3 Takeaways from the Tech Forward 2018 Conference

I recently spoke at the Tech Forward conference in Austin, Texas on leveraging technology to improve employee engagement. Tech Forward is an annual three-day event that brings together industry experts and nonprofit leaders to learn and discuss how technology is shaping mission-driven organizations.

In addition to my workshop on the Digital Dichotomy, and Digital Workplace, this year’s conference featured a keynote from Justin Spelhaug, GM of the Tech for Social Impact team at Microsoft.

Here are my three key takeaways from the conference.

1. Emphasis on Collaboration

Collaboration was a key theme throughout the conference. There was a stress on finding ways to drive collaboration across teams and organizations to streamline efforts and drive greater efficiencies. Technology has certainly given us the means to better connect and collaborate. There are a dizzying number of tools and apps that aim to connect teams for better collaboration. But, such an abundance of technology creates two big challenges:

  1. Knowing which tools to use, when to use them, and how to keep track of them all
  2. Organizing and navigating the massive content that inevitably gets generated from increased collaboration

This is where the future of collaboration will get very tricky – and very exciting. Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies have already made their way into this space in the form of chatbots and personalized experiences to help users make better decisions. Such is the case with Microsoft’s latest collaboration with Project Smile, connecting doctors in real-time to help achieve better outcomes for young cleft palate patients in remote and rural areas of Asia and Latin America.

2. Innovating from the Edges


How do you build solutions that meet the needs of your end-users? Start by understanding what those users’ needs are. Innovating from the edges means designing your solutions from the outside-in.

What we consider “the edge” may be vastly different from organization to organization— field operators in remote villages, customers walking into a physical store, or users of a mobile application. We all have “an edge” that we ultimately work for. Solutions driven by assumptions from the middle often lead to imperfect—or worse, unusable—solutions for the people in the field. Solutions that start from the edge— knowing who your users are, and what motivates and drives their needs—leads to consistently better user experiences.

While this seems like a simple enough approach, it’s surprisingly uncommon (at nonprofits or otherwise) This is why we recommend a deep discovery process to help connect solution designers with end-users. To uncover root-cause challenges.

3. Focus on the People, not the Tech

There’s overwhelming consensus that a technological revolution is already underway. Advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Business Intelligence are becoming more accessible every day. As organizations increasingly become more comfortable implementing them, reliance on these technologies will also increase. It’s important to keep in mind that ultimately, technology is a means to an end, not the end itself.

It’s people who implement and leverage technology to improve other people’s lives. Whether it’s using blockchain to track food store deliveries in Sub-Saharan Africa, virtually connecting doctors with young patients in rural villages, or collaborating and communicating on projects within your organization, technology has the power to bring people together.

Overall, Tech Forward was a great conference to connect with technology professionals that believe technology is an important part of helping mission-driven organizations drive impact. Next year’s conference is slated for New Orleans! If you’re planning on attending and want to connect beforehand, or just want to know more about how technology can be leveraged to drive engagement in your organization, feel free to reach out.

Ready to build a digital workplace experience that helps your employees stay connected, and drives greater engagement? Get started with a free download of the StitchDX Intranet User Type Canvas—the very one demonstrated this year at Tech Forward. Check it out!