2010-03-15 Technology Steering Committee meeting

Monday, March 15, 2010 - 6:45pm - 8:30pm


There are four files attached to this meeting notice:

  1. TechPlan2010.doc is the Executive Director's report card for this committee at end of the first fiscal quarter (4Q2009).
  2. 2010 Technology Committee-Rev1.ppt is the presentation we made at the January 2010 Board of Directors meeting.  
  3. FY2010 Technology Committee Plan 12-08.doc is the technology plan that we submitted for the 2009-2010 budget.
  4. Technology planning.ppt is a short overview of the technology planning process (based on materials from IBM)


Technology Committee overview

Brainstorm on strategic direction

  • Mobile Web presence
  • Greater use of GPS and mapping technologies
  • Encouraging member participation in content
  • Darlington (if we enter phase 2)
  • etc.
    • Walt observes: "There is a tech aspect to Publications that should get a brief treatment. The question is how much we need to do for e-books, and e-book readers. Perhaps we should step through potential tech support for all of the committees although I expect much of this is really web support rather than hardware or special purpose software. Maybe this is all encompassed by a more general 5 and 10 year outlook of where tech is heading.

      Maybe we should also think about more general use of cloud computing."

Discuss current issues and priorities

2010 Plan -- any adjustments needed?

  • Committee participation (Trails, Volunteer, Pubs, ...)
  • Technology assessment & planning
  • Drupal 6
  • Monitoring Web site and store effectiveness (performance, usability, Google analytics)
  • eBase / Web member info sharing
  • Bulk email tool
  • CRM database

QuickBooks and alternatives

Walt observes: "It has been clear for quite awhile that the QB version that we use doesn't really meet all of our needs and we need to use two "companies" to cope with the problem of too many orders for it to handle. In addition it does not currently, although I think it could, integrate with the web store. More integration has the potential to cut down significantly on office backend processing. We have a tech committee meeting coming up very soon and well before your deadline. That should be on agenda. We should also involve the auditors in any discussion of changing accounting packages."

Web Content

Ann observes: "This whole issue of what content we provide on the Web site is an interesting one - the site really embodies who and what we are and the Web team shouldn't be the sole arbiter of what we add or when. Maybe this is another discussion point for the Tech Committee."

Determine follow-on activities

Set dates for remaining meetings

  • to plan 2011 budget and review progress against 2010 plan (June)
  • to finalize 2011 budget and plan and review year's attainment (August) 
  • to do a quarterly review (December or January)
Ann Gruhn, Walt Daniels, Ed Goodell, John Kolp, (absent: Josh Howard, Steve Marano)

Josh forwarded the following issues: software requests, need to upgrade one laptop and one desktop and will be getting quotes from TIS, D6 migration, and of course looking at the long term need to migrate databases. Ann will call him to go over the steering committee role and his issues - most of which are related to current operations and not the strategic direction that is the focus of the steering committee.  (Once we establish liaisons with the other committees, Ann suggests we set up monthly conference calls to cover current needs and priorities and review progress against commitments.)

As John was the only newcomer in the group, the meeting was held in an informal manner and was chiefly a level-set for John.

Role of a technology steering committee

Ann began by reviewing what a technology steering committee does, namely it identifies the ideal role of technology in an organization and maps the evolution of that role into the future. Once a technology plan is in place, the committee establishes annual budget objectives, monitors progress, adjusts priorities, and performs ongoing update of the plan. The plan should have a 2-3 year rolling horizon. She referred the team to the attachments on the Plan tab of the group's Web page for more information.

Current objectives 

We spent the major part of the meeting going over the 2009-2010 plan and our progress against objectives as tracked by the Executive Director (see TechPlan2010.doc)

Member info synchronization

-- John had Q's re eBase/Web db synch. We need to understand our timeline for migration to a new CRM database to determine whether in fact it is worth the effort to do this synchronization. It may be better to simply add a message to the user profile on the Web site to indicate that name and address updates should be submitted to the Trail Conference via the provided online FORM, not by updating the user registration information on the Web.

