August 22, 2012

Culture in the Cloud: The Case of Park Pride

  • 10 Staff
  • Coordinates more than 15,000 hours of volunteer work in Atlanta parks annually

Park Pridea nonprofit that creates and improves parks in the greater Atlanta metro area by engaging communities, advocating and volunteering in parks and community gardenshas been shifting much of its technology from a server-based infrastructure provided through a relationship with the city government of Atlanta to one that exists increasingly in the Cloud.

Largely that transition has been good for the organization, but IT director Marlina McKay said it has also changed the way staff view her role and the responsibilities that go with it. The Cloud has put less pressure on the city in that it is providing our infrastructure, but its put more duties on me, she said.

By becoming less reliant on the city for ITincluding getting its own email domain, which allows the organization to present itself as independent, especially for fundraising campaignsPark Pride has improved its own situation and freed up resources to engage in strategic planning for additional projects. But the success of the Cloud solutions, as well as their increasing ubiquity for personal use among staff members, means that Marlina is seeing more of a demand for them.

The general public has become more aware of technology because of the consumerization of it, she said. People know about Google, and a lot of tech services, like Google Drive and Dropbox, have come down to the consumer level. Why cant we just go to Google? Its free, and all that.

People want it fasterthey want everything faster. Now their home computers surpass their work computer, and theyre antsy for them to catch up, Marlina explained. Their home email is faster, and accessing personal files through Dropbox is faster, and theyre anxious for their work computers to do the same things. Theyre experiencing these things in their personal lives so they know it can happen here.

That demand and insistence on the latest-and-greatest technology does not allow for the thoughtfulness and testing with which new implementations should be approached, she said. If she were installing a server in the office and connecting it to the network, people would expect there to be a transition period for installation and testing, but with the Cloud, they expect her to flip a switch and make it go.

Its not a project anymorenow its magic, she said. The assumption is that you dont need to do training, theres no user-adoption thought that youd have for a rollout, or anything like that. Its like herding cats.

Because shes trusting her organizations technology to outside vendors, shes concerned about data integrity, and wants to approach Cloud solutions with as much diligence as she would an installed system.

Im a little more cautious of these horror stories, breaches, things not working, things getting lost, she said. My disaster preparedness has gone way up. I backup my backups.

In a way, the demand is a sign that the Cloud solutions have proven successful, because now everyone wants more.

I would say people have more solutions that are floating in their brain because IT, in the beginning at least, was kind of the secret club, she said. Its all magic, do the secret handshake to figure out what it all means, but the Cloud has brought it down to where people have heard of the solutions, and they have become a little more impatient. It should just work, its working here in my home.

As an example, Marlina cited the time she was contacted while out of town on a business trip and asked to install Skype for a series of upcoming interviews. Staff was familiar with Skype, but not with the ins and outs of implementing it.

They didnt know theyd need a webcam and microphone and speakers, she said. The Cloud has maybe given people more suggestions and services in their repertoire, but they dont know all the pieces that go with it. Theyve seen it implemented or even used it at home, but dont know all the pieces that go together in an enterprise or business environment.

Im all about vetting, she said. Make sure theres a business case for it before we install it, whatever it is; make sure weve vetted all the vendors, and then test it.

Whether its Cloud-based or on-premise, thats just good IT practice, she said.

Chris Bernard