Tech chief drags his NGO into the 21st Century

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Tech chief drags his NGO into the 21st Century

Improvements slice a quarter off RANSW's IT spend.

As a cash-strapped not-for-profit, counselling provider Relationships Australia NSW has struggled at times to keep up with the digital expectations of its clients and federal and state government backers.

When RANSW hired tech boss Mark Hindle in 2014 to drive a tech transformation, he "took on a house in very bad condition ... nothing had been updated in years".

For example, the organisation had been offering some counselling services remotely over Skype, which Hindle said was hardly ideal, and he was reluctant to keep it going.

“We deal with very sensitive data,” he said.

“Skype is owned by Microsoft and has its infrastructure based in the US … so we’re shying away from that."

Since late 2014, Hindle has been on a mission to drag RANSW into the 21st Century after years of neglect and underinvestment in its technology base.

He has centralised all 23 RANSW sites onto a new ethernet WAN, with a new call centre solution and Tier III data centre featuring Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure.

One of the many benefits of the new, faster, cheaper tech landscape is that it has paved the way for a partnership with Avaya to build an end-to-end video conferencing solution featuring whiteboarding and live streaming.

It will allow RANSW to deliver counselling and mediation online in an environment that it can have confidence in, delivered entirely on its own infrastructure.

At the office level, employees now have access to the kinds of tools bigger companies take for granted - like voicemail - and are enjoying a much higher level of application performance.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that the overhaul has sliced an impressive 25 percent off RANSW’s IT bill, or roughly $150,000 a year it can inject back into dispute resolution, family therapy, relationship education, and other support services for some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Previously, every site operated “like an island” in terms of IT - meaning the staff members couldn’t even call their colleagues without incurring call charges. The introduction of VoIP calls and ethernet links alone has cut the monthly phone bill from $25,000 a month to $5000.

Hindle says it’s improvements like this that put it in a good position to curry favour with the government as it comes up for funding reassessment in 2019.

“We think we are in front of the game,” he said.

This project has been named a finalist in the healthcare category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2017. View the full list of finalists here.

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