Global CIO: Saving Lives And Changing The World Via NPower - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/11/2011
01:59 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Saving Lives And Changing The World Via NPower

About 30 world-class CIOs and some top IT companies are helping nonprofits unleash the power of technology in partnership with a marvelous organization called NPower.

Graduate Errold Augustine said that shortly after he enrolled in NPower's Technology Services Corps training program, he also took on an even more daunting challenge: "While at TSC, I took on the responsibility for raising my twin nephew and niece, and I had huge help from the TSC leaders. I don't know if I could have done it without them," said Errold after receiving his graduation certificate.

Errold's now an intern at Hewitt Associates (he was also offered an internship at Deloitte), and also holds down a part-time IT position for the ACLU's New York office.

AND he's pursuing graduate studies at Brooklyn College.

AND he's still helping to raise is twin nephew and niece.

Another graduate, Isiah Doctor, became a father during his 22-week training program and said, "NPower taught us that we have the power to turn our dreams into reality."

Isiah's big dream that he plans to turn into a reality? He plans one day to have his own IT consulting company.

Many of the other young folks told similarly inspiring stories, and they all seemed to buy unflinchingly into the bold expectations that Accenture's Wearing laid out for them.

In his opening remarks at the graduation ceremony, Wearing said, "You came in with a common desire: to succeed and change the world. . . . For the 10 years we've had this program, every graduate says TSC has changed my life—and in return, all we ask of you is that after you graduate, you go out and change the world."

Wearing also emphasized the importance of the broad and deep—and perhaps unprecedented—support from major IT companies that NPower has been able to pull together . And while Wearing didn't say so specifically, it's clear that Chiarello and Trogni and the other 30-35 world-class CIOs closely aligned with NPower have used some of their considerable leverage to encourage more than a dozen major IT firms to support NPower as well.

Referring to NPower's unique and broad-based blend of IT supporters as "the ecumenical factor," Wearing said, "I think what's really differentiated here is that while there are lots of nonprofits in technology, there aren't any that have such deep-rooted affiliations with Accenture, and IBM, and Deloitte, and Cisco, and CSC, and others.

"You look at the names of all the people coming to our annual gala and it's really a who's who—there are no other organizations that can count all those companies as core partners. And when you think that on top of that there's also the power of a JP Morgan and a UBS and the deep commitment of their CIOs, well, there isn't a problem with any nonprofit in the country that that team couldn't solve."

Wearing, who speaks at ultra-high speed and with a smooth British accent, underscored how rare it is for big IT companies that battle against each other aggressively in the market to come together to serve a higher purpose such as that of NPower:

"This power of competition coming together to solve these problems is key," he said at the graduation ceremony. "Let me put it this way: if I can spend four days every November celebrating Thanksgiving after having spent the first 40 years of my life in England, then I have no problem introducing the gentleman from Deloitte who is our next speaker."

Chiarello said the CIOs supporting NPower's mission are able to offer opportunities for members of their management teams to get involved as well in what he called a self-sustaining effort.

"All of a sudden you get this community," he said. "We have a community of senior technology leadership that's now bringing in the next layer—so a board member like Randy Cowen, who was the CIO of Goldman Sachs for many years, is a member of our board and spreads the good word. We've set up a CIO Council that will have 25-35 top CIOs and that will enable us to continue to spread the mission and the services."

And that CIO network is indeed impressive—at the company's annual gala fundraising and recognition event, here's a partial list of the companies whose CIOs were in attendance: Avon, Blackstone, Bank of America, Booz Allen, Chubb, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Korn Ferry, NBA, NBC, New York Life, NYSE Euronext, Spencer Stuart, Verizon Wireless, and Xerox.

I asked Chiarello what convinced him to support NPower so vigorously, and why he chose it from among the dozens or hundreds of groups that request his time and interest and advocacy.

"For me, it was about leverage," he said. "I could help anybody in need across any non-profit sector by helping enable the technologies. And that could be anything: that could be enabling someone to raise money, to provide aid, to create foundations—it doesn't matter what the need was; we've structured a managed-services offering, and we've structured a software program and a services program to deliver services, in addition to the portal.

"But for me personally the real appeal was leverage. What's the common theme? Technology expertise matched up with technology need really, in the end, delivers. And some of it is for-pay, and some of it is not for-pay. Volunteerism combined with the professional services and the product set really is an enabler."

And while Chiarello emphasized that he feels that all manner of public-spirited volunteerism is a great thing, he was also quick to point out that IT leaders can have a disproportionately huge impact within the NPower model.

"I'm not good at painting fences, or schools, or houses!" Chiarello said. "But when it comes to technology services, we all know they're pretty expensive and I could probably do a lot better in eight hours working on something like that instead of painting a fence.

"And as I think about it, maybe that's the other key attraction: technologists can help people with technology problems and it really, really matters. We like to paint fences too, but we could get 10-fold the leverage if it's a technology problem because they could never get the talent that we hope to make available."

In closing, a few more details about NPower:

** In the last few months, NPower's four charter underwriters (JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, UBS, and Accenture) have been joined by four additional national underwriters: Bank of America, CSC, Cisco, and Cognizant.

**NPower's matchmaking portal is the enabling force behind its Community Corps, which provides the talents of skilled corporate IT volunteers to nonprofits in need, and the Corps is undergoing a major expansion that will allow the online platform, for the first time, to reach even more nonprofits including libraries, schools and NGOs. The expansion provides new features, enhanced user interfaces, and customizable program options, and is supported by a $500,000 pro bono donation from Accenture. Since its official launch in November, TCC has connected hundreds of IT volunteers and nonprofits and already has 150 pro bono IT projects in the works.

**For more information, check out the NPower website.

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