How Starlight Foundation is enacting digital transformation – for good

Charity shares how technology, digital and data are transforming its services and support for seriously and chronically ill children and teenagers

Digital disruption is not a negative thing for children’s charity, Starlight Foundation, it’s an opportunity.

“Digital is another way of communicating with and servicing our community, and it’s also about being more targeted and efficient,” Starlight Foundation CEO, Louise Baxter, told CMO. “It’s a natural progression. If we’re smart about it and put the structures in place, it will enhance everything we do and help us automate it.”

It’s this quest to utilise technology and digital capability for good that has triggered an organisation-wide transformation at the charity, which seeks to improve the lives of seriously and chronically ill children and teenagers.

The first step towards significant technological change happened when Baxter appointed an IT advisory board to Starlight, headed by Origin Energy GM of information technology - CIO, Geoff Wenborn. The group is tasked with looking at where Starlight wanted to get to, and how to get there. It also investigated the IT and organisational capabilities needed, and how to transition legacy IT infrastructure and embrace cloud-based solutions to achieve it.

Technology and digital had been repeatedly identified by Starlight’s employees as areas the organisation had lagged behind in.

“From our regular feedback, the team identified that we were behind from a technological and digital point of view, and we listened to that,” Baxter said. “Everything we do comes back to connecting people and actively being more efficient to deliver wonderful experiences. So it’s also about doing this for the team at Starlight.”

Read in detail the 10 steps Starlight's people and culture teams took to help employees embrace digital technology transformation.

Getting the technology right first

Starlight identified CRM as the core foundation layer required to start building its vision of a digitally enabled future. In August 2014, the organisation went live with a Salesforce-based CRM platform, adding Salesforce Marketing Cloud capabilities to the mix 12 months ago.

“Without the IT infrastructure, you can’t get the data, and from there, the insights,” Baxter said. But it also won’t work without the buy-in of staff.

“There is so much extra work to be done on top of the business-as-usual, and these are complex programs that create pressure points,” Baxter said of the CRM project. “It required constant communications, thanking the team, and keeping enough momentum going for when things finally go live.”

The first-phase CRM deployment has been followed by a series of digital projects, stretching from a mobile responsive website and online payments gateway to a digitally powered community of more than 6000 volunteers called ‘My Starlight’, which replaced a push messaging service.

“The community chats with each other, organises meetings and works together,” Baxter said. “They’re also sharing ideas to embellish wishes for the children we support.”

Another recent advancement enabled by Salesforce is Android tablet sign-on units at the entrances to Starlight Express hospital rooms nationally, known as Orbit. These replaced a paper sign-in process and today boast a user capture rate of 95 per cent.

Because these are hooked back into the CRM system, a visitor who pre-books a room will be recognised when they check-in onsite. In addition, data recorded through the units is being used in a de-identifiable way to provide demographic information on room usage, popular times of days and to better understand overall engagement.

Thinking strategically about data

To further its ambitions, Starlight is working with Starlight advisory board member and chairman of Stackla, Junkee Media and Pollenizer, Tony Faure, to establish a group to support its data and digital strategy.

According to Baxter, no technology advancement can truly succeed unless it has the people and culture to support it. She described the approach Starlight is taking to digital as “a permanent startup model”.

“There’s also that fear of change but equally failure – you have to have an organisational culture where failure is OK,” she said. “What we have done to ensure this is to position innovation as a series of projects and opportunities.”

The biggest ongoing challenge is how Starlight prioritises new projects to better capitalise on its data sets.

“For example, we get a lot of donated goods and services that could be tracked better online, then there’s resourcing our events – we’ve had to do this manually previously, but now everything talks to each other, we can start to change that,” Baxter said.

Up next: We find out how Starlight embraced the technological and cultural foundations for a digital future

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