The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds
Chief Technology Officer
How does the vision of UPIC align with the vision of United Way?
We have a very similar mission to United Way of helping others, that community service mindset. We just do it in a little different way. We do it by empowering United Way through technology. United Way does it by empowering their agencies, making sure they’re doing the right things, and have the support they need to be successful. These are all the things I think United Way does well and we’re empowering them. In terms of UPIC and our vision, what we’re trying to do is really instill that in the culture of our staff. We’re very customer oriented, much like United Way. We try to make sure we figure out what those new needs are and serve them.
How do you see your role with the business leaders of United Way?
What I think my role in this organization, first of all, is being a strategic listener. If we can’t listen first it creates a big challenge. We can’t just say no. I want to see what the actual meaning is behind that ask and if it’s something that fits into the business. Usually when I ask that question, I’m also thinking in the light of whether this is something that we can operationalize, automate and standardize; if it will make sense and provide value to others. If it can, then let’s do it. If we can’t, I need to decide if it’s worth saying no to a request from one of our large clients. In some cases, we go back to consulting, which is I’m hearing what they say they want but what do they really need? But I think the important part here, and something I’ve certainly learned and become better at, is just shutting up, and trying to listen to what that need is, where they’re coming from. Because until I start listening, I’m really just a roadblock.
How do you move beyond the transactional relationship with the leaders of each United Way?
When interacting with an individual United Way, I have learned to “suggest.” I could command it. I could say this is exactly what we’re going to do. That’s a change I made several years ago. I had to stop doing that and become more of a partner within the business and really understand what was going on. It’s a negotiation, quite frankly, in figuring out what makes the most sense. Large donor companies and United Ways are more challenging in the negotiation process. And at the end of the day, I have to figure out how I make it work within UPIC’s standard service model. That back and forth process is what we’re trying to accomplish so no one feels like they’re on the extreme. Instead, we all feel like we’re on the same team and in this together. That’s just the relationship between UPIC and one United Way, so when we try to get two or more United Ways together to talk, it becomes a little more difficult. So when you get a whole bunch of strong business leaders together and they’ve all figured out how to do it best their own way, how do you standardize that? How do you get them to follow a different model? It takes a lot to do that. So it really came down to that grass-roots effort, spending time negotiating and talking to staff to get those values in the United Way.