Independent Young Audiences chapters across the country work with local artists (including actors, poets, authors, musicians, dancers, painters, and sculpture) to provide special educational arts programs to area public school systems. Each YA chapter vets and then coaches its artists to help them prepare programs and supporting materials suitable for use in grades K-12. As a core business process within the thirty-two autonomous chapters that comprise Young Audiences (YA) nationwide, each YA chapter must schedule its own list of professional/teaching artists into schools and other community venues, communicate logistical information to both the schools and artists involved, collect and distribute funding for said events, and communicate scheduled activities within their respective communities.
Existing information systems for the various chapter offices are home grown – based Excel spreadsheets or Access databases, or are provided by some low-end functional scheduling system. In general YA chapters suffer from antiquated IT hardware and software, no internal IT support, and high turnover among office personnel. The latter due to the low pay/no pay of some office personnel, especially the scheduler and the admins.
In 2007 at a semi-annual meeting of chapter executives, the YA chapters decided to identify an information technology services (ITS) partner who would provide, host, support, and maintain a new shared scheduling system and IT platform in line with the “customer” relationship and communications requirements of the chapters. The challenge in this undertaking would be to provide a robust and flexible information systems solution that will meet the common but at times differentiated needs of YA’s thirty-two (32) chapters at a price – both capital and ongoing – that is commensurate with the modest means of these not-for-profit organizations. It was assumed that the parent organization YA, Inc. in New York City would take over administration of this arrangement.
YA was fortunate to have among the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Chapter a highly experienced Chief Information Officer (CIO) from the private sector. This individual agreed to serve as the project director and also helped arrange for a grant to cover the initial development costs of the solution. As a first step in the process, the project director insisted upon hiring a part-time project manager who would oversee the day-to-day operations of the project and who would serve as the liaison between the chosen vendor and the consortium of YA chapters. The chapters submitted their requirements for consolidation by the project director into a single request for proposal (RFP) that was then circulated to a qualified field of 10 prospective vendors. The project director also laid out a series of ground rules to be followed by the project team:
the cloud-based solution would free the individual chapters from costly local hardware and software upgrades - but to achieve this end the chapters would need to come to consensus on system process and data terminology and system functionality each chapter would appoint a stakeholder to review the proposed system as it evolved in a timely manner only the project manager would interact with the vendor the grant would cover core functionality only; any special needs of a particular chapter would be addressed if possible AFTER core system delivery and then at the direct expense of that chapter a majority of the chapters must sign-up for the project for monthly maintenance and hosting fees to be affordable to all the “national chapter” in New York City would serve as the consolidator for all invoices coming from the vendor and all payments going from the chapters to the vendor, bearing in mind that all of the chapters are independent not-for-profit entities two chapters – the MA chapter and the Cleveland Chapter (the former because they were champions of the effort