IT in our NPO world
Carl Queiros, CEO of CHOC, shares his experience of reviewing and update the organization’s ICT.
An ever-evolving world of technology and endless options makes selecting and implementing an IT system really difficult for NPOs. Most do not have specialist employees, and often rely on the one staff member who (often regrettably) expressed a passing interest in IT and by default found themselves in charge of the organisation’s server and communication systems. This coupled with the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know made our retention of an external consultancy (non-biased in terms of suppliers or solutions) a great decision in our quest to revamp the organisations IT. They were able to identify what IT issues need to be addressed, how to integrate all the connecting parts, retaining the majority of what we had, and leveraging the full NPO discounts that were available in the market.
Following is a case study of the ICT journey of CHOC, and how it evolved throughout the process.
CHOC initially engaged KuTh Consultants to assist with sourcing and implementing an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM system). We had a partially functioning CRM platform with a supplier, but were dissatisfied with the development of the platform, its lack of functionality and the customer support offered by the supplier. The consultants initial mandate was to provide an evaluation and analysis of prospective suppliers and their respective platforms and feedback their findings and recommendations to CHOC.
Soon after the process was initiated, it became apparent that the ineffective CRM platform was just one of many IT challenges CHOC was trying to deal with, as we were using multiple suppliers for our various ICT needs, resulting in a disjointed, inefficient structure with varying levels of customer support, as well as a lack of oversight and accountability from the suppliers for the various services.
Although providing a solution to this one element would solve our immediate concern of effectively managing our donor base, our consultants established that CHOC’s whole IT system needed to be relooked at in order to streamline our processes, improve our efficiency, and produce substantial savings on some of our core operational costs. This translated to the initial task of implementing an improved CRM platform extending to include a complete overhaul of our managed information technology (MIT) services, to be provided by a single IT supplier and be ready to go-live at the beginning of our new financial year.
The process started with the initial identified need for a fully functional CRM system that could be built on further as needed. Once CHOC had selected a supplier, the consultants managed the whole process from backend development up to transferring and de-duping all the old data onto the new system. The end result was a CRM platform that met all CHOC’s needs and was ready to go live before the start of our new financial year.
The next step was to look at how best our management of information technology (MIT) services could be achieved as the outgoing supplier of the CRM platform had also been the supplier of core MIT services for the organisation. What needed to be covered included remote support for all users; data backups for the servers; and monitoring, maintenance and upkeep of the servers. In addition to putting all of this in place, the consultants also provided further assistance by preparing a step-by-step guide for all users, installing the required software on all the machines, and managing the trouble shooting during the transition.
It was during this phase that the next goal having a single service provider was identified. CHOC’s various IT needs had been setup ad-hoc at each site, as needs arose. This meant multiple suppliers were providing the same services in different regions. This created a number of problems for us, including:
- Inconsistent access to IT elements across the organisation
- Suppliers passing on accountability for non-functional service delivery to others
- Cross-purpose setups of various IT elements, causing system conflicts, etc.
Having a single IT supplier would provide clearer accountability, support, oversight and stability for CHOC. The preferred supplier identified for the CRM system was already providing some IT services to CHOC, so the consultants negotiated a new contract with them to broaden their scope, offering favourable rates and standardised benefits for all the regions.
One of the services already provided included mail hosting, but the system in place was out-of-date and sub-par to current standards, and was managed by a third-party entity. To help CHOC migrate to a contemporary standard platform, the consultants had to resolve some structural challenges with the supplier, and from there identify which mail hosting options are most suited for NPOs. Office 365 Live offers very reduced rates for NPOs so after auditing and cleaning up our user list, the consultants set up mail structure for 365 Live and arranged for the migration of the mailboxes and mail data at no cost to CHOC.
In addition to the core IT services that were implemented, the consultants were also able to assist us with some valuable add-ons. The first was a system to record programme statistics that is able to assess, quantify and report on the statistics of our programmes. They determined that the most expedient and cost-effective option was to develop the CRM platform as the quality of the development service offered by the new provider had already been established and they were familiar with CHOC’s data and operational elements. Now in place is a system that can accommodate future development growth as the organisation grows and expands, and has the potential to become fully automated at a later stage.
The second add-on was securing the most effective and competent anti-virus licensing – a critical component to protect any IT system. Next, they made sure that each individual user could back up their documents on OneDrive for safekeeping, and wrote up how to do this in a simple, easy to follow format, which was circulated to everyone.
After this, there was only one last aspect to tackle – migrating to VOIP. By migrating our telecommunication system to VOIP, CHOC has been able to save money because of the lower rates for calls, as well as more cost-effective hardware. One of the main challenges with VOIP is that it needs a stable. reliable platform to function effectively. This was achieved in the short-term via LTE, whilst the longer-term solution, Fibre or Line-of-Sight (LOS) was being installed at all CHOC sites.
At the end of this process, I can report that CHOC is extremely satisfied with the new systems, and that the new MIT system is effective, integrated, standardised throughout the organisation, and affordable. It has saved us time and money with significant commercial benefits realised in several areas, and has improved our record keeping, both for our donors and our beneficiaries, which has streamlined reporting and accountability.