Of the 56,000 babies born each year in New Zealand, 90% are touched by The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society. As the country’s largest provider of developmental, health and wellbeing services for children under five, Plunket needs fast and easy ways to stay connected.
Operating under the vision, ‘Together, the best start for every child’, the 104-year-old organisation works to build community and foster dialogue – with parents, small businesses and its 1,500 frontline staff and thousands of volunteers. Plunket knew the right technology could improve connectivity and collaboration, but being a not-for-profit working with sensitive medical information raised significant challenges.
"We need to keep costs at a minimum and privacy at a maximum,” explains Craig Le Quesne, Plunket’s general manager, ICT.
"Above all, we can’t make any compromises when we manage sensitive records. We need to make sure our staff and volunteers have technology that supports their ability to help Kiwi children and families.”
Plunket had access to a video conference tool, but it was difficult to use and ended up being underutilised. In addition, managers travelling to meetings collectively spent many hours and thousands of dollars in air travel annually.
"We wanted to improve the way we connect, to make it easier for us to create and act on meaningful conversations," says Le Quesne.
Plunket investigated cloud computing to see if it could meet the organisation's requirements. As Plunket was a beneficiary of a software and services grant from Microsoft Corporation in 2010, it was able to deploy nearly 700 seats on Office 365 cost-effectively.
"Microsoft continues to show enormous support for what we do – they understand what we’re trying to accomplish, and help us get the right technology in place.”
While Office 365 includes online enterprise-class email and collaboration capabilities, what caught Le Quesne’s eye was Microsoft Lync Online, the suite’s web-based conferencing tool.
"One look at Lync Online and I knew immediately the significant impact it would have on our organisation. As soon as we set it up, users started exploring all that Lync Online can do. We’re communicating better via video and are set to recapture thousands of dollars previously allocated to travel,” he says.
Plunket volunteers are also benefiting significantly from Lync. Because it can be accessed from virtually anywhere, the few Plunket meeting facilities have been replaced by volunteers’ own devices. And according to Tristine Clark, president of Plunket, ‘Lync Online is bringing our staff and volunteers together like never before’.
According to Le Quesne, Office 365 is perfectly aligned with Plunket’s aspirations.
"Conversations spark action. So while Lync Online will help us keep our overheads low, we’re also empowering our staff and community to drive positive change.”
Time to make a difference
Plunket predicts Lync Online will help it will recapture a significant number of staff hours – and thousands of dollars – annually, and spend more time in the community.
As Le Quesne asserts, more time and money means more growth for Plunket’s support and volunteer programmes.
"People don’t volunteer to sit in meetings, they volunteer to make a difference. Lync Online makes it easy to stay connected and focused on action.”
Leading by example
Eager to tap into more Office 365 capabilities, Plunket is leveraging Microsoft SharePoint Server together with Lync Online to provide frontline staff with a new application, PlunketPlus. This application will help it establish a new way of working to ultimately benefit the health of Kiwi kids.
"PlunketPlus enables our nurses to capture and record personal data. Through this centralised system nurses can record and access client information in less time, which aligns with our plan to eliminate multiple, paper-based records and better connect our services throughout Plunket. Ultimately, it will enable us to give families the full support they need when they need it.”
Le Quesne is optimistic about the possibilities of the cloud.
"We are working together to make sure we’ve got it right in our working environment. Office 365 provides great capabilities and much greater peace of mind in regards to privacy and security than almost any organisation could offer with its own IT.”
"People are beginning to understand that Office 365 provides critical business capabilities and a leap forward on security. Plunket can do good work with the cloud, and make sure its staff and volunteers have technology to supports its ability to help New Zealand’s children and families,” says Rachel Turney, Office 365 Product Manager, Microsoft New Zealand.
Go here for more information about Microsoft Office 365.