This is the first in a series of posts on how the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (The Foundation), is implementing emergent collaboration strategies and technologies within its organization. The Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention, care, and treatment programs.
The Foundation, currently working in 17 countries, was founded in 1988 and experienced significant growth in the last five years, with its employee base increasing from 200 employees in 2006 to over 1,500 in 2011. This was due in part to increased funding from new global health initiatives, such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The Foundation is a former client of Chess Media Group. We helped with vendor evaluation, use case development, and definition of business objectives. We spoke with Keith Fleming, IT Manager, and Sara Teitelman, Senior Technical Editor who shared their insights with us.
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What were the business drivers for collaboration?
As with many organizations, the Foundation’s employees hold a tremendous amount of individual knowledge but have limited channels to share that knowledge with their peers. The Foundation was eager to overcome this challenge
The Foundation wanted to ensure that information flowed throughout the organization and between 17 countries on multiple continents. This was traditionally conducted via email or couriered “care packages” consisting of large quantities of printed documents, however the latter was unrealistic when the speed of information exchange was often critical. When developing funding proposals, teams often had a difficult time gathering information pertaining to individual countries from the U.S. headquarters. The Foundation therefore felt it was necessary to establish systems for more effective sharing of information, best practices, policies, and standards across the organization.
Recognizing that all employees hold a wealth of knowledge and intelligence, the Foundation wanted to create a channel where information could be shared from the top-down and from the bottom-up.
To begin their enterprise 2.0 project, the Foundation assembled a Knowledge Management task force and surveyed them to find out what would be the most useful solution to solving the collaboration and knowledge-sharing challenges. This task force was comprised of employees from various departments and countries across the organization.
Where did the push for this initiative come from?
The Foundation’s COO was having internal discussions with the IT department on how to make internal knowledge and organizational processes and practices more accessible to all employees. Concurrently, three people from the Program Innovation and Policy group and IT team were exploring ways to make knowledge management more effective, user-friendly, and collaborative. This was a collaborative effort with both the business unit and IT departments involved.
The Foundation implemented SharePoint in 2007, however they encountered a number of problems with this platform: it was overly complex, which did not make it easy for employees to use; departments could not own their own pieces of content in their areas; and they would often run into problems and bugs. Furthermore, there were significant accessibility issues in Africa where The Foundation has a very large presence. As many companies discover (including The Foundation), SharePoint is a good platform for organizations able to make significant investments in IT infrastructure, but is less than ideal for those seeking an “out-of’the-box,” easy to maintain system.