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Community IT Voices Update: Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager Team Lead
Join us for our series featuring interviews with Community IT employees. In this series, we will talk about nonprofit technology career paths, career resources, skills, and certifications. We will also touch on mentoring opportunities as you start out on your career and ways to give back if you are further along.
Today Carolyn catches up with Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager (ITBM) Team Lead, who was promoted recently to manage the ITBM team at Community IT. He talks more about the role the ITBMS fill with clients, and his new role managing the team.
“The success of Community IT is that we share knowledge. We don’t keep it to ourselves. The more we share, the more we learn, the more effective we are with the work that we do with our clients.”
ITBMs fill a unique role at Community IT and in the outsourced IT sector, one we are very proud of introducing at Community IT. With a tech background but more than a technician, and more affordable than a full-time Chief Information Officer (CIO), the ITBMs work with our clients to ensure that the IT is up to speed. They also are perfectly placed in their partnership with clients to assist with strategic planning and IT roadmaps. ITBMS use their experience and knowledge of the nonprofit IT landscape to move clients to well-managed IT. Often this includes extensive remediation. They help the client understand their IT budget and investment decisions in the larger context of organizational success.
The Community IT ITBM service provides an outsourced IT manager to clients at a reduced cost to hiring and having an IT manager on staff. This manager is a resource dedicated to matching technology solutions to clients’ business needs. To do this well requires an ongoing conversation with the client to continually understand their business needs, and then effective communication with client staff and leadership about the ways specific technology solutions can meet those business needs.
The ITBM makes recommendations on IT investments, training programs, maintenance, and licenses. They help the client be forward-looking, and act as a vendor-agnostic, trusted advisor with deep knowledge of the nonprofit IT software and platforms available. Because Community IT works in partnership with clients to manage IT needs longterm, sometimes the advice is to make an investment, but the advice does not always involve investing in more, or more expensive, IT tools at all. The ITBM relationship with the client makes them a true asset.
In his previous Voices interview, Norwin talks about life advice he would give students to be in a career where they can work from the heart, his background as an immigrant from El Salvador, and the best aspects of this ITBM role for him.
Norwin joined Community IT Innovators in November 2019 as an IT Business Manager. Bringing over 25 years of experience working with technology to his role, Norwin knows how to help clients achieve their organizational missions by managing IT tools wisely.
Norwin has a strong history of providing direct services in Spanish and English to nonprofit organizations in the Washington DC area. Prior to joining CIT, he worked at Casa de Maryland as a computer teacher and created a technology handbook with popular education techniques. At La Clinica del Pueblo he was Manager of Technology.
Biking, hiking, camping, reading, tennis, soccer and squash are some of the activities that Norwin enjoys the most in his free time.
Carolyn Woodard has served many roles at Community IT Innovators, from client to project manager to marketing. With over twenty years of experience in the nonprofit world and marketing, including as a nonprofit technology project manager and Director of IT, Carolyn knows the frustrations and delights of working with technology professionals, accidental techies, executives, and staff to deliver your organization’s mission, keep your IT infrastructure operating, and your website live.
Carolyn is excited to help manage Marketing at Community IT Innovators and is always looking for new ways to tell stories and reach people. She has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Johns Hopkins University and received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from Williams College. She thinks the best thing about being with Community IT Innovators is the people.
Carolyn Woodard: Welcome everyone to the Community IT Voices interview series. My name is Carolyn Woodard and I’m really excited today to welcome Norwin Herrera back to get an update on what he’s been doing and a recent promotion. So, Norwin, would you like to reintroduce yourself and tell us what you’re doing now?
Norwin Herrera: Right, thank you, Carolyn. I’m Norwin Herrera. I’m from El Salvador. I’ve been at Community IT for three and a half years. Starting in January this year, 2023, I am the IT business manager, team lead. So, basically I’m helping my team to be more strategically effective in the work that we do.
Carolyn Woodard: How many IT business managers are there on your team?
