I’m launching  a blog today to have a conversation about what it means to use technology in support of human services and human services organizations, how to do it well in the face of increasing US and EU (and others) regulation, how to do it effectively in support of an organization’s mission, and how to do it inclusively, so we create the communities we want to see.

The face of technology in human services has changed dramatically over the past few years.  We’ve begun to move away from the period of traditional niche technology providers with something of a captive market in their respective areas of dominance.  There were the usual players in behavioral/mental health, a different set of players in mental retardation/intellectual disabilities, another set in substance abuse, another in juvenile justice . . . you get the idea.  

As providers of wide ranging services, we struggled with the silo approach of the vendors, and with the legacy software being offered to us.  We saw the great strides being made in technology in other industries, and lamented that we were left working with 1970’s vintage tools.  Healthcare, which has often been viewed as a technology backwater, was a virtual juggernaut of innovation compared to human services.

As that situation changes and new vendors come into the marketplace, human services organizations are faced with new challenges and opportunities.  How do we take advantage of social networking to support our organizations and to help our organizations support the people we serve?  How do we pick a billing and clinical information systems vendor when the old usual suspects are fading away, but there doesn’t seem to be a new dominant player emerging yet?  How many technology vendors can this sector support with our excruciatingly thin margins and ever increasing workload?  what are the right tools to put in the hands of our business-office colleagues —  the tools that run our payroll systems, our accounting systems, and our asset management systems?

Every CIO has pressure to get the answers to these questions right, but in human services the pressure is more acute.  Organizational expectations are high, and resources are low.  Sure, that’s not new, and any CIO can relate to the mismatch between expectations and resources.   But in human services, in particular in nonprofit human services, organizations have to live with technology choices–good or bad—for a very long time.  

Please contribute to this conversation.  Let me know what you think about, what you worry about, and what challenges you’ve tackled or resolved.  I’m not just talking; I’m listening.

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