Let me continue to tell the story of our exciting changes at Community IT this month and what we’ve done over the years to ensure that Community IT and its legacy of mission-focused nonprofit work survives long term. In Part 1 of this post I discussed our spin off from our parent company in 2001, our business model and our move to employee ownership, completed in 2012.
I was called into leadership early by virtue of being the first employee in the “Community Services Division” of our parent company, and being successful enough that we grew steadily for the first half-dozen years. I led and managed this increasingly large group of dedicated and capable staff, but perhaps by virtue of my youth I looked to the wisdom of the group – which included many people with more professional and life experience than myself. Participative decision-making and servant leadership became core to my leadership style and to the organizational culture at Community IT.
This has created a business that provides space for other leaders to emerge. Talented individuals find a place at Community IT where they can grow. Ties between leadership and front-line staff are strong because our leaders once experienced firsthand the roles that they supervise. Our newer staff trust their managers and supervisors, and continually learn what they need to become experts, managers, and supervisors themselves. And with long-term, experienced leaders at Community IT, we are able to plan and prepare for transitions – and to promote the leadership qualities in those coming up after us.
While I feel the strengths of this approach greatly outweigh the risks, there is a significant risk in becoming too insular. To bring new ideas and infuse new energy into the organization, we look to our clients, our networks, and do bring in outside talent periodically. Working at numerous clients where we are in partnership with capable and visionary CIOs and IT leaders is inspiring. Staying engaged in communities like NTEN and IT Nation has been key to nurturing our creative leadership. That has allowed us to continue to evolve into the business we are today – one that is more focused, more financially sustainable, more fulfilling for staff, and delivering better service than ever before.
And it has allowed us to be an organization that is going through a CEO transition as smoothly as I believe a company possibly could. Johan Hammerstrom will take over the most senior leadership role at the company and I expect that our clients and our staff will be well served during and after the transition. That is both satisfying and humbling for this departing CEO!
My Future
I have had the great joy of serving many nonprofits over the past 21 years – sometimes very directly, and sometimes by managing teams and a company providing service. The theme for me during all of that time has been the “effective use of technology by nonprofits.” For different portions of my career that meant database development, network engineering, and information systems selection and implementation. As I’ve witnessed the maturation of software designed specifically for nonprofits, these interests have led me to naturally take on more of a CIO role for the organizations I work closely with.
I’m fascinated by the role implementation plays in the success of technology at nonprofits. In my consulting work on project engagements this generally means systems selection and implementation. But perhaps more than the technology, the role of the many non-technical elements of a successful implementation are where I can add the most insights – executive sponsorship, change management, clear business processes, data management, and more. The guidance needs of ongoing engagements are also challenging and fulfilling to me. I enjoy providing a comprehensive technology guidance role in partnership with staff, leadership, and third party vendors.
In Peter Mirus, Kyle Haines, and Peter Gross at Build Consulting I have found a group of expert CRM and information strategy practitioners that I am honored to partner with in a new venture. We’re maintaining the existing Build Consulting that Kyle and Peter Gross have developed, but are ready to grow our practice in new directions. Build will remain in close partnership with Community IT, providing consulting expertise where the need occurs. Community IT will focus on providing the best Managed IT Services for nonprofits, strengthening their missions and impact. I’m excited to be able to focus 100% on client work as a partner in this new venture. I look forward to remaining engaged in communities like NTEN, affiliated with the wonderful people at Community IT, partnered with the team at Build Consulting, and helping nonprofits to use technology effectively for the greater good.