Norwin Herrera: We have five IT business managers [ITBMs], but there are some other people in our company who work as IT Business Managers. For example, I have Nura, who is a senior advisor, we call them, but he’s playing the role of an IT business manager and more of a senior consultant. So, he joins our team and our previous IT business manager team lead also is in our group. He still has some clients that he manages. And also our Director, Steve Longenecker, still has some clients that he manages. Our operations director for example, also has an ITBM role. So, basically the team is made of six people, but in reality we have more than that. We have seven or eight maybe depending on who we’re talking to.
We meet every week; we have huddles. We talk for 30 minutes on Monday and Wednesday. We share roadblocks and successes. That’s basically what we do on Monday and Wednesday. And then on Tuesday we have a strategic meeting for IT visits. Monday, the BITS meeting, we call it: Business IT Solutions group. In this meeting we are more into strategic conversations, like, what do we need to learn? What do we need to do? What is the process to implement something? What are the roadblocks that we are facing? And sometimes we have scheduled meetings with account management.
We have a scheduled meeting with help desk and onsite support. And sometimes we have meetings with centralized services, which is the team that is basically working and providing patches, updates, monitoring all the equipment. So, we have strategic meetings with each of them during a period of time.
And, and it’s very interesting because this company’s success relies on sharing the knowledge that we have. I think I mentioned this before, but this is a very unique company. Usually, when I was younger, the less I shared, the more I thought I was needed by the company. I thought I had more power by sharing less. When I came to Community IT, now I’m older and the way of thinking is completely different.
I believe that the more I share, the more I get into this interesting place where people say, I need him. You see what I mean? It’s quite the opposite when I was younger than now. So it is really interesting. It’s the way that we’re furthering the success of Community IT, because we share knowledge, we don’t keep it to ourselves.
The more we share, the more we learn, the more effective we are with the work that we do with our clients.
Carolyn Woodard: You used to be an IT business manager and you had those clients, which I assume you still have.
Can you talk a little bit about what the IT business managers do?
I think it’s so interesting the way you were just describing how your team kind of sits at the center of this wheel connecting all of these different pieces: the help desk and client support and centralized services. How do IT business managers work with their clients?
Norwin Herrera: Well the lifecycle of an IT business manager is basically started at the on-boarding of the client. And we have this method of qualifying the clients. It’s a ITIL method that we use where the client is in a stage one and moves all the way to a stage five.
Stage one means chaos. The client comes from another provider and usually what happens is documentation is missing, processes are missing. There is a random way of doing things. There is no system to understand and to notify that something is going to expire. Something basic like the name of your website is going to expire. Sometimes they don’t have that. And what happens when they don’t have that in their system is failure. It’s the road to failure.
In the beginning, ITBMs have to sort it out. We see what is the most painful thing in the organization and we work in remediating it. That’s stage one. We focus on the pain points that the organization has. Why? Because the moment that we start alleviating the pain, we start getting trust. The organization trusts us to take care of them. We start building a relationship with our client.
Then we move to the next stage, between two and three. After taking care of the pain, we start thinking strategically. What is the most important thing that we need to address in the next six months to a year? Some things can be human intervention and some things need to be financial intervention.
Sometimes the organizations are not ready for the transition. We need to build a budget. As we build the budget, the organization will plan for future investment in technology. Technology is not a waste. Technology is an investment.
So, stage one – chaos. Stage two and three – we start working on the things that are the most important and that we can remediate without having to invest too much money.
And then, stage four and five is when the organization is already mature. We’re going to call them a mature organization. We already have multifactor authentication. We already have Autopilot in place to deploy computers. We already have all the security around emails. We move them to the cloud instead of having servers. It doesn’t make any sense to have servers, so we move to serverless, which is our ultimate goal.
Why? Because if they’re serverless, it’s less money invested, less human intervention. And also it’s more scalable. So, the organization has the opportunity to grow easily. We move them to a place where they can have 100 employees, 200 employees, 1000 employees. It doesn’t matter because we already scaled them. And then we are more like senior advisors to them. That is when Nura takes his place because Nura is the senior advisor.
He talks to organizations that are mature and they understand their strategic moves. They understand what they are going to do in the next year and the next two years. This is the role of the ITBM, to bring an organization from stage one to stage five and be with them for that period of time.
It can be a year or it can be two years, depending on the organization. It’s not dependent upon us. We give you the roadmap, but in reality it is the organization’s pace. Wherever they want to move on, we move with them because we at Community IT meet them where they need us. It’s not what we want. It’s what they want.
