True Digital Transformation – The Only Way to Future-proof Your Charity
13 November 2018 at 8:00 am
Aaron Diviniti from One Tree Community Services explains why digital transformation is so important for charities and community groups, and offers advice for organisations looking to transform their digital capabilities.
One Tree Community Services works with people and communities to provide early childhood education and community services across rural and regional Australia. An ageing IT infrastructure, disconnected service centres in remote areas and a severe lack of web connectivity was hindering the organisation’s ability to adapt, evolve and grow. Directors and managers needed to access systems, and staff needed to connect directly with head office for the latest information, education tools, and online training.
Thanks to a Lottery West grant, One Tree has embarked on an ambitious project to rebuild its technology infrastructure from the ground up. We caught up with Aaron Diviniti, IT engineer at One Tree, to discover what this journey means for the organisation and how it will transform them now and into the future.
How important is digital transformation for charities and community organisations?
We live and breathe a digital and technology world, so we need to keep up to date. Our clients, for example, are on social media – they want more interaction with the day to day, to keep up to date with what their children are doing at the centres. We needed better connectivity and tools to ensure we could meet their changing needs – particularly in our remote locations.
Staying modern and having our staff be able to upload photos, and information about the day, is critical to meeting carer expectations. And we need to provide the right environment for our staff – particularly those in remote locations – who need to feel and be connected to our organisation.
What are the first steps you are taking as part of this transformation?
We’re starting from the ground up. First, we’re rebuilding our IT infrastructure to prepare for the future – upgrading server hardware, network infrastructure and moving some services to the cloud. Our old servers were not coping – we’ve had downtime, servers running out of space and failures. We desperately needed to upgrade.
We’re also building, from scratch, a new intranet built on Sharepoint and installing new future proof internet connections to our regional service. Our childcare and community services are connected to standard ADSL connection, but now we’re moving to a fully wireless private network on Telstra 4GX. The difference in speed will be tenfold in some areas. We’re building a new cloud document management system, as well as application integration, so different apps can communicate quickly and easily with each other, saving manual labour. We’ll then be transforming our business analytics through Power BI so we can maximise data and guide our organisation going forward.
Why is connectivity so important to a not for profit delivering community services to remote and rural Australia?
The importance of good connectivity is critical. For example, we support a small community in NT called Wadeye. To get services out there is near impossible – it took nearly three months just to deliver a photocopier! Internet connection there is patchy – it constantly drops out. Now, thanks to new mobile technology, we should have a stable connection with little drop out. This is critical for our staff and the safety of our children. Without this connectivity upgrade, our staff would struggle to fulfil the legal requirements to manage and run our service centres.
You’re migrating over to the cloud. Why the move from on-premise to cloud-based technology?
We really needed to free up space on site and leverage the great collaboration features of Microsoft Office 365. We were running out of storage room for data – particularly email and in this digital world we need to be able to store this data without the worry of space.
Office 365 is one of the most significant investments and transformation we’re undertaking. We chose this strategy because it’s true future proofing for us. Technology will continue to evolve. We need a digital strategy that can grow with us without having to start or reinvest again. Office 365 is constantly updated so we won’t have to worry about being left behind. As technology grows and evolves, we’ll be in a position to grow and develop too. We get to keep everything in one spot – Office 365 is completely secure, and our data is held in Australia which is a requirement when working with personal data in our services.
What improvements do you see in these early days?
We’re in the infancies of our upgrades, but we already see improvements. Better connectivity, better communications. Our departments are now using Microsoft Teams to increase collaboration and minimise the need for emails going back and forth. We’ve also improved efficiency and reduced mistakes. Now, with Office 365, staff can work together on one document at the same time without the need for multiple versions.
We don’t have to wait for responses for emails as now we’re collaborating live. We don’t have to pull people out of their day to day to have a meeting – we can connect straight away through Skype for Business. Plus our remote staff can easily speak to head office or other staff in other centres. This keeps everyone connected to the One Tree organisation no matter where they are.
Have there been any challenges so far?
Encouraging staff to adopt and embrace new technology and systems takes time. Training and making time for proper training is essential. Bremmar – our IT and digital transformation partner who is working closely with us during this massive IT project – has been critical throughout the entire process.
Bremmar has worked with the NFP and community services sector for many years. They’ve been invaluable in helping guide us through this transformation and have highlighted the speed bumps that we can avoid. They know our goals, have helped us map out a strategic roadmap for success and they deliver on set milestones each month to push us further to our goal.
What advice would you give charities and other community services who are thinking about transforming their digital capabilities?
If you constantly put band-aids on something it will eventually fail. An ageing IT infrastructure with slow and heavy systems where staff and your supporters can’t connect or engage means you’ll always struggle to build and grow, and you won’t be able to keep up.
Work out where you are and where you need to be. Then choose a partner who understands the NFP community and how this sector works differently. Most NFPs don’t have the people on the ground. Using a partner like Bremmar, gives you an extension of your team. Their advice, experience, and understanding of the technology landscape is invaluable.
Aaron will be presenting at the Empowering Not for Profits through Digital Transformation seminar on Friday 27 November at Microsoft office in Perth, along with Youth Care, Anglicare WA and Bremmar. This event is free for NFPs – register today.