IT professionals are worth their weight in gold. The trouble is that this is an area in which nonprofit organizations typically lack capital, personnel and training. I have some suggestions on how to make due.
1. Audit. Figure out what you have, what everybody uses, what works well (or doesn’t), and what people wish they had. It is important to be realistic, but let staff list whatever they like.
2. Group meeting. Invite everybody but don’t make it mandatory. Those not invested in making things better won’t show. The ones to form your IT team will be there, as will those whose buy-in you will need. At the meeting, lay out the results of the audit. Maybe not everybody knows marketing has a laptop. Maybe nobody knows you’re not on an exchange server (or what that means). But everyone will be happy to know that everybody else hates the email system too, or that everybody really wants remote access. Use this meeting to set priorities. How democratic you want to be depends on corporate culture, but get buy-in from everyone and tell them you’ll put prices to everything and will meet with them all again in a week or whatever, but make it quick.
3. Come to Jesus meeting. Again, invite everyone but not mandatory meeting. Those who wanted to bitch will have had their turn, those who weren’t engaged may see that you’re serious and turn up. With numbers in hand, time to lay out the costs associated with the priorities of the last meeting. Now is the time to speak with authority (or beg one to come in as a favor) about the IT structure of the company, it’s needs, and the financial realities of fixing things. Then ask what the staff wants to do. You have to do this honestly. I suggest the final priorities must be made by the group as a whole. You will need company-wide buy-in to achieve meaningful change. My hope would be that you would choose one priority that could be achieved with existing resources, and one that would make meaningful change if resources could be found. This could give you an fast, early win, and an aspirational goal on which staff could focus.
4. Establish a Power User Group. My last IT Director called them “pugs”. This is a workgroup from all areas of the company (one from each) that will oversee, in the absence of an IT staffer, the IT priorities of the company. PUGS are charged with taking their department’s needs to the meeting, and collaborating with all the other PUGS to achieve the priorities. Give this group autonomy to act within a budget and timeframe and have them report directly to the highest level of operational oversight, not through another department.
5. Set and maintain an IT budget. It may be modest at first, but make it a line item, stick to it, and make it a funding priority that cannot be cut any easier than benefits. Just like benefits, consider good IT necessary to attract and retain good talent. Just like paying the rent, consider IT needs critical to operations.
Beyond this, tactics vary. You might outsource. If so, have the PUGS oversee the bidding and the vendor. You might hire IT staff. If so, you are very fortunate and now have someone to oversee the PUGS. Don’t hire someone who can’t or won’t. You might have to make due with the Frankenstein of a system you have, but if so, you will have gone through the necessary steps to establish priorities and buy-in from the key staff, and created a staff-led oversight body to manage your monster.<