Carolyn Woodard: That makes sense. That’s a great way to talk about the journey the clients go through.
I want to clarify, when you say that a nonprofit organization is mature, you mean in terms of IT maturity and their relationship with IT as a necessity of doing business, or as a strategic opportunity. Do you see different stages of IT maturity at different levels? It could be a smaller nonprofit, it could be a larger nonprofit, it could be a startup, it could be an older nonprofit, but their IT maturity doesn’t depend on how long they’ve been around or how big they are.
Can you talk a little bit about how you understand [IT maturity at nonprofits]?
Norwin Herrera: Yes, from my perspective, the IT maturity is more in terms of the relationship we have with the point of contact. The point of contact plays a really strategic role with the organization because they are the ones delivering the measures that we are giving them.
So, we tell them, “this is important because of this.” If they communicate that with the staff they have, the whole staff is more in the habit of receiving IT improvements. That creates maturity in the staff because the staff is more aware of technology changes, and then the point of contact gets more knowledge. When the point of contact gets more knowledge, they start realizing, oh, this makes sense for our organization. They are protecting us not only hardware-wise, but also in other aspects.
We help them with cybersecurity and every aspect where they want to be protected. Right now there is something very common; cyber insurance companies are asking a lot of questions. When they ask those questions, they say, okay, I don’t know what this cyber insurance company is talking about. So, they come to us. When they ask, do we have this? Do we have this? I start saying, no, this is what I mentioned to you six months ago and you said you’re going to put it on hold. This is something that you are working on, or this is something that we already did. You see what I mean?
We already gave them a heads up at the beginning as part of a roadmap, so when the cyber insurers come and are asking for things, we basically say, we already talked about it and we’re just waiting for you to make the call.
And then the client understands why we gave them that advice and then they say, now I get it, let’s move on. So, we start moving.
It is interesting to see the maturity in all levels. Also, we mature with them, and the more we work with the clients, the more we know them and the easier it is for us to give them the best advice.
And then on the other hand, you asked me if it has to do with timing. I don’t think it does. It has to do more with the willingness of the organization to improve. If they want to improve, they can do it really fast. That’s the way it works. The point of contact: a chief operating officer, a chief technology officer, an IT manager, a financial person, it doesn’t matter who the person is, but if the person is really engaged and really committed to improving technology in the organization, this can be done in a year.
I have a client I have been working with for more than a year, but they’re so big that it’s taking me longer than I expected. But the good thing is, the more we try to improve, the more we realize that we are moving at the right pace. I wanted to rush it at the beginning, but in reality, it’s not like that. I need to go at the pace that the organization moves. And that requires proper communication and proper understanding of the structure they have internally. So, there are a lot of factors playing in there.
But the good thing is, when you make a roadmap and you’re moving, you realize with timing, oh, I made the right decision at the beginning to recommend something, or you have time to adjust your strategy. The ITBMs see the strategy and they realize, we are moving in the wrong direction because we needed to do B before A, so let’s do B before A. This is maturity. Maturity is from the client, from the users, and from us.
Carolyn Woodard: I love it. That’s such a great analogy of it being this relationship that you’re building over time.
The last time that we talked, you were telling me a little bit also about some methods you use to build that roadmap. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that.
I know that you take a snapshot when the client comes in. You make a list of all their systems, all their hardware, all of the pain points that you hear from the contact or from staff about things that aren’t working the way they’re supposed to be working.
And I know you told me that you monitor the help desk requests. So, that’s another place where the IT business manager can get a feeling for what’s going on; if you have this same request over and over, clearly that’s an opportunity, right? You can improve in that area, so maybe those types of requests will go down.
Can you talk a little bit more about the other ways that you put the roadmap together and what does a roadmap look like?
Norwin Herrera: Yeah. Usually after the on-boarding process, it takes two or three months or whatever time the organization needs to build up everything and collect the data. We receive a snapshot. The snapshot is what they have, how do they have it?
If we see something that needs to be addressed immediately, as I mentioned before, we start building from that. And then we have regular check-ups. The checks are based on the needs of the organization. We can meet every week, biweekly, bimonthly, every quarter, or we can meet every six months. It depends on the organization. But the moment that the ITBMs start checking with them, we go through the snapshot first.
