Alidade: An Interactive Tool to Define Your Tech Needs

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Technology can massively improve your work or become a black hole for money and time. The problem is knowing which is which. Following a project in Kenya and South Africa, The Engine Room has developed “Alidade”, an interactive toolkit that helps you define your technology needs and expectations.

Alidade is a series of guided questions along each step of the process of choosing technology: from assessing your users’ technology habits, to deciding which technical partner can do what you want. It’s divided into four steps:

  1. Understanding your needs – clarifying your project’s objectives, and what your users want
  2. Understanding the tech – setting out your requirements, and researching what options are already out there
  3. Trying it out – planning a trial of the technology options you’re considering, with your users
  4. Getting help (if you need it) – working out what kind of technical support you might need to implement or manage the technology you have chosen.

Each step includes tips, real-life examples, and useful resources to help you answer the questions.

At the end, Alidade produces a structured PDF document that you can use to get colleagues on board with your idea; explain your requirements to technical providers; or show funders that you’ve done your homework.

Image: The Engine Room

Image: The Engine Room

For me, one of the key questions is whether Alidade will stay up to date. In my experience, one of the key challenges in defining realistic technology needs and expectations is knowing what tools already exist and most programme managers don’t have the time to compare different solutions (such as SMS platforms).

Alidade’s resource sections can be extremely helpful in that regard, but only if they are kept up to date. Seeing that some of the linked resources are already a few years old, I am a bit worried in that respect. While some advice does not change quickly – for example and introduction to the RFP process – I am not comfortable with a three-year-old article about choosing a smartphone.

Irrespective of this concern, Alidade can help you structure your thoughts to find the right technology for your next social change project.

Update: I mentioned my concern to the team at The Engine Room, prior to this review being published and they removed some of the older resources.

Read more or try Alidade here.

What tools and resources do you use to inform your technology decisions? Please leave a comment below!