Welcome to Customer Spotlight, a blog series where we’re introducing you to real Mavenlink users and getting a glimpse into who they are, what they do, and how they got there. Today, we’re talking with Angie Embree, Chief Information Officer for Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in America. Angie is responsible for aligning the strategic plan for IT with the strategic plan of the overall organization, and helping the staff understand how to use technology and where it can improve processes that contribute to saving more lives.
Mavenlink: Hi Angie! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about Best Friends and your role there. How did you initially find your way to Best Friends Animal Society and how long have you been part of the team?
Angie: I’ve been with Best Friends nine months today! I am their first CIO, actually. Before joining the team here in Kanab, Utah, I lived in Des Moines, Iowa. My full-time job was working for Drake University, where I was one of their IT leaders. I also supported the Mid-Iowa Boxer Rescue, as well as my local shelters and rescues like Animal Lifeline, which is a no-kill rescue that only takes in special needs animals.
"This is my dream job! It’s the merging of my personal passion with my professional career."
Mavenlink: What led you to make the switch from working in IT at a university to leading IT at a non-profit?
Angie: This is my dream job! It’s the merging of my personal passion with my professional career. It was something I really wanted to do. I had been involved with Best Friends for a few years prior to working here. When I found out they were looking for a CIO, I was like “Oh, I’m all over that.”
Mavenlink: Can you tell me a little about the mission behind Best Friends?
Angie: Our goal is to Save Them All. What that means is we are seeking to end the killing of healthy, adoptable animals in shelters. Approximately 9,000 animals a day are killed in animal shelters simply because they lack safe places to call home. We work with our partner shelters and rescues to help them become no-kill by increasing adoption rates, keeping animals from entering the shelters through spay and neuter programs, and supporting shelter programs that help people keep animals vs. giving them up. Our biggest goal in leading the no-kill movement is reducing the number of pets going into shelters, and increasing the number of pets leaving shelters (through methods other than killing).
Mavenlink: Are there other organizations that do what Best friends does?
Angie: We are pretty unique in that we are the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of healthy and treatable shelter animals in this country. Our goal is to Save Them All. It’s a philosophy that we apply at our sanctuary in Utah and at all of the shelters that we operate. Advancing the no-kill mission is the focus of all of our work, our events, our national conference, and each of the grants that we provide to local organizations. It is the mission of Best Friends.
Mavenlink: As an animal-friendly office, we love your mission. What do you hope is in store for the future of Best Friends?
Angie: We want to take the no-kill movement nationwide and work with more shelters and cities to help them achieve no-kill status. That’s a big job! Eventually, we hope that the entire U.S. will be no-kill.
"Eventually, we hope that the entire U.S. will be no-kill."
Mavenlink: What advice would you give someone hoping to start their own shelter like Best Friends? Similarly, what advice would you give someone who is interested in becoming a CIO?
Angie: As far as doing what Best Friends does, I encourage them to contact us. We have classes on how to start a shelter or rescue, we provide education on the no-kill movement, and we have a national conference. So if someone was just starting out and wanting to open their own shelter, I would suggest they contact us at Best Friends.
As far as what I do, I would just learn everything you can about leadership and technology. Keep learning, and never stop.
Mavenlink: Great advice. So, shifting topics a little bit now — how is Best Friends using Mavenlink? We find a lot of marketing agencies, IT firms, and consultancies use our product, but how is a non-profit animal shelter using it?
Angie: We use Mavenlink in a couple of different ways. One is for project management. Our IT governance committee meets, we get project requests, and then we approve and prioritize those requests. Any requests that meet the terms of an IT project get grouped together in Mavenlink, making it easy to look at them and check the status and all of that.
We also have a lot of projects that don’t involve IT. For example, our development team, our marketing team, and our visitors and volunteers each have their own groups and their own projects that they manage, and my department doesn’t get involved in them unless they need us.
The third way we use it is for task management. We use it for those day-to-day things that aren’t really projects that come up, but they are action items — things that need to get done. We track those in Mavenlink. We have one project set up for “IT Leadership Tasks” and then we create tasks and sub-tasks for our action items (meetings and emails and things like that).
"What we really liked was the flexibility and speed in which Mavenlink addressed [our] requirements."
Mavenlink: That is definitely a lot of different projects and tasks you’re tracking in there! So what were you using before to track those things, and what ultimately made you decide to go with Mavenlink?
Angie: We really didn’t have anything. Everyone was trying to get by with what they had. We went with Mavenlink because we really liked the project management capabilities and the Google integration (we are a Google shop, we have Google open all day and are using Drive, Calendar, etc.). We also like that in the future it will have project request capabilities.
Mavenlink: The Google integration is a pretty critical component to why Best Friends and Mavenlink pair nicely together. In fact, you played a large role with the Mavenlink development team’s improvements to the Chrome Extension. Can you describe that experience for me?
Angie: There were a couple of things we needed out of the Google integration and the Chrome Extension that didn’t exist. This was really for our development operations team because they don’t really manage projects, they focus more on the task management side of things. They didn’t want to have to log into Mavenlink to do their work, they wanted to use Google to manage their tasks. For that reason, we really needed the ability to assign tasks, sign off on tasks, and associate docs with tasks without having to leave Google to communicate and collaborate.
When we saw the Chrome Extension, it was great but there were a couple of things it didn’t do. We needed the capability to associate documents from Google Drive and we needed to assign a task to multiple people. So we asked Mavenlink to create that functionality for us. We defined our requirements with the Product Development team on a few phone calls, and communicated back and forth on our needs, and luckily our request synced up nicely with the Mavenlink team’s feature development plan for their Chrome Extension. What we really liked was the flexibility and speed in which Mavenlink addressed those requirements.
Mavenlink: That one request ended up benefitting more than just your team; our Chrome Extension is a pretty popular feature among our other customers too, and honestly, we use it all the time internally as well! How often is your team using it?
Angie: There are a lot of Best Friends users using it daily — about 50 active users.
Mavenlink: Oh, we hear a dog barking in the background, that must be our cue it’s time to go. Thank you so much Angie!
Angie: Yes, that’s my dog Annie, I got her through a rescue in Missouri. She comes to work with me. And thank you as well!
Mavenlink is proud to work with Angie and be a small part in Best Friends’ big mission to save animals and find them their forever homes, wherever that may be.
If you’re a current Mavenlink customer and would like to participate in the next customer spotlight, please send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.