Northern Illinois Food Bank is the source for nutritious food, innovative feeding programs, and hope for more than 71,000 people each week in the 13 counties surrounding Chicago, Illinois.
Given the number of individuals that the Food Bank serves and the importance of its mission to feed its hungry neighbors, it is critical that its internal support infrastructure–especially its Information Technology (IT) system–be effective and efficient.
For a nonprofit with a disciplined budget, it can be challenging to find the time and resources to enhance IT infrastructure, but through a clever pro bono project with Hillshire Brands, the Food Bank and Hillshire Brands IT experts developed a plan to maximize the effectiveness of the Food Bank’s IT infrastructure.
The Food Bank has grown tremendously in size and complexity over the past few years, and Food Bank staff recognized the need for strategic IT planning to ensure their future IT systems could support the Food Bank’s evolution.
Hiring an IT consulting team would be prohibitively expensive for a nonprofit. However, through Hillshire Brand’s pro bono pilot project, Food Bank staff had the opportunity to work alongside employees from Hillshire Brands and to get helpful new perspectives and insights to ensure the Food Bank can maintain strong IT infrastructure. Dianne Korizon, CFO of the Food Bank, explained, “Our current IT staff was great at maintaining our current systems, but we needed to develop a plan for the organization’s evolving IT needs.”
In particular, the team decided to focus on the Food Bank’s inventory system, a critical tool for measuring and maintaining quality food delivery to hungry people in the community. Once they zeroed in on the specific need to address, the team kicked off an all-day working session to design strategies for ensuring an effective inventory system.
Before the working session, the Hillshire Team, led by IT Director Ryan Earley, provided the Food Bank with a tool for documenting and organizing their current inventory system capabilities and the problem areas in their current system design.
The Food Bank team came to the working session prepared with a list of problem areas and potential solutions, ready to tackle the challenge with their Hillshire Brands counterparts. The session was a true meeting of the minds. The nonprofit team contributed a deep knowledge of their inventory system needs and Hillshire Brands employees provided fresh expertise on how best to approach a system upgrade.
“Because they had a deep level of experience with ERP systems, they understood the types of problems we were describing,” Korizon said.
The collective team prioritized and categorized the problem areas and developed a tactical plan for addressing them. The Hillshire Brands team recommended a timeline and specific support functions to address the challenges.
“Ultimately, this plan will enable the food bank to focus on addressing their largest IT opportunities in an organized and effective way,” said Earley.
The project was both challenging and rewarding for the Hillshire Brands employees.
“The major challenge was thinking outside of the box in terms of the differences between for-profit and not-for-profit. It was interesting to see that while many of the goals and challenges were different, generally the business models were similar.”
The volunteers valued the opportunity to work outside the boundaries of their normal day-to-day routines to develop solutions that had tangible value for the community.
Earley summed it up for the Hillshire Brands team: “It’s inspiring to see the level of dedication the Food Bank team has to achieving the organization’s goals and providing food where it is most needed.”