For many nonprofits and associations, managing the information technology function entirely in-house can be both financially and practically taxing. Outsourcing IT services can be the answer, according to the experts at ASAE. In fact, says the author of, “Managing IT: The Case for Outsourcing,” information technology services provide a particularly robust opportunity for organizations to utilize outsourcing to improve organizational effectiveness and capacity.
For Abila client, AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), it most certainly was the answer.
We recently sat down with Jason Ludwig, Director of IT for AACSB, to discuss the association’s journey to outsourcing various IT functions.
Q. What did your IT department look like before you began outsourcing your IT functions?
A. Our department was small; there were just three of us, including the manager. We handled network and database administration and the help desk for about 50 staff members stateside and in our Singapore office.
Q. What precipitated your decision to outsource?
A. We were a break/fix department. We had no structure, no strategy. All of our technology decisions were separate and siloed. We weren’t getting anywhere. We were operating as though it was 2002. Our association’s mission is to advance business education worldwide, and this archaic environment simply wasn’t keeping pace. We wanted IT to be recognized, internally, as an integral part of the organization.
Q. How did you decide what your IT department would look like, going forward?
A. We started by developing an IT strategy – one that supported our overall association strategy. Then, we went about building an IT team that possessed business skills.
I want people on my team who understand accreditation, communicate well, and speak the language of business. Previously, we were heavy on technical ability and focused on tactical work. I want a team of project managers; advocates who can work with the staff, get to the root of a problem, explain the options, then create a universally-beneficial solution. I want people who can find answers.
We’ve also established several IT Steering Committees, made up of staff members from across the organization. They come together around a theme – not an issue or a project. They learn together, solve problems together, and make recommendations about things like policy changes and governance.
Q. Which IT functions have you outsourced?
A. We’ve outsourced a lot of the day-to-day technical work. For example, outside consultants are now handling our network maintenance, phone system troubleshooting, business intelligence, and IT support for all of our conferences and seminars. We’ve also just begun working with Abila on database maintenance. We’re using netFORUM Enterprise’s Virtual Administration Services, which offers us an Abila product specialist who will work with our team to execute a variety of tasks, such as member record management, dues processing, and queries and reports creation.
Q. What benefits have you gleaned thus far with this new IT structure?
A. I think the biggest benefit is we’ve gained the trust of the organization. The staff now has confidence in IT. And, we have a solid IT strategy. We’re no longer that break/fix department we once were. We’re also starting to realize a cost/time benefit. For example, running a query might have taken us eight hours, while our Abila product specialist can probably accomplish the same task in an hour. And, I believe our members benefit from a better member experience.
Going forward, we hope to take advantage of our huge database filled with 15-plus years of unique data that our consultants can mine and we can provide to members.
Bottom line, our new structure will help us move forward, faster. It will help us make the right decisions for the organization and our members. Change won’t happen overnight. It will likely take a few years, but we intend to better ourselves each day.