By Dan Bottiger, Director of Information Systems
Leading the IT Department for a nonprofit often presents its share of challenges when trying to control costs while at the same time meeting the ever-changing technology needs of a growing organization. When making decisions as an organization we try to look at what is needed today, but also try to use our crystal ball to forecast out three, four or five years. Will today’s decisions still meet our technology needs in the not-so-distant future? As we have yet been able to obtain an actual crystal ball, we have relied on many stellar partners to support us.
My mentor, and the original Director of IT at Hammer, James Carpenter, realized early on that it was impossible to be an expert in all areas of information technology while at the same time keeping current with the latest technologies. His solution: develop collaborative partnerships with committed experts – individuals and organizations who “get” what we do.
In the early stages of our technology network, James partnered with an incredible consultant named Valerie Warner. Valerie, who has supported Hammer for close to 20 years now, found other experts who were not only highly-talented but also committed to our mission. This passion for Hammer has helped us stay ahead of the curve with how we leverage technology while ensuring we keep our costs under control.
Now, fast forward past Y2K to the 2000’s. The business model that Valerie helped us establish early on – relying on individuals and organizations committed to nonprofits – has grown. For the past 5+ years we have partnered with an organization called MyTech Partners. This partnership has introduced considerable skill and savvy to our organization while avoiding the need to add internal staff to the Hammer IT department.
Our MyTech partners have allowed our IT Department of 2.5 full time staff to operate as if it were much larger. They share their knowledge openly in order to help us learn. MyTech’ s commitment to Hammer has shown itself in countless ways over the years – including one of the owners volunteering at Hammer and serving on our Board (Day James). Just last month I received a phone call from another of the owners (Philip Hult) telling me they had come up with a new way to support us with a disaster recovery process. This new approach would not only significantly improve our existing process but also save us money. While MyTech was going above and beyond what a typical vendor would do to support Hammer – staying abreast of available technology, coming up with solutions and then supporting us to make the right choices for our organization – it was really business as usual with our great partners.
These brief examples do not begin to cover the depth of support we have received from so many invaluable partners over the years. But, they do tell a successful story for our organization. The IT Department has been able to extend the reach of technology to both staff and the people we support while staying focused on the real mission of Hammer: to provide individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience life to its fullest.