Here are the influential voices leading the conversations where nonprofits and technology overlap.
After nine years at the helm of Meeting Tomorrow, CEO and founder Mark Aistrope is well-versed in the art of satisfying customers.
In that time, the Chicago-based company cultivated a niche as a kind of technology SWAT team that can provide computers, digital displays, audio-visual equipment and tech support services for customer events anywhere in the country.
The company’s technical staff delivers the goods, gets them up and running, then breaks the setup down at the close of the event. The tech unit has become so popular that Meeting Tomorrow now bills itself as the top provider of Apple iPads for trade shows.
So when customer iD Tech Camps approached Aistrope with a special request to supply its summer technology camps, he agreed — and then huddled with his staff to figure out how to meet the challenge in only 15 business days.
Ultimately, Meeting Tomorrow delivered more than 4,000 customized PCs to multiple locations across the country in roughly two weeks, and in the process learned that it had the resources to broaden its reach into new business opportunities.
iD Tech Camps organizes a unique series of summer camps at 60 colleges and universities throughout the United States, including Northwestern, Stanford, Princeton, MIT and UCLA. For the past 14 years, these gatherings have brought preteens and teens together to learn software programming, computer game design, app development for tablets and other high-tech skills.
Camps last from one to two weeks and make use of university facilities. Camp instructors do their part to cultivate the campers’ budding interests in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), relying on specialized Macs and high-end PCs for the students.
iD Tech Camps began looking for a single supplier that could configure computers to the precise specifications needed to support the camps’ different software programs. The supplier also had to get the computers to the various sites, set them up and support them remotely. iD Tech Camps also wanted a company that could deliver all the related networking equipment, plus printers and copiers.
“Early last year, we began looking at different logistics providers — companies that could keep up with our growth and provide a different level of customized service,” explains Pete Ingram-Cauchi, CEO of iD Tech Camps.
The reduction in deployment costs that using the right imaging tools can provide when bringing in new PCs.
SOURCE: Technology Business Research
“Our company needs computers delivered on time, all across the country, and there is no room for failure. And the computers have to be ready to go — imaged cleanly and networked meticulously,” he adds. “Meeting Tomorrow is a smaller organization, but we felt they could play with the big boys.”
When Aistrope committed to becoming iD Tech Camps’ supplier, he didn’t know how his staff of 60 was going to procure, outfit and image all the new PCs required for the project in a mere two weeks. But there was an added wrinkle — all the new and existing PCs that Meeting Tomorrow was asked to supply had to have Nvidia GTS 450 graphics cards installed. “We ended up buying approximately 3,500 of the cards,” Aistrope says.
When Meeting Tomorrow staff couldn’t acquire enough GTS 450 cards by shopping around to domestic suppliers, Aistrope found a partner who could deliver the cards en masse from Taiwan. But that solved only part of his problem.
Sixty staffers weren’t enough to get all the equipment ready for delivery to the camps. Meeting Tomorrow had to find a partner that could help it perform all the setup and configuration requirements within the tight timeframe.
That’s when Aistrope turned to CDW. “For this project, CDW provided the PCs and the value-added services we needed on top of that,” he says.
First, CDW helped Meeting Tomorrow acquire the computers it needed. The iD Tech Camps job required two basic configurations: One consisted of 900 Lenovo M71E PCs with Intel Core i3-2120 processors, 8 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The second group included 400 Lenovo E30 workstations with Intel Core i7-2600 processors and similar memory and storage resources.
“Our CDW rep worked with the CDW Services group to put together a solution,” Aistrope says. “Instead of looking at just specs and prices, they gave us an entire solution, and that has made me think of CDW in a whole different light.”
CDW Account Manager Dan Stanton Jr. was in charge of connecting Meeting Tomorrow with the CDW Services team. “Meeting Tomorrow came to us with a very competitive situation,” he says. “My first priority was to choose a partner that was going to work hard to meet the customer’s requirement, and Lenovo was up to the challenge.”
“We were able to free up a lot of time for Meeting Tomorrow by leveraging our installation, imaging and logistical services so that they could concentrate on their client and the overall deployment of all of the hardware,” Stanton adds.
Among the services CDW delivered was installing the special-order graphics cards. Meeting Tomorrow also gave CDW a master computer with all the software programs that were required for the summer camps. CDW then loaded the software image onto thousands of iD Tech Camps computers and tested them all to make sure everything worked properly.
“The scale of this project was so broad, we didn’t have the space, resources or enough people to actually prepare all of this equipment,” Aistrope says. “CDW acted as an extension of our team and enabled this whole project to happen for us.”
“While I was working with Meeting Tomorrow, we kept trying to find ways to save both time and money,” says Stanton. “Whether it was adding the MAC address to asset tags so they didn’t have to unpack the computers, or working with our repair/returns team to manage the lifecycle of these units for the next three years, we kept thinking of the soft costs that were not shown in the hardware price.”
As Aistrope knows, the customer’s satisfaction is ultimately what counts, and Meeting Tomorrow passed the test. “Here we are a year later. They’ve delivered. We look forward to expanding the relationship,” Ingram-Cauchi says.
By the end of the summer, Meeting Tomorrow expects to have all the iD Tech Camps’ PCs back in its Chicago offices. What will it do with them all? Aistrope says he’s on the lookout for new customers that may sponsor software development conferences, or large companies with extensive training programs that require a large volume of high-end PCs.
But Aistrope says the iD Tech Camps experience also has opened his imagination to new types of opportunities that weren’t obvious until now. He now knows Meeting Tomorrow can consider projects that expand beyond the company’s core business, but that still require a one-stop source for technology and the logistics skills to succeed under tight deadlines.
“There are customers with unique requirements for custom configurations, where serving them wouldn’t be in the typical workflow of our existing operations,” he says. “But now we see CDW as a strategic partner that can help us to do more of these custom and one-off projects, and do it in a streamlined way.”