Nonprofit CIO seeks Amazon-like experience

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The American Cancer Society is using cloud-based ID management software to allow its millions of members to log into its websites. CIO Jay Ferro says the move will help the organization suggest events and make other recommendations to donors and volunteers.

Identity management doesn't have the cachet of robots that automate mundane tasks, sensors that shuttle data between machines or analytics that ferret out insights. But as businesses increasingly rely on digital technologies for growth, ID management technologies are crucial for tracking consumer interactions with your brands online. It is, in fact, the digital handshake that grants customers passage into your website, making it possible to tailor content, make recommendations and offer other perks to retain customers.

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American Cancer Society CIO Jay Ferro

That's what the American Cancer Society (ACS) has learned after adopting cloud services that allow its constituents to get into its multiple websites via single sign-on. The software also aggregates information about their demographics, relationships and Facebook interests among other details. "What we needed was something that could span the enterprise with the goal of our constituent being able to interact with us with one digital identity," ACS CIO Jay Ferro tells CIO.com.

CIO uses ID management to groom customer views

ACS' community of volunteers, donors and participants has grown significantly, straining an existing hodgepodge of identity management tools from Microsoft, Oracle and other vendors. Some users who had cultivated multiple relationships with ACS had created multiple log-in identities, as relay-fund raisers, donors, caregivers and as survivors for the organization's relayforlife.org and cancer.org websites. The duplicate identities made it difficult for ACS to get a 360-degree view of each member, often counting members with multiple roles and stakes as different people.

"If they log into Relayforlife.org as a team participant, chances are they interact with us in other ways," Ferro says. "We didn't want them to have multiple accounts to interact with us.”

ACS in 2014 began using Gigya's single sign-on software, which allows members to log in, with Facebook and Google credentials, to access Cancer.org, Relayforlife.org and other sites. The software collects and normalizes member data during and after registration, consolidating multiple identities and assembling clean digital dossiers of each member. Ferro says this helped ACS gain a "single source of truth" about members, including the more than 2 million user registrations who joined after Gigya was rolled out.

Ferro is trying to offer a customer experience on par with that of Amazon or Netflix, which make personalized content recommendations based on consumers purchasing and viewing histories. Ideally, being able to accurately identify members will enable ACS to serve them tailored content about upcoming events, including races and other fundraisers. For example, Gigya would help ACS recognize when a member has been a Relay for Life participant for three straight years, and recommend that ACS teach him or her how to be a relay captain.

Such activities could help ACS cultivate "a more intimate relationship" with its constituents. "The better we know our constituent the better we can be in providing a meaningful volunteer and donor experience, and understand what is important to them."

ID management gets a sharper customer focus

ID management has long enabled employees to log-in into work applications, such as email, human resource portals, enabling CIOs to manage the digital identities of corporate employees. But Gartner analyst Mary Ruddy says the type of customer identity access management Gigya provides has become the "front door to your online business," and is now a mainstream business requirement.

"These capabilities can enable you to know your customer and provide a secure, unified and compelling customer experience across all of your channels," Ruddy wrote in a December research report.

At ACS, Ferro says he evaluated several products in the market but Gigya "rose to the top," largely because it put the customer at the forefront of its user experience. The company was also transparent about what the product could and couldn't do, and it placed a great emphasis on security.

Ferro, who is building a new CRM system and is redesigning the ACS mobile application and Cancer.org website, says Gigya has become a powerful enabling technology for the organization.

"We think our product, in that we want to end cancer as a world health problem, is super compelling," Ferro says. "But when we can marry it with social, mobile, data, cloud -- I think we can attract and retain donors and constituents with the purpose of raising more money, finding more volunteers, serving more patients, funding more research and hopefully putting ourselves out of business sooner."

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