Crain’s 2022 Notable Executives in Technology Q&A: ‘Tech enables a business, supports people’
Howard Pincham learned a leadership lesson years ago when he worked at Hyland Software. In the open office environment, Pincham watched as then-CEO A.J. Hyland took the last glass of water from a cooler, then replaced the empty jug with a full one. “I was struck by this man, the CEO of a large company, changing the water for everyone else,” Pincham said. Pincham tries to bring that approach to his work as chief information officer at Koinonia Homes, a nonprofit that provides living spaces and experiences for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
What IT challenges have you had to address at Koinonia?
I started in the fall of 2019, and when COVID hit, we had two months to convert from a place where all the work happened to one where some work could easily happen elsewhere. A lot of us have the same stories, but it took us a little more work, because we were behind in terms of technology. We’ve also tried to support the people in the front line report information back about clients with some very challenging disabilities. How well someone had lunch that day or how someone else is developing self-care habits. Our business is about care, and we need to document that care. Much of what we’ve done is par for the course, but this is a path to maturity for us.
Your mindset seems “other”-driven. Is that fair?
I think of myself as part of the team, and I need to hold up my end. If I’m the executive and people have to dazzle me, especially before they dazzle end customers, their productivity goes out the window. If I can make this workplace drama-free, I feel like I’m serving them because the team — and it is an excellent group — is contributing for end customers.
How do you mesh servant leadership with IT?
I am a regular guy, but I’m also probably the biggest nerd you know. One of the problems that nerds like us have is we think tech is the be-all and end-all. I see three legs that are important: people, process and tech. For someone in my space to say tech solves all the issues, absolutely not. Tech enables a business, supports people, supports process.
Are you able to interact with clients?
We have more than 60 locations spreading through Cuyahoga County and Summit and a bit of Lorain, so there are many opportunities for all of us to engage. It’s amazing that we are called just to provide a home for our clients. When I show up, I don’t have the skill set to provide the care that some of them need, but I can talk and spend time and be present — and hopefully that helps someone. Seeing the work that the entire team does to provide the tiniest thing for someone on the autism spectrum or someone who is nonverbal but so much wants to be part of the community, seeing the mission and seeing what front line people do, it’s been a blessing and a privilege.