Charity gets ITIL treatment

When Neil Walker had to make 23 people on his IT team redundant, and tell them to apply for their jobs again, he "wasn't the most popular person" in the enterprise.

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Walker, head of IS customer support at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), told delegates at the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), the restructure was a necessary step in applying the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to the organisation.

In 2004, the registered charity appointed a new chief executive officer, who instigated considerable change within the organisation. The information system support teams "were not every efficient" according to Walker, as the IT department had grown organically over the past five years.

What's more the IT staff were supporting a number of legacy systems that CAF had decided to replace.
"Our staff provided support on a daily basis. I went back and redrafted the job descriptions, and then under equal opportunity laws made 23 of the staff redundant and invited them to apply for the new positions," Walker told Computerworld UK. In all, only two people left the company as a result, and this was their decision, he added.

The restructure was a painful but necessary step to pave the way for a sweeping set of changes for the international not-for-profit organisation.

CAF is a distinct enterprise that straddles both the financial and charitable sectors. CAF provides banking services to charities, and handles more than £2 billion of charitable funds. As such, CAF is regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) as well as the Charity Commission.

"In many ways we are unique, but in many ways we are no different to any other organisation. We deliver financial services and charity. There's a constant pull in two different directions. And we are heavily regulated like all financial institutions, but also run on limited budgets like most charities," said Walker.

"Also, because our work is in the charitable sector, it's not easy to get return on investment (ROI) in financial terms. Instead the return is often mission related, if it delivers a huge benefit for charitable sector. We make a conscious decision to do projects because they make good charity sense, rather than because they make money. Sometimes they even make a loss."

The IT department had 50 people on its team, a considerable portion of the overall 450 staff at CAF. The team was divided into three divisions: operations; applications development and support; and desktop support. Based in Kent, the team provides remote helpdesk support for the London office.

"We wanted to reduce the costs, whilst increasing the productivity, efficiency and quality of services being delivered," said Walker.

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