Wednesday, 23 May 2012 00:02

HeartKids goes cloud with Office 365


Children's charity HeartKids Australia is already seeing benefits from its adoption of Office 365 even though it has yet to roll out Lync and SharePoint.

HeartKids Australia has reduced its IT costs by 20% by adopting Microsoft Office 365. The cloud approach is especially suitable for this organisation as it has five offices around the country, and some of the staff spending much of their working hours in hospitals or at home.

Office 365 was selected after a review that took into consideration factors including functionality, capacity and cost.

The first part of the project has moved all of the organisation's staff and volunteers onto a single email system, with easy access from anywhere an Internet connection is available. "It's much more efficient than having the multiple systems that were here beforehand," said CEO Jann Kingston. For example, it means staff can see each others' calendars regardless of where they are located.

The ability to work from almost anywhere is also important for HeartKids, which aims to operate a family-friendly flexible workplace. Staff from all around the country - even the chief financial officer - spend some or all of their working hours at home, and some of the staff at state level spend a lot of time working with families at hospitals.

The latter group are currently predominantly notebook users, but a move to tablets is under consideration.

The next stages will be to introduce Lync and then SharePoint.



HeartKids currently uses a teleconferencing provider, so the adoption of Lync will save money. Like most charities, HeartKids is keen to see the bulk of its expenditure going towards its goals, which means keeping costs to a minimum.

Once the internal use of Lync is bedded down, HeartKids will trial it as a way of helping to support families living in remote areas. "That's something that's exciting for us," said Ms Kingston.

The use of SharePoint will involve more substantial changes to current working practices. The idea is that it will allow the collaborative development of documents such as policies and brochures. This, along with automatic versioning, will deliver "tremendous efficiencies," she said.

Apart from the cost efficiencies provided by Office 365, Ms Kingston also realises it is important to provide staff and volunteers with the right tools to get the work done.

Furthermore, "we are a growing organisation," she observed, so the ability to add or remove seats as needed is very useful, especially when it comes to getting parents involved or to handle peaks around major projects. "That flexibility is very attractive to us... [because] that's how not-for-profits do their business on a lot of occasions."

The Office 365 deployment is being handled by CN Group. CSO Richard Gibbs said there is growing interest in Office 365 in the not-for-profit sector, largely because it is less capital intensive than traditional on-premises systems. For HeartKids, it "really is the best solution they can put in," he said.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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