After operating as several distinct member associations for over 100 years, the YWCA united as a single national entity in 2018.
To support the merge, the organisation engaged the Cloud Collective to help amalgamate an array of disparate systems and enable all staff to work under a unified, cloud-first operating system.
About the YWCA
Founded in 1880, the YWCA is Australia’s leading feminist organisation. With a presence in every state and territory, their vision is to ensure all women, young women, and girls are safe and respected with equal opportunity to power, opportunity and resources.
The YWCA delivers more than 50 programs that support women in areas such as leadership, safety, wellness, domestic violence, child services and crisis support, as well as access to safe, secure and affordable housing.
Prior to 2018, the YWCA comprised a national association plus 8 separate member associations in various locations across the country.
After uniting as one entity, YWCA required specialist support to merge disparate systems
In 2018, all YWCA associations in Australia merged to become a single entity. This required the amalgamation of disparate systems so all staff could operate under the one entity.
Michelle Phillips, CEO of YWCA, says “The merge was an amazing part of our history. We knew combining 8 separate entities wasn’t going to happen overnight, and a key part of rolling out the project was communicating that to our team members.
“Before the transition, I was on an email system that had only 10 others in it – and we have 300 people across the country. So we knew there was a lot of work to be done.”
Fiona Goldrick (Manager of ICT and Projects at YWCA) and Sam Isaacs (Director of Transformation and Integration at YWCA) became part of a transformation team entrusted with orchestrating the merging of the YWCA’s separate systems.
“We found each of the associations were being supported by their own service providers, and most were using very old technology,” says Fiona. “We needed to move everyone over to the national network and on the same domain.”
In need of specialist assistance, the YWCA put out a request for proposal and vetted an array of vendors before selecting Cloud Collective alliance partner Quorum.
“Quorum had been recommended to us by another partner we used,” says Sam. “We don’t have a high technical knowledge, so we needed a partner that would understand that and work with our teams, have patience, and support us in uplifting our technical maturity.
“Another key issue was that we didn’t know much about what was behind closed doors at the time. That’s the nature of a post-merger.
“Quorum’s proposal was strong in all of these areas and their values really stood out, which was even more apparent after our first meeting. Their commitment to customer service and net promotor score was also really important to us.”
The Cloud Collective works with YWCA Australia to deliver an integrated national cloud-based system
Lars, Quorum’s Operations Manager, says once the project got underway they visited each site to understand the nature of the systems.
“They were in various stages of modernisation; some were fairly modern, and others had gone untouched for some time. We visited every single site and refreshed the network so their connectivity was up to standard and we could have full visibility across the site and manage their connectivity through to the cloud.”
The solution involved a complete shift to a cloud-first model, supported by Microsoft 365.
Jade Brady is the Executive Officer for Service Delivery and has been with the YWCA in Sydney since 2016. Of life before the merger, she says “We were very paper-based, with lots of red tape and difficulty communicating which often slowed down our project team.
“During the merger, NSW was the biggest region that had to merge. There were so many different systems and databases and we didn’t have joint mailboxes, consistent emails, shared storage, and so on.
“We also needed the transition to be very secure, with specific permissions integrated into the new system so only certain people could access certain files. We worked with Quorum to develop a permissions matrix, and they were really keen to understand our needs and help us get the right structure in place.”
Fiona says it wasn’t an easy project, but they found working with Quorum very enjoyable.
“There was a lot of spaghetti in the background that had to be undone,” says Fiona. “And what I loved about Quorum was they assigned specialists based on the activity we were working on. It wasn’t just a staff member with a broad IT aptitude. They were also very good at communicating technical information to us in plain English.”
“We worked directly with the Quorum team for 18 months, and I feel we worked really well together.”
Sam Isaacs, Director of Transformation and Integration at YWCA
YWCA Australia enjoys greater unity, collaboration and communication
Fiona, Sam, Jade, and Michelle say the results of their systems transformation have been fantastic.
“The transition has meant that our people – who are spread across 27 separate sites – can finally collaborate,” says Sam. “We have enabled a national team who can finally work together.
“Before this project, people used to avoid using their computers because they took 40 minutes just to warm up. And we’ve gone from that environment to one that was 100% equipped to handle remote working when COVID-19 hit.”
“We wanted to make IT invisible so it was like a light switch. You turn it on and it just works. Quorum have helped us achieve that.”
Fiona Goldrick, Manager of ICT and Projects at YWCA
“Our staff feel looked after, which is really important to us,” says Fiona. “There are so many tangible benefits to the transition – including seeing our people become more confident in technology.
“We’re now using Microsoft Teams for cloud telephony and the feedback we’ve received is that staff can get through call queues very quickly. This means no client misses out on speaking to someone, which is also crucial to us.”
Jade agrees and says the transformation has made everyone’s lives a lot easier.
“Collaboration has been the most amazing thing to watch…it’s been wonderful,” says Jade. “It has enabled us to do bigger projects because we can use Teams to discuss different subject matters at any time and work together on key issues for the organisation.
“Our customers don’t see the change, but this has freed up our staff to have much more time with them.”
“The team at Quorum come up with very fit-for-purpose solutions – it was never ‘This is how we do it, make it work.’ They sit down and come up with solutions that work for everybody. They were great communicators, always available, and happy to work through any issues.”
Jade Brady, YWCA Executive Officer for Service Delivery
As CEO, Michelle says she’s seen several tangible benefits for the organisation since the project’s completion.
“In particular was the ability to move swiftly during COVID-19 lockdown,” says Michelle. “I wanted to safeguard our team members early on and our systems enabled us to move to a work from home arrangement very early on. It also meant we had business continuity and could continue to support our customers, including essential services for vulnerable women.
“Another tangible outcome was the ability to build a collaborative culture to meet our goal of positively impacting 2 million young women and girls across Australia. To achieve this, we need our teams to be connected and collaborative. This means they feel comfortable reaching out to get to know each other in an environment that’s not as formal as writing an email or making a call.
“In addition, it will help us stay close to our customers’ diverse needs across the country. We can use technology to keep those conversations flowing and stay in touch with what our customers tell us they need.”
- Unified, leading edge system with the ability to scale
- Improved collaboration and communication
- Reduced carbon footprint by moving from paper-based to cloud-based
- Seamless transition to remote working
- Business continuity during COVID-19
- Facilitated telehealth to at-risk customers
- Staff freed up to spend more time with customers
“Quorum live their values and are very solutions-focussed. Both our team and Quorum really stepped up to the mark to make this project happen.”
Michelle Phillips, CEO of YWCA Australia