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American Cancer Society uses Office 365 to facilitate efficiency and boost the impact of lifesaving programs

Picture of Jay FerroToday’s post was written by Jay Ferro, Chief Information Officer, American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a community-based grassroots organization. We have people in thousands of communities around the country who are dedicated to our mission to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. That’s one of the things that make us so special: wherever people are impacted by cancer—that’s where you’ll find us. In fact, extending a human touch is the essence of our research, fundraising, and outreach efforts, which are all about working together to save lives.

While the grassroots nature of our organization is the foundation of our success, it also has a downside. Over the hundred years of our existence, we had evolved into an organization with 11 Divisions plus our headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Before we moved to Microsoft Office 365, each Division operated differently, using its own business processes and technology stacks. And, while many of our fundraising and mission delivery programs were the same, the way they were run was completely different. One example is our Picture of Jay Ferro at Relay for LifeRelay For Life®program—one of the largest fundraising events in the world. Each Division hosts a Relay For Life program in its region, but local offices used distinct processes, reporting tools, and collateral, in addition to varied communication and collaboration technologies.

At the American Cancer Society, we pride ourselves on spending as much of our donor dollars as possible on lifesaving programs and research, but our organizational structure had become an inefficient use of funds. Our staff members were struggling, too. Because people were wrestling with their communication and collaboration tools, they had less time for connecting with patients, constituents, donors, and volunteers.

On the IT side, we had nearly 200 physical servers across the country that supported Lotus Notes. Our technology was loosely cobbled together, difficult to support, and cost prohibitive for the organization. About two years ago, we decided to consolidate our business practices across the 11 Divisions and headquarters. Our challenge was to gain the benefits of working as one entity while retaining the grassroots, personal touch that is our hallmark. We evaluated the marketplace and looked at multiple solutions. It quickly became clear that Office 365 was the right choice.

We now have a cloud-based communication solution that integrates with all our devices. Our Office 365 solution has completely changed the landscape of our work environment. For example, my team now uses Microsoft Lync Online for our weekly meetings, and we can easily include key members from across the country. We use Office 365 to collaborate on spreadsheets, documents, and Microsoft Project files, and team members share desktops so we can review information that ensures we’re on schedule and budget. I’m also more productive now. When I need to speak to colleagues in the field, I can quickly see who is available, start a meeting, and receive expert feedback immediately.

In terms of costs—specifically hardware, software, maintenance, and renewals—we’re going to save about [US]$1.5 million year after year. That’s a lot of money that we can now channel into lifesaving programs.

Office 365 has also reduced our risk. The IT team is the guardian of proprietary cancer research data and complex financial information for the entire American Cancer Society organization. I feel comfortable now knowing that I have a world-class resource behind me to help keep our information secure. By using Office 365, we’ve transferred the responsibility for data security to Microsoft. They can manage and maintain it better, faster, and cheaper than we can.

The future looks even more exciting. In the summer of 2014, we’ll be rolling out two more Office 365 features that will save us even more time and money. Our worldwide coalition of partners will soon be able to take advantage of the federation capabilities provided in Lync Online. Connecting with partners across this communications platform will be an excellent opportunity to extend our knowledge and expertise on a global scale.

For more information read the American Cancer Society case study.