What Disruptive Technology Means for Your Nonprofit

disruptive technology means nonprofits

In the last few years, a prominent theme in the nonprofit technology sector–and the Salesforce space in particular–has been the concept of “disruptive technology”. But what does this really mean, and how does it impact the way nonprofits function and approach technology innovation?

By definition, “a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.” A practical example of this is the innovation of cloud-based technology itself, which offered an alternative to the long-standing practice of local client-based applications that often required costly investments in internal infrastructure and dedicated technology personnel to implement and maintain. As a result, demand in the marketplace shifted towards solutions which offered increased accessibility, delegated maintenance and infrastructure, and a subscriptions-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fee model.

So, what does this mean for the average nonprofit organization? In the example above, the result is an increase in technology choices and the flexibility to implement leading-edge solutions without the necessity of deep investment in IT infrastructure that often holds organizations back from piloting new solutions. In a broader sense, disruptive technology may simply mean that organizations begin to adopt increasingly agile or responsive technology strategies, rather than the classic models which have traditionally been more rigid and less adaptable to change.

If we consider Raymond Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns” which asserts that “the rate of [technology] change tends to increase exponentially…causing paradigm shifts to continue to become increasingly common” – then we can conclude that organizations should expect to see “disruptors” in the technology space occur with increasing frequency and impact, furthering the push towards more agile and responsive solution implementation strategies.

How does your nonprofit view disruption? Are you ready?

Further reading:

  • Disruptive innovation: The term coined by Clayton M Christensen in 1995. Read more >>
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil (1999). Available on Amazon >>
  • “The Law of Accelerating Returns”, Ray Kurzweil (2001). Read more >>



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