Episode 38: Supporting Disaster Relief with M365 at Team Rubicon

Scott Marden hs
Scott Marden08/04/2021

Team Rubicon is a nonprofit organization that uses military veterans and civilian volunteers to provide disaster relief and aid worldwide. The organization relies on strong collaboration through Microsoft 365 to delegate tasks and complete projects. Scott Marden, the senior technology manager at Team Rubicon, speaks about the organization's digital evolution and its ability to serve people in need.

Team Rubicon mobilizes veterans to continue their service by using their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises. The organization recruits veterans through online and in-person training and skills development programs. They work with local communities to identify needs and deploy volunteers to disaster areas. The organization also accepts civilian volunteers who want to contribute to the cause.

Scott Marden's journey to Team Rubicon was unconventional, as he was a theater major in college and then worked in fundraising before attending a software development boot camp. After completing the course, he joined Team Rubicon as a full stack developer and eventually became the senior manager for the tech team.

Overall, Team Rubicon's mission is to make the world a better place by helping people on their worst day and preparing for disasters. The organization's focus on using veterans' skills and experiences to serve others is a unique approach to disaster relief and has helped make them a prominent player in the field.

Marden explained the qualities that volunteers bring to the organization, particularly veterans who have been through stressful situations. These individuals are seen as uniquely suited to disaster response, as they can remain focused and get things done in high-pressure situations. The technology team sees itself as customer service focused and here to support the mission and the people who are doing the work.

The conversation then turned to examples of how technology has helped mobilize the team and deliver services to those affected by disasters. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey pushed Team Rubicon's current systems to the limit, leading to a digital transformation and the creation of an Enterprise Management System to better manage operations. When COVID hit, the organization had to pivot to focus on local organizations and support services, such as testing sites and food banks. This required constant innovation and agility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Marden explained how Team Rubicon uses Microsoft Teams for collaboration, and how they had to quickly adjust to remote work during the pandemic. He also highlighted the importance of designing tools that are usable in low-connectivity situations and that don't create more hurdles for volunteers who are dedicating their time outside of their day jobs. He also stressed the need for standardization across different branches of the organization, but the need to be agile and recognize sometimes the tools needed for different jobs can vary depending on the region. This requires flexibility in tool design to accommodate these differences while still supporting the core functions of the job. That’s where Microsoft 365 comes in, offering a range of technologies that can be tailored to suit different contexts, industries, and generations of workers.

Marden discussed Team Rubicon’s own experience of transitioning from Box to OneDrive and SharePoint, which took a lot of effort but ultimately allowed for more efficient use of file storage and team collaboration. Marden explained the need to find solutions that worked for different teams with varying needs, such as planning, mobilization, and finance. While it’s hard to know if these new solutions are working effectively for Team Rubicon, Marden believes the pandemic has forced people to adopt new technologies and that they are starting to see positive results. Marden suggests if you want people to use new tools like OneDrive and SharePoint, you should get rid of old file-sharing systems to encourage adoption.

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