Microsoft partners to end poverty

by Michael Kifer, IT Director

When you are out meeting people, one of the standard leading questions is “where do you work?” and “what do you do?” When I tell people I work for GLIDE, the conversation tends to shift to how GLIDE has touched them, or touched someone close to them. The conversation also takes a sudden detour when I’m asked what I do for GLIDE. I see the excitement drain from their face when I reply: IT. I cannot tell you how many times I have received some variant on “Why does GLIDE need an IT department, aren’t you just a church and serve meals to the homeless?” “Well yes”, I reply. “We have a church component and we do of course, provide three meals a day 364 days a year, but GLIDE is much more than that” I respond. I proceed to share that GLIDE has an afterschool program, a health clinic, we pay bills, we accept donations and a host of others things that all requires servers, hard drives, phones, internet connection and all the other technology that goes into running an organization that has close to 400 users.

Supporting IT at GLIDE has a tremendous upside. I not only get to see the people we serve everyday, I also get to talk to our technology partners about how, with their help, we change lives.

One such partner is Microsoft. Like many IT professionals, my opinion of Microsoft ran from distain to capitulation of their dominance. Over the recent years, I have witnessed how they do not look to maximize their profit off my small IT budget. Microsoft has become a key technology partner to GLIDE via a tremendous software grant that has enabled GLIDE to increase its technology and keep costs down.

(Pictured L-R: Michael Kifer with Microsoft’s Stu Shader)

Two years ago, IT decided it was time to replace the aging and faltering phone system. At the time, each building had its own unique phones and voice mail system.  By utilizing Microsoft’s unified messaging for voicemail, GLIDE saved over $100,000 (over the life of the system) and once it was activated IT was able to provide users with increased functionality and flexibility.
And, when it was time for the organization to upgrade from Office 2003 to 2010, Microsoft and I discussed how the new version was significantly different, and how I was concerned about the staff transition to learn the new version. I did not want to just drop a new program version on the staff and let them fend for themselves. Microsoft understood that making such a leap would be difficult and challenging for the staff and worked with us to provide an Office 2010 launch event to prepare staff for the migration. Microsoft’s dedication was more then I ever expected from a technology partner! They provided additional training classes free of charge to our staff that not only included transition training, but also new skills training. The training continues today with the additional online trainings.

(Microsoft Training Day at GLIDE: Damon Lembi and Matt Murawski from Learn iT with Microsoft’s Ginger Nelson)
The donation from Microsoft has also allowed GLIDE to reduce its carbon footprint by reducing our physical server count by 80% and reducing the amount of CO2 we emit to the environment – that is equivalent to removing 44 cars off the highway.

In addition, Microsoft employees regularly volunteer with the GLIDE Daily Free Meals Program. I hope that Microsoft’s commitment to GLIDE encourages other companies to partner with GLIDE to work with us to break the cycle of poverty!