St Christopher’s Fellowship, a charity which provides services for vulnerable young people and children in care, relies heavily on government funding. Not surprisingly, with the recession and government cutbacks, the charity has had to tighten its belt this year.
But IT manager Dave Glanville said St Christopher’s IT department is well positioned to weather the storm. “Our funding comes from government and local government in the UK. So anything that is not statutory is a target for being stopped,” he said, in an interview to accompany our 2012 Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT priorities survey.
St Christopher's has responded by offering more flexible services to clients in local and central government.
Local authorities, for example, can now book a single space in a children’s home, rather than having to book the entire home on a multi-year contract.
“The effect on IT is that we also have to be quick and agile in responding to that. We can’t guarantee that a project will be there in three years, so we have to move more quickly,” he said.
St Christopher’s began preparing for public sector cuts some time ago, rolling out Citrix desktops before the recession kicked in.
“The benefits were fantastic,” said Glanville.
Now, the charity does not have to spend time setting up desktop computers whenever it opens a new home. It can simply send a new machine through the post.
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The charity has also saved money by reducing the number of IT service providers it works with. “We only have one broadband supplier in the UK, so when we open up a new centre, it’s a very quick process for them to get in there and do the job,” he said.
Although St Christopher's has not cancelled any major IT projects, it has delayed some, to spread the cost out over a number of years.
Glanville is focusing on future projects that will bring a quick return. The charity plans to upgrade its infrastructure to Windows 8, and server virtualisation is a priority from April.
“We will see the return on investment in two years with server virtualisation. I think the timing is good," he said. “But we also want to be more easily able to test stuff in a much more flexible test environment, which virtualisation will give us.”
Virtualisation will also bring down the costs of the charity's disaster recovery service, which is charged on a per server basis, he said.
The charity has already moved client management systems, and e-mail services, such a filtering and archiving into the cloud. As a result, it has been able reduce costs, and retire outdated infrastructure.
“E-mail is the prime example of that. In the past, we were constantly having to tweak, reboot and sort out e-mail. Now we don’t have to bother, unless we need to dive into the archive,” said Glanville.
“One of the reasons for going to virtualisation in the next financial year is that if we decide to go to cloud with some of our servers, it becomes a very easy process,” he said.
The charity will lay the groundwork this year for a customer relationship management (CRM) project to help it manage its relationships with the local authorities that buy services more effectively.
Although no final decisions have been made, Glanville believes CRM is another prime candidate for the cloud.