As challenging as a major new technology rollout can be from a technical point of view, it’s often the people issues that can trip you up.
In a remarkable collaborative effort, a number of IT companies came together to help Australia’s largest food relief charity Foodbank overhaul its processes and implement a national IT system. Foodbank acts as a conduit between the food and grocery industry and the welfare sector. Companies donate food, which is then delivered to over 2,500 aid agencies across the country.
But agencies were using an inefficient paper-based ordering system. And Foodbank’s IT systems (for receipt of product, order processing and accounting) were unable to cope with increasing volumes of orders, let alone deal with projected growth.
So Microsoft, Interactive, Microchannel and Woolworths IT department provided products or services for free or at greatly reduced rates and now Foodbank has a more efficient operating environment with real time data and online ordering.
"Previously, aid agencies would be physically going to our warehouse so they could see the products," says Angus Laing, Foodbank’s IT manager.
"We now scan each different product and put the photo on our database so all aid agencies have equal access on the web."
Furthermore, invoicing is now done on the same day, where before an invoice could be produced weeks after the goods had left the warehouse.
One of the challenges in implementing such a major project was finding a solution that worked for everyone, when state organisations all operate different IT systems.
Another was the need for a risk management plan in case there’s an interruption to the website.
But the biggest challenge wasn’t a technical issue, it was a cultural one.
The aid agency staff, accustomed to visiting the warehouse in person, took some convincing to use the online order form, says Laing.
"I don’t think anyone appreciated just how hard the cultural change would be," Laing says.
In other words…
- The delivery of food aid to 2,500 agencies across Australia was hampered by manual processes
- Foodbank worked with four major IT suppliers to create a major new national system based on a web portal
- One of the challenges was cultural, convincing people to change their habits
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