or buy? Cloud or on-premises? Customize or configure? Mobile-first or mobile-friendly?

The goal here is to help you choose a solution designed to enhance service delivery, align with key agency initiatives, and support workers’ needs, both now and into the future.


Part 4: Evaluate vendors.

You need a partner who is willing to learn every aspect of your agency and business. It’s easy to get distracted by smoke and mirrors—vendors who claim to have this expertise, when they don’t—so it’s important to know how to separate the two.

Learn how to find the right partner to fuel innovation, while meeting your evolving technology goals and mission-driven objectives. As you’ll see, it starts with asking questions to unlock insights that will point you in the right direction.


Part 5: Create a business case.

Getting support from decision-makers, end users, and other key stakeholders early on is critical to set up your project for continued success. We’ll walk you through how to craft a compelling, cohesive story that will position you to overcome potential roadblocks you’re likely to face.

This section is chock full of downloadable templates and ideas to help you outline your investment, show how you’ll recoup the costs, and capture the societal value that technology provides.

Spoiler: it also helps you calculate the cost of doing nothing in terms of dollars, time, and opportunities lost.


Funding human services technology projectsPart 6: Find the funding.

Successfully financing technology projects can feel like a major balancing act. You have to leverage multiple funding streams, manage the cost-effective use of resources, and demonstrate that funding has a measurable impact on agency outcomes.

See how a combination of strategic planning, creative thinking, and business acumen can help your agency overcome any of the funding-related challenges that stand in your way.

Buying technology for the first time? We’ve got you covered with a comparison of common contracting, purchasing, and procurement options you’ll need to understand.


Part 7: Think beyond the technology.

Organizational process change is often the riskiest, yet most overlooked, aspect of buying and implementing technology in human services.

That’s why it’s essential to go beyond the technology to evaluate the whole scope of a project: How is it managed? Implemented? Supported? Optimized?

Learn how to plan for potential risk factors from the get-go to increase your chances of long-term success. This section also includes specific tips to develop a detailed communication plan and put people at the center of your technology and process change initiatives.


Part 8: How Northwoods helps.

Since 2003, Northwoods has only focused on human services because it’s our background, our passion, and an industry with great potential for innovation. Ready to change the world with us?

This section highlights a few reasons why state and county human services agencies across the country have chosen us as their technology partner.

You’ll get an overview of our products and services, while learning how we help agencies navigate the buying journey.


Download the guide, “Technology Toolkit: An Essential Buyer’s Guide for Human Services,” for more insight on planning, purchasing, and implementing the right solution for your agency. We hope this resource helps prepare you for the road ahead and proves the process doesn’t have to be so daunting.

Please comment below or get in touch if we can provide more information or answer additional questions!


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