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

Problem Statement

Many nonprofits wrestle with decisions about how best to support technology in their organization. This session examines promises and pitfalls of some alternatives for cost reduction, access to specialized expertise, and efficiency through shared IT.

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.

Karen Graham

Karen is a sought-after speaker, trainer, writer, and consultant with expertise in technology leadership and innovation, nonprofit software, and digital strategy. As Idealware's executive director she leads a team of researchers, presenters, and writers who create technology information resources designed to help nonprofit leaders put their vision into action. Her past experience includes leading the technology consulting services and nonprofit technology learning and networking programs at MAP for Nonprofits, helping to build the nonprofit CRM/database solution provider thedatabank from a startup to a thriving software company, and various roles in arts and human services organizations. She holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from the University of St. Thomas.

David Krumlauf
Pierce Family Charitable Foundation
Chief Technologist
I'm an old biology teacher, ISP owner and now Chief Technologist of a private Chicago-based foundation focused on housing and homelessness. I live in a greenbuilt home in NW lower Michigan.

Tobey Johnson
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp
IT Director
Tobey joined MLAC in 2013. Tobey is responsible for managing IT operations for the Central Technology Systems, providing centralized computing infrastructure and applications to legal services organizations with more than 500 users across the state of Massachusetts. Tobey oversees the development, implementation and use of technology in more than 20 offices, leading efforts to improve the effective deployment and use of technology statewide. Tobey also serves as the Chair of the Management of Technology Committee. Prior to joining MLAC, Tobey worked in similar roles in financial services and healthcare, architecting and implementing solutions that leverage the use of technology to improve financial and operational efficiency.

Amadie Hart
Hart Strategic Marketing
Communications Consultant
Amadie is the president of Hart Strategic Marketing LLC, a communications consultant to a variety of nonprofits and associations, and a contract researcher for Idealware. She works with clients to develop strategic online communications and marketing efforts, determine the best technology tools and processes necessary to achieve their organizational goals, redevelop website content, and integrate social media into outreach efforts. Prior to founding Hart Strategic Marketing, Amadie was online campaigns and marketing director for an Arlington-based web design and development firm. She also previously led projects to redesign and manage large websites for several Washington, DC-based associations and nonprofits.