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Founded in 1913, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is the largest voluntary public health organization in the United States and one of the most trusted sources of cancer information worldwide. As the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research, having spent more than $3.6 billion on cancer research since 1946, the organization has played a role in nearly every cancer breakthrough in recent history.
In its early years the American Cancer Society organization was very federated, with twelve divisions acting independently. As the organization expanded to its current 6,200 employees, millions of volunteers, and 70 million registered donors, the loosely coordinated federation became less efficient. As American Cancer Society CIO Jay Ferro puts it, "We wanted to move toward being a business without barriers to realize our lifesaving mission without boundaries. That requires a change not only to organizational structure but also to the IT infrastructure."
ACS's IT architecture had evolved over the years to model the federated organization. The Siebel CRM system was highly customized to support the 12 independent divisions - each doing processes in slightly different ways. Ferro explains: "Siebel 7 is our core CRM - which in our case means Constituent Relationship Management - and it provides the database and the applications that we need to manage all our volunteers, donors and really anyone who interacts with the American Cancer Society worldwide."
As the organization became more unified, these customized processes had to be reconciled. A significant issue was that the software vendor no longer supported Siebel release 7. Nor did it provide support for any of ACS's customizations. The choice was either to move to the latest version at great expense or find another partner to support the Siebel system and provide the necessary technical assistance to support ACS as we evolved the system further. Independent support, with its promise of significant savings and a higher quality of support, stood out as a leading option.
“Every CIO’s challenge is doing more with less. During the move to a more centralized organization, our team was asked to deliver more services, more quickly, at a lower price point,” says Ferro. “The concept of independent support is a model that I think CIOs really need to get their head around. It offers a huge advantage in terms of efficiency, cost savings and premium service levels. It took a little bit of convincing at first, but once our team met the Rimini Street staff, once they understood the opportunities and the economies that we were going to get, the barriers quickly came down.
Ferro was also looking for a strategic partner that could help ACS extend the life of its existing system by adding new functionality. “Rimini Street had its work cut out for it when they came in and took a look at what we were doing. To their credit, they never shied away from any of our customizations. They asked great questions about our requirements. From the onboarding process onward it was a well-oiled machine sooner than I could have ever thought. Within a couple of months they literally became an extension of our team. The service that really stands out is the expertise of the Primary Support Engineer assigned to us. He really understands our specific implementation, and because of that we can get quick answers to strategic questions. The expertise of the people that we’re dealing with is head and shoulders above most software vendors.”
The heavily customized Siebel 7 CRM system, while still at the center of ACS’s business, was showing its limitations. One of the first interoperability challenges was the need to upgrade thousands of desktop operating systems and applications to current versions of Windows and Internet Explorer in order to keep up with desktop security patches and support requirements. In its current state, however, the Siebel system could not work with the new desktop environment.
Rimini Street presented a proof of concept that has the potential to enable ACS’s Siebel 7 system to remain untouched yet interact smoothly with the new desktop OS and IE.
The next interoperability challenge will be enabling mobile devices such as iPads, smartphones, and laptops with an assortment of operating systems to access the CRM data, again without upgrading or changing the core Siebel software. “We have an extremely mobile workforce,” says Ferro. “Many of our employees and all our volunteers are out in the communities where our constituents are located — helping cancer patients, organizing fundraising events, and collecting donations. We need to enable them to use the devices they have — especially our volunteers who have their own devices — to access our systems. Rimini Street is helping us adapt our legacy environment by virtualizing or ‘mobilizing’ Siebel so constituent information can be accessed from anywhere via iPads and smartphones.”
Rimini Street Technology Support Services is unique in its approach in helping clients plan a technology roadmap for 10–15 years. These roadmaps help clients predict how changes in the technology stack will affect their stable ERP systems — enabling clients to address those changes proactively, rather than waiting for something to break. “Rimini Street is helping us on multiple fronts,” says Ferro. “It was the right decision to go with them for independent support. We would absolutely make it again. We just wish we’d made the decision sooner.”
“Rimini Street has brought to us a true partnership. We’re getting a higher level of service, with more experienced engineers, at a price point that’s considerably lower. It’s a win all across the board for the American Cancer Society.”
CIO, American Cancer Society