The British Heart Foundation aims to eliminate heart and circulatory diseases within ten years using a cloud technology platform built in partnership with Rackspace.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is a charity dedicated to fighting heart and circulatory diseases and supporting people affected by them, and every year it provides more than £100 million in funding to research treatments and cures. Last year the charity developed a strategy for the next ten years, with the overall goal of enabling people to live without fear of heart and circulatory diseases by 2030. Key parts of the strategy involve a robust website and the use of data science to make intelligence-led decisions, explains Mary O’Callaghan, the BHF’s Director of Technology Engagement. "We recognized that technology should be part of our strategy for achieving our goals, not just a service provider. Technology had to be at the heart of what we are doing," she says. Scalable platform The charity’s website is vital for its fundraising, information dissemination, and growing retail activities, but its hosting partner was not in a position to grow as BHF’s requirements increased. Perhaps more seriously, the charity’s web site lacked the performance and reliability needed to meet the existing peak demands placed on it, O’Callaghan said. "When we ran big campaigns like the London to Brighton bike ride, which produced lots of activity on the web site, we were always slightly anxious," she explained. "There would be a performance lag and we had to put people on standby to handle disasters." The charity decided the best solution was to move to a cloud-based technology platform that could scale up and down as required, provide the foundation with a reliable, secure, and high-performance web site, and offer powerful data analytics services. After carrying out a procurement process and evaluating different suppliers and cloud providers, a solution offered by Rackspace, built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, emerged as the clear winner. Share knowledge and upskill staff A major factor in reaching this decision was the benefits that a partnership with Rackspace would bring, according to O’Callaghan.
"We had very limited Azure skills in-house, so what we wanted was a technology partner who could share their knowledge to help upskill our people while they worked with our team." The entire process of designing and implementing a cloud-based technology platform on Azure and then migrating BHF’s systems onto it was managed by Rackspace’s Professional Services team, working in tandem with the charity’s IT department. The project took just six months to complete from start to finish and was achieved without the charity’s systems or its website experiencing even a single minute of downtime. Employees add more value BHF’s website went live using the new technology in the spring of 2019, and the benefits of Rackspace’s Azure-based solution were immediately apparent, O’Callaghan says. "All the anxiety over the reliability of our website has gone away now. It is now so reliable that we don’t need to put staff on standby, and that means they can use their time more productively to develop new features." The charity is also now in a position to extend its online retailing activities on the BHF website itself. Due to the limitations of the old website platform a large proportion of the charity’s online sales are currently carried out on eBay. > See also: Quick guide: What is IoT and how will charities benefit? Better engagement with volunteers One new website feature that has been introduced is the ability for website visitors to book collections of furniture or electrical items that they want to donate. "This has been very successful, and even though the number of bookings is increasing significantly we know that our IT infrastructure can cope with that," says O’Callaghan. BHF is also planning to widen the scope of the information it offers online to include resources that involve interactivity and personalization. It is also looking at using the website as communication in order to engage more effectively with its network of 19,000 volunteers. Successful partnership Overall, O’Callaghan says that the partnership with Rackspace has been hugely successful. "We wanted to work with a partner who would continue to provide us with guidance and advice, not just come in and then disappear, and this is something that Rackspace has delivered," she concludes.