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A cloud based computing solution, which costs $198 per user per month, was rolled out in five weeks following the merger of 15 independent Sisters of Mercy congregations.

Ian Hobbs, director of finance and administration for the newly merged organisation, said that the decision to merge was taken last year, partly in response to the ageing population in the congregations. It also brings together groups in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

But the congregations themselves remain diverse.“The smallest congregation is 18 the largest 250,” said Mr Hobbs.

Information systems which were available to the 15 different congregations also differed wildly. “Some had full networked based systems some were on a PC with MYOB,” said Mr Hobbs.

Once the Catholic Church in Rome agreed to the proposed merger, it has his task to find a pragmatic computing solution to serve the needs of all users. In terms of function the organisation required an accounting system, payroll, email and general office software.

“I didn’t start off saying ‘we must go to the cloud’ – but I knew people in the IT industry I could talk to about cloud and I also own a consulting practice and had used Salesforce,” he said, which eventually led the organisation to decide a cloud based solution best fit its needs.

Sydney based OBT was selected as it was the only organisation able to roll out the solution in the allotted time span of five weeks, according to Mr Hobbs. Over five weeks OBT rolled out the networked solution, and installed and populated the Greentree financial management system, which had been used by some of the Sisters of Mercy congregations and which had been selected as the platform for the newly merged entity.

Opting for the cloud has meant that all congregations have access to the same functions and data regardless of the devices they have available to access the internet. Mr Hobbs said that there had been no problems with the PNG connection apart from “internet speed and lack of electricity.”

Unlike many organisations for which cloud represents an opportunity to use operating expenses to fund computing rather than capital expenses, this was less of an issue for the Sisters of Mercy which exists as a charitable institution and hence has no tax deductibility.

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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