Here are the influential voices leading the conversations where nonprofits and technology overlap.
Looking into the rearview mirror, what’s been your best IT investment?
There have been a couple key technology investments. One is the investment that we’ve made over the years, especially in the last five years, in mobile computing. The virtual private networks, for example, that we’ve set up so that all of our staff can be in touch with the office and with their clients, wherever they might be in the world, I think are important.
I quickly saw the benefits of mobile messaging and rolled the technology out to our senior staff a bit ahead of the rest of our industry. As a result, our staff can instantly respond to our clients’ needs, whether they are in the office or on the road. Mobile computing has greatly enhanced our ability to service our clients.
Another key investment has been in cross-platform technology. If we were pure consumer marketing, we could probably exist as a 100 percent Mac shop. But in the business-to-business market, as much as we like the Mac platform, we’ve had to become a cross-platform business because so many programs and types of software only run in a PC environment. In a B2B space, we have to mirror what our clients have on their end, and so many of them run PC platforms.
In hindsight, what would you say was your biggest IT mistake?
In the early days of our agency, we made IT investments as we thought they were needed. In hindsight, we realized that we were making each investment independent of all others. Over time, this put us in a situation where our e-mail didn’t integrate well with our calendaring, and our file server didn’t integrate well with our project management system and so on.
Our mistake, early on, was that we didn’t have an IT strategy. We just reacted to what was in front of us. We managed with the systems we were using but were never able to take full advantage of the information we had siloed in one system or another.
Over the past five years or so, we have changed this. We now have a short-term and long-term IT strategy, and we operate with a six-month, one-year and three-year IT strategy. As we add or replace obsolete systems, we first ask ourselves: “How is this new system going to fit into the IT environment we have today? And how will it fit in over the next year to three years?” Because of this more proactive approach, our systems are now much better integrated and provide us with a much more robust support offering.
What is the best IT advice you’ve received?
I think that the best IT advice I have received is to never use the first version of anything on a mission-critical application. It seems like most software today, particularly operating systems, needs some time to settle down before we can use it for such applications.
It really seems to me that it shouldn’t be that way, but I guess everyone is always in such a hurry to get applications out, so quality often suffers.