Founded in 1930, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence (BSL) is a social justice organisation working alongside people experiencing disadvantage to address the fundamental causes of poverty in Australia. Our mission is to pursue lasting change, and to create a more compassionate and just society where everyone can thrive. Our approach is informed directly by the people experiencing disadvantage and uses evidence drawn from our research, together with insights from our programs and services, to develop practical solutions that work.

A period of rapid growth

During the past decade, as its operations broadened and grew, BSL became increasingly reliant on its IT infrastructure. However, the organisation began to realise its networking infrastructure had become unreliable and no longer able to provide the level of performance required by staff.

“We knew that some fundamental changes were required but we did not have the internal skills or capacity to undertake the work,” says Jason Atkinson, BSL’s Senior Manager – ICT. “We knew we had to find a new technology partner who could deliver the support and strategic guidance we required.”

Improving BSL’s wide-area network

After carefully assessing a range of potential partners, a decision was taken in late 2015 to sign an agreement with blueAPACHE. The scope of the contract was to evaluate the organisation’s network links and determine what changes were required to improve performance.

“We were very impressed with the way blueAPACHE took the time to understand our existing infrastructure and support requirements,” says Atkinson. “It was clear they had deep technical understanding and very experienced staff.”

Working in partnership with BSL’s strategic ICT team, blueAPACHE identified an opportunity to upgrade BSL’s wide area network (WAN) across various locations, centralising and uplifting the network for a more efficient monitoring service, and importantly, improve performance for BSL users. The key benefits were delivered to BSL support call centres, offices, care facilities and social enterprises. For the first time, the BSL network was operating with consistent reliability.

“The work was completed in just 12 weeks by blueAPACHE – however the impact on network performance was immediate to our users,” says Atkinson.

Managed services & transformation through partnership

In 2016, BSL advanced the partnership, choosing blueAPACHE as an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP). The goal was to find an MSP that could act as an extension of the organisation’s internal ICT team and provide support across a range of technology-related areas.

“As part of the search process, we evaluated what blueAPACHE could offer,” says Atkinson. “They were already familiar with our infrastructure, and it was evident they had both the experience and knowledge we were seeking.”

A three-year IT managed services contract was signed later that year and work began to assess BSL’s entire infrastructure.

“We had actually become a victim of our own rapid growth, and the piecemeal way in which our infrastructure had originally been built meant there was a lot of work required to remediate and uplift,” Atkinson says.

blueAPACHE developed a comprehensive, multi-step plan that involved adopting an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) strategy. This meant that rather than BSL having to make significant up-front capital investments, capacity could be increased over time using a consumption-based, ‘pay as you grow’ model.

“This gave us significant flexibility and the confidence that we were not locking ourselves into things that may not match our requirements in the future,” says Atkinson.

The initial step was to deploy an IP-based unified communications platform. This enabled BSL to transition from having multiple call centres to a unified solution that was much more efficient and cost effective.

The NDIS roll-out

BSL works in partnership with the Australian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide services to around 10% of all NDIS participants.  This includes local area coordination and early childhood services throughout metropolitan Melbourne. BSL believes change can only happen when people work together, which is why partnerships with organisations such as the NDIS and blueAPACHE are so important.

Following the success of BSL’s NDIS tender in 2016, the organisation went on to establish 17 physical locations and employ an additional 600 staff, increasing overall numbers from 900 to 1500 in a relatively short period.

This surge in growth required additional network links to be rolled out together with WAN and LAN infrastructure, security measures, and end-user client devices.

“We turned to blueAPACHE as our MSP for support. They helped us to deploy the required resources and ensure that all new staff had access to the tools and applications they required to complete their duties,” says Atkinson.

Atkinson believes it would not have been possible for BSL to achieve this in such a short space of time without the partnership of blueAPACHE. “They also helped us achieve ISO 27001 certification in as little as six months to support our bid for the NDIS contract.”

Network and hardware refresh cycle

As part of the further ICT strategic planning, during 2017 blueAPACHE helped BSL adopt a hardware-as-a-service operating model. The objective of this change was to reduce the need for capital investment and improve infrastructure flexibility.

This stage also involved establishing connections with the blueAPACHE emPOWER cloud and the migration of critical applications.

“blueAPACHE essentially worked to create a complete Application Delivery Supply Chain for BSL,” says Atkinson. “As well as managing our on-premises hardware and software, they introduced us to the benefits of cloud-based resources. This supply chain formed the basis of our entire multi-year ICT roadmap.”

Atkinson says another benefit delivered by this shift was the ‘de-risking’ of the IT environment through the removal of legacy equipment. “The combination of having an IaaS strategy and cloud resources ensured we were much more agile in the way we could deliver services and resources to our clients,” he says.

An ongoing partnership

In 2020, as a result of the strong partnership established between BSL and blueAPACHE, work commenced on formulating plans for a new three-year managed services agreement covering network management, infrastructure management, end-user communication, security, staff mobilisation and information management support.

“In essence, the goal is to create a seamless, productive, mobile, and secure digital workspace for all our staff,” says Atkinson. “Our key areas of focus will be security, ongoing cloud transformation and ensuring high availability of all our IT resources.”

Atkinson says the strong working relationship that has already been established between BSL and blueAPACHE will continue to develop under the new contract.

“Together, we will be looking to further improve BSL’s IT governance, monitor cost savings and maintain performance,” he says. “We have already achieved a lot but there is still so much more to be done.”

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