We make a list of things that we need to address, and then we start. What should we do first? How do we do it? That’s the main question. And then we get the approval from the point of contact to move on.
When we do that, on our administrative side, we create a dashboard. So, I have a dashboard where I can see how many devices they have, how many accounts they have, what is the structure of the network they have, everything.
I start looking at everything and then suddenly tickets start popping up in my dashboard. People are calling and requesting support. Then documentation comes. I need to agree with the point of contact what the process is to, for example, create a new account or to off-board an account. If somebody’s leaving the organization, what do we do with the data?
We start to connect the dots. At the beginning it’s very demanding because we need to figure it out. The way to provide them with support and the work of the ITBM is to document the processes. So, when the help desk gets a request, we know what to do. They go to the client folder. We use something that we call IT Glue. The client side is called My Glue. They can see the processes. So, we all know step one, step two, step three, step four. So, they know everything they need to do to create an account, for example, and they know what to do to off-board a person.
We do this at the beginning, then we start to be more strategic. You have seven servers. Why do you have seven servers? What is the need for each server? Or, you have a domain controller, you have a file server, you have a server for remote desktops. They start building up servers. They have two locations, so they created two servers. Usually, that’s the first thing we do. We ask, when is it time to renew your servers? Let’s say it’s in 2025. We’re in 2024, but your renewable is next year.
Instead of renewing your servers, we offer to migrate the files to SharePoint because it doesn’t make sense to invest every five years when you can invest one time and migrate everything to the cloud. And basically you can remove the remote desktop server.
You can get rid of your file server, and also you have the security. No more VPN to connect to the server, no more configuration. We make it easy for you. That’s part of the planning. And then we put it in the roadmap, and we wait because there is no way we can move without the client’s approval. We always get the client’s approval first and in writing.
You send me an email or you sign an agreement of approval to proceed with the process. So, basically
That’s how we build the roadmap. We start analyzing your network, analyzing your most frequent tickets, and then we start thinking strategically. What can we do to improve your processes and make it easier? A good client is the client that doesn’t get tickets. That’s my ideal world. The fewer tickets, the more successful we are with the client.
Carolyn Woodard: Of course, of course.
I want to go back to something you said earlier about budgeting. We were just talking about how much it costs to have a physical server versus making a one-time payment to move to the cloud and have those licenses instead. You said that you help the clients with their budget, so you use the budgeting process. You don’t do their budget for them, but you provide expertise in the landscape, what tools are available, what the licenses cost, what a server costs. And so, you can lay that all out for them as they’re going through their budget process.
Do you have some clients who actually want you to be very involved in the budgeting of things like, what this is going to cost, how much we need to invest, where we’re going to get to?
Norwin Herrera: Yes, yes, we have a template. In the template, we have everything. We have the domain names, the hosting for your site, the security for the servers, the licenses for the servers.
Also, we start thinking about the replacement of your computers. For laptops, usually the end of life is after three to four years. Desktops, four to five years. But there are not too many desktops anymore. So, mostly we go by laptops. Somebody will say no, personal laptops last six, seven years. Yes, because you don’t use your laptop every day, you know what I mean? Your personal laptop is not in as high demand as is your work laptop.
Your work laptop is turned on every morning and turned off late in the day. So, basically that computer is working every single day from Monday to Friday. If somebody’s a workaholic and they work on Saturday, add one more day to that. In 52 weeks, you only rested a hundred days. That is a lot. The battery goes wrong. The components in the computer might get messed up.
So, we recommend you change your computer every three to four years, and we put that in the budget. We know when your devices are going to expire, so we tell you that next year you need to replace at least five or 10 devices, depending on how many are going to expire. So, that is in the budget, it’s part of the budgeting process.
Also, Autopilot. We’re helping more and more clients move to Autopilot. Before, every single computer needed to be configured. We used to do a manual configuration per device. That was about three to four hours per user. With Autopilot, we can deploy 100 computers if we want. It’s easy, because the basics go in there. We install Office, we install Google Chrome, Mozilla, Adobe and Zoom now is part of the standard. So, those five are installed automatically and also we add security, which is BitLocker.
