Add more content here...
February, 2024

Australian Red Cross tackles massive shadow IT, cutting 30 of 240 apps but connecting most in new ‘dataverse’ that delivers greater governance, efficiency and a single view of customer

What you need to know

  • 89 per cent of Australian Red Cross’ software arrived via shadow IT – business managers buying solutions off the cuff without regard to the wider enterprise.
  • A three-year digital transformation saw the NFP settle on a bedrock platform built on Microsoft solutions for marketing automation, CRM, enterprise resource planning and HR.
  • Despite decommissioning about 10 per cent of the 240 apps, the total remains roughly the same, but now they are stitched together where appropriate – courtesy of Boomi.
  • This has led to greater transparency, stronger governance, improved efficiency and better stakeholder experiences.

While tech stack consolidation has risen up the agenda for many brands over the last 12 months, the journey began three years ago for Australian Red Cross. And the not-for-profit’s experience proves consolidation is not simply a numbers game.

Thanks to shadow IT (the process of people buying or renting their own software without central oversite) and despite decommissioning as many as 30 apps, the organisation still has close to the 240 it started with. That’s because the very process of assessing IT revealed even more software than it first knew it had.

The end result though is a far better outcome for the organisation, which now has achieved integration between marketing, CRM, finance. and HR. More importantly, Red Cross has a data infrastructure that serves its needs, and which has been overlayed with strong governance.

According to Australian Red Cross chief information officer, Brett Wilson, “I would love to say that [the number of apps] has gone down. But it’s actually gone up. As we’ve transformed and dug into the parts of the organisation who really kind of ran their own race, we’ve actually uncovered more things than we previously were told were there. So we’re still at the 240 mark, even though we’ve decommissioned 20 to 30 systems.”

When digital transformation began three years ago, the pretence was the need to complete the work in a compressed timeframe.

“The reason for that is, the longer we left it, the more time and effort [would be required],” Wilson explains. And of course that would mean continuing substandard experiences for staff, volunteers and donors.

What they did in the shadows

When Wilson’s team came in, it found 89 per cent shadow IT, unearthing over 200 applications across the organisation. The fact many of the apps are still in place after the digital transformations demonstrated they were necessary, but the laissez-faire approach came at a cost. Wilson tells Mi3 there was no real forethought around issues such as data integrity, security and integration, none of which is conducive to seamless user experiences. 

“You would log into one system, then you’d have to log into another system again, to get something else. You would have to copy and paste that across,” he says.

For Wilson and his team, step one on the application front was to determine which were the foundational platforms they needed to settle on as a starting point. Even before it could tackle CRM and martech requirements, there was a fundamental need to get transparency back into the financials. For instance, the NFP’s ERP wasn’t set up correctly for its needs, Wilson says.

“We are a project-based organisation. So everything we do effectively can be linked back to a project where you put, people, time and resources,” he says.

That’s true whether the IT team is dealing with emergencies or whether it’s running the retail stores that provide ongoing funding.

Go large

“We went to the board, sought some funding, and we were doing a couple of things at once, one of which was a digital transformation,” Wilson continues.

The team has identified seven platforms that would need to change over the course of 18 months.

“If you are going to do it you may as well have a crack at it,” he says. “So we did.”

The early focus was on those applications that would deliver the biggest impact, as well as setting Australian Red Cross up for the future. Ultimately, the organisation settled on core apps from Microsoft stitched together with its wider ecosystem using Boomi’s low code / no code integration platform.

“There was no point in going buying some best-of-breed application if we’d have to sell the silverware to actually run it as well,” Wilson says. “We took a platform approach, and we have a great relationship with Microsoft.”

ERP, CRM, marketing automation and HR formed the bedrock. “That means is we’re leveraging off that single dataverse.” In addition to more robust governance and greater transparency, the new platform approach has significantly improved the stakeholder experience.

“It creates that same experience jumping into one platform or the next… Because it looks similar to Microsoft Office it’s relatively straightforward as well,” Wilson says. “Last year, we delivered Finance in seven months. We did CRM, I think it was about 11 months. We did marketing automation around about the same time and then HR took about 10 months.”

We recognised we had all this really good data we were putting into these new platforms, but how do we make sure that we keep it that way? And how do we make sure we don't start spoiling the system with really bad data? So the quality data has to come in at the start as well.

Brett Wilson, CIO Australian Red Cross

Data governance

One of the important outputs of the digital transformation was more robust data governance. Again, Australian Red Cross settled on a Microsoft solution, Purview. 

“We recognised we had all this really good data we were putting into these new platforms, but how do we make sure that we keep it that way? And how do we make sure we don’t start spoiling the system with really bad data? So the quality data has to come in at the start as well,” Wilson says.

The organisation created a data governance role to set up the data, and to create processes and disciplines around data stewards and owners. That created a big win for its marketers.

When pulling the data from Finance, the CRM or marketing, Australian Red Cross now has a single view of the customer. “And it gives us the ability to track a donor potentially through different systems and the employee through different systems as well,” Wilson says.

The next phase will involve getting a better understanding of how resources are allocated to help build efficiencies. “We haven’t quite put that piece in place yet. But that’s the piece that we’re putting in next. We’re about to roll out phase two of HRS, which is payroll and workforce planning as well as time, and attendance,” Wilson says.

By getting its data story in order, Australian Red Cross is now better equipped and more transparent.

“We’ve also brought the three cohorts of staff, members, and volunteers together into one system or platform. We’ve never had that before. And what that gives us now is an overarching view of compliance across the organisation for everyone whether they’re a staff member, or a volunteer working in a shop,” Wilson says.

It has also enabled greater levels of automation. “We’ve automated transactional processes to save time and effort. And it means staff can go and work on something a little more meaningful rather than copying data between two systems.”