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5 Tech Trends: 2016 is the Year of Interconnectivity

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Making predictions for the future is key to success, especially within the face-paced tech industry. Each year, TechSoup Canada predicts key tech and web design trends that will affect nonprofits the most. It’s our prediction that 2016 will be the year of tech interconnectivity.

#1: Automated Dashboards

An automated dashboard is a data visualization tool that automatically gathers, updates and presents your data in an organized, meaningful way.

Think of it as an Excel graph that automatically refreshes to reflect your nonprofit’s latest results, as opposed to a dashboard that requires manual updates in order to stay relevant (e.g, a staff member exporting a .CSV file and updating the dashboard with it).

We believe the emerging trend is to have automated dashboards for each of your organization’s functions, such as marketing, public engagement, program performance and more. 

Nonprofit professionals often balance multiple tasks that would sometimes take priority over updating dashboards. Automated dashboards do that work for you, saving you time and even reducing human error! They allow your nonprofit to make up-to-date, timely statistically analysis that informs smart, strategic decisions.

Everytime you look at an automated dashboard, you can be confident it reflects the current reality at your nonprofit. This is especially important considering how donors, funders, and grantmakers value data metrics today. The success of a grant application often depends on your nonprofit’s ability to report on the impact of their funding with hard, quantitative and qualitative data. Automated dashboards help keep your data metrics at your finger tips at all times, and increase the impact of your programs in the eyes of funders.

[TIP] Use data visualization tools that are built for automation, such as Zoho Reports and Tableau, to create dashboards for your organization.

#2: Digital Mesh and Ambient User Experience

You may have entered a website for a new product or service you’d never used before and you were prompted to create a new account OR login using another account you may already have, such as a Google account,  Facebook or Twitter. Once you’re logged in to one of those accounts, you can access your accounts on different websites without re-entering your information.

This an example of the digital mesh; it’s the ability of different devices and online platforms to connect with one another.

The digital mesh creates an ambient user experience, where users can access accounts and perform tasks online with fewer steps and interruptions.

It’s becoming a norm with many businesses and we predict the nonprofit sector will imitate this trend when it comes to designing their websites or other online platforms (e.g., allowing donors to use one account for all fundraising events). 

Why is this important? In 2015, the average user attention span decreased to 8 seconds (lower than that of a goldfish, at 8.5 secs!). This means the fluidity of the digital mesh will help keep users on your site and improve conversions.

[TIP] The digital mesh is also growing alongside increased mobile use, and mobile donations in particular. This means nonprofits should invest in responsive web design, which adapts text and image sizes to the screen size of the user in order to maintain a consistent user experience.

#3: Embracing the Hybrid Cloud

The majority of Canadian nonprofits can legally store data in the cloud, but others may have additional requirements from funders or may be part of a government program that does not allow public bodies to store information outside of Canada (which is the case with British Columbia and Nova Scotia).

The hybrid cloud model solves this dilemma by allowing nonprofits to respect funding requirements and still benefit from cloud computing. Nonprofits can store confidential information like social insurance numbers on internal servers, while project information such as meeting notes are stored in the cloud. This model allows you to share and collaborate effectively with colleagues and partners in the cloud, while still keeping sensitive information safe on Canadian soil.

We predict more nonprofits will adopt the hybrid cloud model because companies are increasingly moving their products and services online, for better or for worse. For example, Microsoft’s Office 365 is slowly replacing the need for large, internal Exchange servers and Adobe is committed to only releasing new versions of their software through Creative Cloud. In time, most applications and programs will be offered exclusively online, rather than being run on your desktop. Nonprofits should plan to embrace the cloud with one aspect of their operations or another in order to be on par with industry norms.

[TIP]  OwnCloud is an open-source file sync and share server that keeps your files secure while allowing you to decide where you host your data. Imagine all the benefits of the cloud plus the ability to store all of your data in Canada!

#4: Adaptive Security

While antivirus software and firewalls are still a crucial component of digital security, they are no longer enough to protect your sensitive information. Adaptive security means that in addition to these traditional rule-based securities, organizations are monitoring their systems and proactively identifying risks and weak points in order to detect and respond to threats.

We believe nonprofits will begin using adaptive security because different kinds of non-digital “hacking” threats are emerging. An example is social engineering, where “hackers” use their own cunning to manipulate customer service representatives and information recovery systems to obtain sensitive information. In one instance, Mat Honan (a senior writer at Wired) had his email, Twitter, and Amazon accounts deleted by a social engineer who found his personal website.

Also consider that the emergence of cloud computing and open API’s are increasing potential threats by creating additional digital pathways to organizations' data. This means nonprofits have to use adaptive security to identify weak points in their systems and monitor them to identify and respond to potential threats.

[TIP] Learn how to design your own adaptive security architecture, and consider BitDefender as an affordable, quality antivirus software option. 

#5: Marketers Learning to Code

Technology is becoming so integrated with the marketing world today that we predict marketing, communications and even fundraising professionals in the nonprofit sector will learn basic coding.

Markup languages like HTML 5 and CSS 3 and even basic programming languages like Javascript will allow nonprofit professionals to have full creative control over how their marketing materials are presented and interacted with online. This will allow nonprofits to create more effective campaigns that will attract more supporters and increase awareness around their cause.

[TIP] There are great online and in-person resources to teach you how to code, including Code Academy, and Ladies Learning Code.

We hope this helped your nonprofit understand the upcoming trends in technology! And hopefully you'll be able to incorporate some of these trends in your own marketing efforts and make our predictions come true!

Take a look at 5 Design Trends: 2016 is the Year of User Experience to learn more!