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Investing in Alternative Solutions for Delivering Technology




Feb 16, 2001


Carlos Manjarrez

Dear DD List:

I have noticed that more than a few people who have weighed in favorably on the issue of ASPs share the belief that ASPs are an especially good idea for organizations with "relatively slim IT staffing resources". However, I am a little less optimistic for two reasons. First, I am skeptical that these agencies are even likely to buy in. My sense is that there will be a substantial amount of selection bias among the agencies that adopt the ASP model. That is, the organizations willing to accept the risks (real or perceived) of incorporating an ASP into their work routine are likely to be organizational innovators in many other respects, including IT use. Again, this is merely conjecture. It would be nice to get some better data on this question. I am aware of one study being done at the University of Michigan's School of Information that will be looking at the issue of the potential for ASP use among nonprofits in SE Michigan. Unfortunately, they are just getting started so they are of little use to my argument. Perhaps someone out there knows of a study that looks at this question for private sector orgs?

My second (vaguely related) point is that I am still on the fence about whether ASP use is indeed a good thing for low-tech nonprofits. It seems to me that there is a functional and administrative utility to learning how to manage your organization's information. For example, the practice of establishing a client database (should) force the organization to examine how it has collected data in the past, whether or not its information is appropriate for present and future program needs, whether or not it can be used for evaluative purposes, etc. Of course, there are many ways to assess these important organizational functions - it's just that putting an agency through the arduous process of setting up its own, internal data management system is still one of the most concrete methods I can think of to get human service providers to critically examine these kinds of organizational issues.

-Carlos Manjarrez

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