So, the only thing you need to do is turn on the computer, follow the steps that we send you and then put in your username and password, and the computer automatically will install everything, including the SentinelOne, which is the antivirus that we deploy to our computers.
That’s a savings that goes in the budget as well. We make sure that we include every single aspect in the budget. We can help them build the budget for a year, two years, three years. If they don’t want our help, we give them the template and they can use it at their discretion, or they can match it up with their own budget that they have.
Carolyn Woodard: I think that’s just such an advantage of the way that we partner with those clients.
Besides having outsourced IT, that’s a monthly rate and you know what that cost is going to be. And then we can work with you on your budget. Like you said, it’s all there in the template. You know what you’re going to have to budget for and you can take that into your budget meeting. That’s just another piece that’s such an advantage to having the ITBM working on your account. I love it.
Is there anything different that you want to talk about that you’ve learned from being the team leader after being an IT business manager?
Norwin Herrera: Well, the difference is now I can’t complain because I’m the one who I’m supposed to be doing the work for, right?
I talked to my team, like, I’m not your boss. Let’s be clear about that. I’m just a person who can help you in collaborating and putting everything in place so you can work faster. That’s basically what I am. I am a collector of processes, ideas, and strategic implementation so our company can be ready for the growth that we face in the future.
So basically, I’m trying to organize everything and put everything in place so when the ITBM needs it, they can have it right away.
We created something that we call the BITS Universe. It’s in SharePoint. SharePoint has the ability to have some internal pages. Like it says, it is a website, but it’s for internal consumption. I share links there, I share documents there, I share processes there, frequently asked questions. We have everything ready. So, when the organization requests something from the ITBM, the ITBM has it handy. They can go click, click, click, get it, and deliver it to our client.
So basically, that’s my work, I’m trying to think strategically. I’m trying to work less, of course. That’s always my main goal. I’m a computer programmer, so every time I’m doing something, it’s like, how can I maximize my time?
It’s always like that. It’s a natural habit that I have. Every time I’m doing something, I say, okay, if I did this, somebody else might need it, so I’m going to share it. So, I keep sharing things that I have done in the past.
Like yesterday, we had something very interesting about Barracuda. Barracuda was fixing something, implementing something. I wrote an email to my client, but we have more than 150 clients. So, I sent it to some of the ITBM team and said, this is the email I used. You can modify it, but here’s the template. They pick it up, modify it a little bit, and send it to their clients. You see, by doing that, we save time, time for every single ITBM, for every client. So, it can be a minute, it can be two minutes, but two minutes multiplied by 150.
Carolyn Woodard: I love it. That’s another advantage. Unlike other MSPs where you’re only interacting with the help desk and they’re only solving the problem that you’re having right now. They’re not thinking strategically about what you need to invest in at the roadmap level, what you need to change to have fewer help desk requests, right?
At Community IT, we have an ITBM who helps with that strategic process for each of their clients, but then those IT business managers have their team to rely on.
So, really you’re not even just getting your own ITBM as a client, you’re getting the expertise and knowledge of this whole team of nine people that are assembled, and they can ask each other for best practices and next steps. So, that’s just another advantage.
Norwin Herrera: And, let me tell you something. If you think about it, you are really having a high end professional service from Community IT at a lower price. All these people who are capable of doing anything. We can deliver anything if you want.
Carolyn Woodard: I love it. Thank you so, so much. This is a great explanation. I’ve got a lot to think about after having this talk with you. I really appreciate your time so much, Norwin. Thank you for catching us up on what you’re doing now.
Norwin Herrera: Thank you for the invite, and I hope people go to our website to search for more information. We have webinars every month that are very, very interesting.
We hope you enjoyed this Community IT Voices update interview with Norwin Herrera, IT Business Manager Team Lead. Community IT is the right place for you if you find fulfillment in helping others succeed and love mastering new technologies.
Our employees stay and grow with us, and over half of our staff have been with us for over a decade. Community IT is an employee-owned company with a positive, sustainable workplace that promotes professional development and a healthy work/life balance. We have been 100% employee-owned since 2012. Check out careers with us here.