Shared IT Services in 2017—Nightmare or Dream Come True?

For a decade or more, small nonprofits have been trying to find ways to share back-office services, including IT services like network and hardware support, help desk, database administration, procurement, and even technology planning. Sharing can reduce cost, provide access to specialized expertise, and lessen the burden of management. With technology firmly in the cloud and the role of IT staff changing, shared IT service models have also evolved and become more practical than ever. But without careful design and management, they can become your worst nightmare.

In this session, we will share a combination of research findings and real-life stories about what kinds of back-office technology are practical and advantageous to share, and their challenges and benefits. We will examine several models for shared IT services, including centralization in an affiliate structure, cooperatives, and the good old circuit rider model. For each model, we will ask:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses? When is it and isn’t it a good fit?
  • What can the owner of the shared service do to optimize effectiveness and satisfaction? This includes choices about whether to staff or outsource the service, what requirements or guidelines to establish, pricing models, etc.
  • What can service recipients do to maximize their value?

We will base our presentation on systematic research that included dozens of case studies, expert interviews, field observation, surveys, and trend analysis.