The Cancer Council of NSW, considered the largest of any state or territory, has made significant inroads into its transformation plans, according to CIO Branko Ceran, who has spearheaded a multitude of projects over the past two years.
“The board recognised the importance of technology and digital so wanted to elevate the role of CIO. I am part of the executive team and report directly into the CEO.”
He is proud of the efforts already achieved. “We are just over half way,” he says, in terms of hitting key project milestones. “I’m not going to say in two years’ time we have completed the strategy, because it is ever evolving, but certainly what we’ve delivered is the first technology transformation and how we use it. Our way of working is changing, and we are now on the next phase of the organisational transformation.”
Ceran, who predominantly hails from a financial services background, said he wanted to bring his 27+ years of experience in technology, projects and change management into the not-for-profit world, and to make a real difference.
“Personally, my father passed away from cancer nine years ago, so I really wanted to see how I could help. I believed I could add much more value by being in the organisation and actually work on changing and influencing it versus just donating my time or money,” he says.
Building a foundation
In getting down to business at the not-for-profit, he said his first task was to get a good grounding of technology processes and procedures, and build a foundational baseline for transformation.
“The remit I had was to find out what was going on from a technology perspective at Cancer Council and then put together a plan to get us underway. There have been many strategies before I came on board, many issues and history of projects that we really needed to learn from.”
Ceran says the scope of the transformation was huge considering the NSW operation has a head office, 25 office sites across the state, as well as many information centres in hospitals and health clinics, over 350 staff and about 2,500 regular volunteers, who help with a number of activities including fundraising, events, cancer awareness and office work.
“We needed to do the classical things – how do we keep the customer (our constituent: a volunteer, donor, a patient) front and centre? One of the first steps was a technology overhaul. There was a lot of infrastructure and software changes required. We had to do an end-to-end upgrade of our network infrastructure.
“We introduced wireless into all of our sites, we upgraded the printers and relocated our on-premise servers to a national datcentre and restructured the IT team, introducing new capabilities. We provided our regional staff with notebooks and we upgraded our productivity software so everyone is now using Microsoft Office 365. We are also using Skype For Business for collaboration and Genesys for our interactive call centres,” he says.
Once the infrastructure, software and frameworks were upgraded – The Cancer Council was ready to take its next steps towards transformation and work towards ensuring a successful delivery of key objectives.
Additionally, he says organisation’s move to put its systems into Microsoft’s public and private cloud is opening up opportunities.
“It gives us the scale and the nimbleness so that we can ramp things up and down much faster in terms of costs, services and capabilities. It gives us that flexibility to really scale things as required. This will help us in the cancer research space.”
And while the transformational journey has run smoothly and stakeholders are clear about its objectives and overall benefits, it required a lot of prioritisation and education, as well as a better understanding of capabilities in order to maximise an effective change.
“We were good at doing some projects but doing an organisational-wide transformation was probably going to be tackled a little differently.
“We have lots of great people here and they are here because they want to work and help people, so we have to make sure that they are best equipped in adopting and embedding these transformational projects, especially digital ones,” he says, adding that relevant staff worked through the intricacies of project and change management, as well as vendor management and analysis. The organisation also introduced online learning via Lynda.com.
Ceran recognised the significance of the task at hand and the challenges that it presented. “It was a big change and we had to try it out. I keep reiterating, ‘I don’t believe in IT projects, I believe in projects that use technology.’
“We tested out the approach on several IT initiatives that we had, to make sure we were happy with them. We made a few tweaks and then applied the frameworks,” he said, indicating there was a change framework already in place, but it had to be enhanced thanks to the technology transformation.
Ceran says the implementation of the latest systems are helping eliminate unnecessary overlap.
“We used to customise everything, we had over 60 different databases to manage our events, our fundraising and our advocacy. We have actually scaled that down now by leveraging the Microsoft offerings, rather than us doing it all in house.”
The next transformational step involves the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft PowerBI and enhancing Microsoft SharePoint as well as introducing SiteCore for omni-channels.
“What we want to try and do is have one technology base where possible, so rather than going best of breed for everything, we have taken the strategic decision to pick Microsoft and a few key partners and then as they mature with their products, so do we.”
Campaigns get tech boost
He says Cancer Council’s ‘Tackling Tobacco’ program will be the first to use the new platform from 25 July 2016 – based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint – which is enabling a new way of working and newfound capabilities.
“We have built it in such a way that all programs and events are effectively templated or white labelled; it is very nimble,” he says. “We wanted to move away from spending a lot of manual time collating, processing and then reporting information on each area. We’ve automated much of the previous processes and, at a glance, can see exactly where we are at.”
He says the organisation’s cancer programs and fundraisers will be progressively implemented on this new platform and way of working.
“It is a standardised way of working that we can keep improving,” he says, indicating the council can, as a result, spend more time interacting and listening to customers quickly and more efficiently.
Ceran says he has a clear vision moving forward, which involves three things: better mission, enhancing staff and volunteer productivity and a continued focus on the customer.
“For not-for-profits, it is really about maximising the spend and the effort you use on the mission side of things: the research, prevention, information and support. We want to raise more awareness and be as efficient in these areas as possible,” he says.
“Internally for our staff, our volunteers, our workers, we really want to make sure that they have a good experience here. We don’t want anyone spending countless hours trying to get all of the systems and data to work together” he says, indicating staff in regional areas are much more mobile now.
The third big focus area is the customer, which involves addressing and responding to rapidly changing customer needs. “We want to be nimbler in responding to our customers and have a deeper understanding of their journey and experience with us.”
And while council continues on its transformational journey, Ceran rests easy in the knowledge that the next chapter won’t be as daunting as the last one.
“This next part of our transformation delivery will be much faster than the first part because we have already built the foundation and delivered – the machine under the hood. We are over halfway through the overall strategy. But in the next piece we are going to achieve much more in the same timeframe than in the first two years.”