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Welcome to the first part of the new NCVO website. While we finish building it, you will find the rest of our help and guidance on our existing site.

Use this page to learn about the first steps you should take before you begin to think about new software. They help you set out what you already know.

Set the objective of your software project

Before you start your research to choose a tool, you need to be clear on your project or services objective. The question to think about is ‘What do you need this tool for?’

  • What problem or challenge are you trying to solve?
  • Do you have short/long-term goals?
  • What kind of impact would you like the project to have?

Write the overall objective down.

Add sub-goals or sub-objectives if you need them to help communicate your aims.

You'll need to refer to this project objective often as you work through these pages.

Who you need to involve in planning (your stakeholders)

Make sure you know who you need to talk to as you work through the research.

Use this list to help you work out if you’ve missed anyone.

  • People who'll use the software. This could be internal users or people you support.
  • Decision makers. Think of people within your organisation but also outside it. Do you need to inform funders or other partners?
  • People who work with the people who will use it. Think internally - for example managers who have to motivate their teams. Think externally - for example carers who have to help people that the tool is designed for.
  • People who have technical expertise. If no-one in your organisation has relevant technical expertise, look outside of it for help.

Make sure to make a list of the people you need to involve. Use it to mark when you've spoken with them and plan when you'll speak to them next.

Why do you think new technology is the right answer?

There are many ways of meeting needs and addressing challenges. Adding new technology isn’t always the best solution. It can add risk or cause harm.

Before you move on, you need to be clear why you think new technology is the right step for this project.

We recommend this exercise.

  • Note down your reasons for turning to new technology or software. Make the notes as short statements.
  • Group those statements into two categories
    • Things you are confident the technology will help with.
    • Things you think the technology might help with but need to check.

It's useful to do this exercise in a group or to share it with people for their comments. You can do this right away OR you can do after you carry out some of the exercises in this page.

Working out what your software or tool needs to do.

When you do a group activity you should do the following.

  • Ask everyone to mark the highest priority reasons for the new technology.
  • Move reasons between 'confident' and 'need to check' when new knowledge changes your level of confidence.
  • Mark reasons as 'out of scope' if they are too far from the original project objectives. This will mean that you don’t focus on them any further.

This guidance is based on work by The Engine Room and Centre for the Acceleration of Technology (CAST).

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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