Working for an organization that works around the world can lead to some interesting introductions. For Operation Smile— a Virginia-based nonprofit organization that treats facial deformities, largely due to cleft palate and cleft lip, in countries around the world—a chance meeting on a plane with a tech employee led to changes that have streamlined its global operations.
That chance meeting came when the founder of Operation Smile met a Microsoft employee directly involved with the company’s healthcare-industry software. It set the ball rolling on the organization’s transition to a set of productivity tools enabled via the internet (Office 365). The transition has helped the organization improve communication between its global volunteers, share information more easily and gain new insights from patient information. More importantly, it saved the organization money, which means more funds are available for life-changing operations.
“The 365 initiative was well underway when I joined the organization,” says Chris Bryant, who has served as Operation Smile’s senior vice president of Technology and Enterprise Applications for about 10 months. Since his arrival, Chris has been part of an ongoing process to bring in additional efficiencies for the organization through the adoption of new technology solutions that work in the more than 60 countries in which it operates.
The new functionalities are a combination of some basic tools and others that are more sophisticated, Bryant says—for example, the implementation of an e-mail client and personal information manager across the organization. The global spread of Operation Smile is part of what makes an accessible, cloud-based solution so valuable for the company. In the past year, the organization has performed operations in more than 40 different countries, Bryant points out. Its operations are not centralized to any one physical location, or even any one continent. As well, the bulk of its work is done by volunteers, who are also located around the world and not necessarily performing their work in their home country.
The implementation of a cloud-based suite of tech tools for businesses was a key factor for the organization, allowing it to structure and provide access to essential information for everyone involved with its day-to-day operation. When Operation Smile drops into a location for a mission, some of the players involved are shifting up until that mission starts, Bryant says—and sometimes even while it’s underway. The cloud-based tools allow the organization to build documents, store them, and easily make them accessible to the entire team so everyone is on the same page.
“It’s really vitally important to us that when we arrive in a country at a mission site, we immediately hit the ground running,” Bryant says. These cloud-based tools help our volunteers get past the logistical pieces to the softer side of building a team, he says.
The cloud-based tech tools also allow Operation Smile to get its people involved around the world by streamlining change management across all channels. That makes it much easier for people throughout the organization to accept and adopt changes because they’ve been a part of the process throughout, Bryant says. “What we don’t want to do is sit in an ivory tower in our global headquarters, and put these policies and procedures in place, and send them out to people without making them feel like they’ve been involved,” he says.
Voice communication tools have also been important for the organization, Bryant says, in terms of facilitating conversation between stakeholders around the world—even in bandwidth constrained environments overseas. “That’s important because it allows us to further emphasize the fact that we’re one global team,” he says. A key factor improving Operation Smile’s global use of teleconferencing was the donation of 40 USB speakerphones and five voice and video conference stations by Polycom.
With an eye toward the future, Operation Smile is now looking at new tools for storing patient data. The nonprofit partnered with Slainte Healthcare, an Irish company, to develop an electronic medical records system that will work with its cloud-based office suite.
Storing patient data on the cloud with the assistance of a major tech company gives Operation Smile new abilities to analyze the data all in one place, while feeling confident in the security of the personal information contained in that data. “By taking all of that data that, prior to now, existed in disparate databases, and pulling it together in the same place, gives us a new view of our patient population,” Bryant says.
The efficiency of, and access to, this new suite of tools that work online and in the cloud also helps Operation Smile reduce operational costs. At the end of the day, that helps it better fulfill its mission to provide medical care to those in need around the world. With about 180 surgical missions, and 18,000-20,000 patients, each year, every dollar counts.
“Any time you can become more efficient and create that sense of oneness, of team, and drive that home,” Bryant says, “while reducing your cost at the same time, then I think you’ve really accomplished something.”
Terri Coles is a freelance writer based in St. John’s, NL. Her work covers topics as diverse as food, health and business. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at [email protected]
The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.