The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian church and charitable organisation. Founded in London, UK, by the Methodist preacher William Booth in 1865, the Army has spread throughout the world, and is now active in 121 countries. The Army is one of the world's largest providers of social aid: in addition to its work in developing countries, it is the largest non-government provider of social services in the UK, and is also the second-largest charity in the US.
"The Salvation Army exists to save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity so it's a big mission!" says Mark Calleran, Chief Information Officer at The Salvation Army International Headquarters. "We have more than 104,000 employees worldwide and over 26,000 officers (ordained ministers). To support them in their work, we provide a range of IT services, including IBM Lotus Notes and Domino email and calendaring."
The Army's group IT department is located at its international headquarters in London. It also has IT teams at all of its main offices around the world, as well as some local IT resources at smaller sites in other countries.
"For people to carry out the mission effectively, they need IT systems that function properly," explains Calleran. "Any issues have to be dealt with in a rapid and responsive manner. We had implemented an issue tracking system to help our IT staff resolve problems, but it had several limitations and we wanted to find a solution that would help our IT teams work together in a more connected way."
Finding a solution
The IT team evaluated several solutions before selecting HelpDeskPro from Polymorph, an IBM Business Partner. Polymorph is an IT services company with a proven track record of providing consultancy, solutions and support services to meet the needs of organisations in all sectors, from large multinationals through to small and medium-sized businesses. The company offers services including bespoke application development, e-business solutions, upgrades, migrations, strategic consultancy, project management, knowledge management, and a variety of support services.
One of Polymorph's main technical focuses is on solutions built on the IBM Lotus Notes and Domino platform. As one of the world's most powerful and popular collaboration platforms, Lotus Notes and Domino has sold more than 145 million licences worldwide, due to its proven ability to host critical business applications, messaging and workflow at a low total cost of ownership. Lotus Notes and Domino technologies enhance productivity, streamline business processes and improve business responsiveness.
"The Salvation Army uses Lotus Notes extensively and everyone in the organisation is familiar with it, so we wanted a solution that would run on a Lotus platform," says Calleran. "HelpDeskPro met this requirement. We were also impressed with its flexibility and expandability. We felt it was a solution that would serve us well, and that would be able to offer functionalities that aren't available in other off-the-shelf products."
HelpDeskPro is optimised for Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5, and takes advantage of some of its most advanced features. For example, the solution is integrated with IBM Lotus Sametime, which enables users to log support requests via instant messaging. It also leverages Lotus Notes and Domino's native support for mobile technologies such as BlackBerry, which allows IT teams to monitor and update the system even if they are working off-site and away from an Internet-connected PC.
Within just a few days, Polymorph helped The Salvation Army implement the solution on the Lotus Domino servers at its international headquarters in London. The International IT team (which provides IT support for other IT staff around the world) was impressed by the capabilities of the solution, and decided to implement it more widely across the international organisation.
"In IT support, it's relatively rare to come across a completely unique problem," explains Calleran. "The same issues tend to crop up again and again and usually they're quite easy to fix if you know what to do. One of the best things about HelpDeskPro is that it includes a built-in knowledge base, which allows us to build up a record of how common problems can be solved. This means that our support staff can benefit from each other's experience, and resolve problems much more quickly than if they were working from first principles.
"We realised that the ability to share knowledge would be even more useful if we extended the solution to other Salvation Army territories, so we rolled out HelpDeskPro to some of our US and Australian operations too. We also wanted to find a way to log and manage service requests for smaller IT user regions of the organisation for example in Africa, India, and the South Pacific, where there might only be one IT person but they still have to deal with the same kinds of problems."
Supporting local IT teams
To meet the needs of these smaller sites, The Salvation Army worked with Polymorph to develop a low-footprint Lotus Notes application called Service Desk, which offers a simple yet comprehensive solution for small Salvation Army IT teams in 20 countries around the world. Service requests created in Service Desk are replicated to the main HelpDeskPro solution, providing global visibility of local issues.
"If someone in Papua New Guinea has a problem with a printer, we'll see that problem at international HQ in London," says Calleran. "We may have solutions that we've found in other territories that can help the Papua New Guinea IT staff resolve the problem quickly and if they need extra help from specialists in another IT team, they can get it easily."
Since many of The Salvation Army's smaller offices are in relatively remote locations that lack advanced communications infrastructure, the Lotus Notes and Domino platform's ability to provide highly reliable and secure replication of data even over very low-bandwidth connections is vital. In low-connectivity situations where a web-based solution might crash or time-out, The Salvation Army can be confident that its Service Desk data will be transmitted accurately to HelpDeskPro.
The global reach of the solution has benefits for IT managers too: it provides an overview of all IT support activity across the organisation, helping them to measure and assess performance in different territories, and to decide how best to streamline and optimise support processes. For example, if problems keep occurring with a specific system in a particular territory, the answer might be to provide some additional training for local users or IT staff. HelpDeskPro and Service Desk provide the data required to identify these issues and make the right decisions.
Calleran concludes: "We began working with Polymorph because we recognised that HelpDeskPro was the right solution to help our IT teams deal with issues more effectively. During the implementation, Polymorph came to be more than just a vendor we formed a real partnership with their team. As we come to them with new challenges, they come to us with new solutions, and they provide the flexibility and project management skills to deliver those solutions quickly and effectively. As a result of our confidence in them, we have now selected Polymorph as our primary reseller for our Lotus software licences, and we would recommend HelpDeskPro to any organisation that wants to improve its IT support processes."