Objectives -- Ann asked Ed if it was suitable to refine the plan objectives at this time (6 mos into the fiscal year). He said yes. However, we did not discuss whether we need to do that.

TIS and inventory

We talked about our TIS contract and the procedures that are in place, for example: what backups are being done? And are they stored outside the building?

The committee would like to have regular reporting from TIS on what has been done - Ann suggested quarterly reports from the Operations committee (i.e. Josh) on TIS activity (how many service calls, what's been done, etc., our satisfaction with TIS reponsiveness)

Walt indicated that we have software installed that will do an inventory -- can we run it asap as part of this year's technology assessment?

Drupal 6

We discussed getting professional help for the Drupal 6 migration - Walt has identified a potential local contractor who charges $50/hr. We also have interest from a Utah group, but we don't feel our current needs would be filled well by a remote support team. However, we should investigate their iphone app for mapping trails.

Ed's high priority -- get a Drupal/PHP/CSS/Ubercart expert on call.

We talked about our vision for the Web site - we need to balance our desire to do lots of creative things with our ability to enable and maintain the content needed for those endeavors. We are simply too few people trying to do too much.

Original concept of registering everyone -- Ed has second thoughts. Walt, however, noted that registration is a common practice on Web sites - and becoming more common as time goes on.

Forums -- Estelle monitors them.
Daniel watches hike comments.
We should identify them as content volunteers and track their time (and thank them too!)

Wiki approach to content -- we have to be careful about what we create ... it is our reputation. The team has differing opinions on how open we should make various sections of the Web site. Forums are ok, but many are cautious about allowing anyone to post hike information as our maps and guidebooks and now, the online hikes, are a big part of our reputation and brand.

John suggested we try to use Ramapo CC -- or some other local school as source of talent. College students are looking for practical experience to include in their portfolio. Ann noted that we would have to have someone available to work closely with students if any intern program is to be successful.

Store issues ... back office process is unwieldy. We need to
measure/analyze store performance. Sales reporting is useful only if the report includes both Web and non-Web sales figures. Ann suggested this should be an Operations report, not a Web team report.

Ed noted that he is planning to institute changes to membership with different benefits at different layers and probably eliminate the blanket member discount on store purchases. This implies possible changes to the store code down the road.

CRM plan

We talked a little about our CRM plan. Everyone agrees this is a major effort and must be done carefully. Walt made comments about a couple of candidate products:
CiviCRM -- better integration with Drupal
SalesForce -- could do trails in Drupal and membership in SalesForce

A business needs analysis is a key requirement for a technology plan and for a CRM plan - John suggested that Ann should be the one to interview all staff and compile results.

He also asked if we might want to attempt to get grant for our solution - if our goal is to have a highly function, integrated solution for managing the trail conference activities, and we can articulate it with a clear and comprehensive specification, it may be possible to find funding for an effort we otherwise could not afford.


Walt recommended that the office consider upgrading to the enterprise version of QuickBooks.
This would eliminate our need to keep two sets of books (individual transactions and daily summary) and make integration with a CRM package down the road feasible.

Next steps

We also talked a little about the steering committee and how to operate effectively, given how dispersed we are geographically. Walt noted the Web team has been operating quite effectively with conference calls. Ann suggested we still need quarterly face-to-face meetings, but should have interim phone calls as needed.

Ed's notes

Ed's notes included some discussion topics:

  • Where does technology end and content begin? (What training is needed?)
  • How can technology support basic operational reach? (20 counties)
  • Question nynjtc.org community (I don't know what the context is here ... Ed, can you explain?)

And a number of follow-up items for Josh, which are detailed here:

  • Where are backups stored? In/out of the building?

  • Is all data backed up?

  • Does TIS have a ticket system?

  • Are we happy with TIS?

  • Do we want to bid out our business?

  • Has there been an inventory of hardware & software lately? Who should do this (and how often)?

  • Can you provide membership/sales/donations statistics (online vs other channels)?

2010 Technology Committee-Rev1.ppt1.13 MB
FY2010 Technology Committee Plan 12-08.doc368 KB
TechPlan2010.doc126.5 KB
Technology planning.ppt40.5 KB