Forum for CIOs of not-for-profit groups

Forum for CIOs of not-for-profit groups

Shared ICT services and collaborative outsourcing among New Zealand’s not-for-profit organisations, could be among the long-term outcomes of a forum formed by the chief information officers of non-profit organisations.

Shared ICT services and collaborative outsourcing among New Zealand’s not-for-profit organisations, could be among the long-term outcomes of a forum formed last month by the chief information officers of non-profit organisations. Initially, however, the main purposes of the group are mutual support and discussion of common interests, says Alistair Vickers, information systems manager of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, one of the group’s founders.

Having been CIO for 18 months with the non-profit organisation, Vickers says he has become increasingly conscious of the challenge of economically managing Plunket’s ICT resources.

Vickers says he has encountered CIOs and IT managers from non-profit groups at health informatics conferences and discussed their common challenges. He says the logical question that cropped up after these meetings was, “Why not get together?”

He quickly found three other interested IT managers and a meeting held in mid-February at Plunket’s Wellington head office attracted representatives of 11 non-profit organisations.

“The forum provides a chance to share ideas on our common challenges and things that have worked for some of us,” says Vickers. “We’ll be looking at areas where two or more organisations can work together.”

As well as information exchange on problems and solutions, the forum may also bring improved purchasing power by approaching suppliers in bulk. There is also a potential economic advantage to approaching outsourcing plans together, he says. “One thing we could consider is the opportunity to outsource infrastructure to a hosting partner.” This, along with the potential for information and technology transfer among participating organisations, could lead to various forms of common use of software and infrastructure. “There could be a lot of traction in shared service models,” Vickers says.

He has spoken to representatives of other sectoral forums and to ICT vendors and has had a lot of positive comment on the idea.

The first meeting lasted two hours and was very encouraging, he says. “It went really well. There was a good exchange of ideas on the kind of work we have proposed, underway or just completed. A lot of the organisations have similar ends in mind in terms of infrastructure and platforms, while a lot are considering outsourcing. Also some are planning some mobilisation of their workforces, equipping them with portable electronic devices to replace paper, which is now the chief medium of data collection.”

A number of not-for-profits have recently upgraded to Exchange 2007 and this could prove another useful area for mutual assistance. They have already started on bringing interested parties together on this and mobilisation plans, Vickers says.

The forum members are to hold regular meetings on the second Wednesday of each month. Current participants are all Wellington-based, but on March 25, their Auckland-based colleagues will hold their first meeting, says Hazel Jennings, ICT manager, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, who will host the meeting.

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