Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. In the UK and around the world, Save the Children gives children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. Our mantra is to “do whatever it takes” for children – every day and in times of crisis – to transform their lives and the future we share. Last year we helped over 17.5 million children through our work.

Providing the right information to decision makers, donors, fund raisers, and foundations is a critical enabler for our mission. But a myriad of internal and external data sources, plus the need to quickly respond to world events, make delivering insights a significant data integration challenge. And with 91% of the funds spent on charitable activities, leaving just 9% for fundraising and all other costs, technology investments must be prudent and effective.

Formerly, our IT landscape was afflicted with many of the same issues other organizations face:

  • Redundant data with different answers
  • Difficulty extracting value due to no single view or real-time data
  • Lack of agility to respond to business needs in timely manner
  • No shared metadata specification
  • Insufficient data governance and ownership

We needed a better way – so we designed a new data, analytics, and insight architecture to help meet our mission and overcome technical challenges.

We launched three key initiatives

The first initiative we launched was a new approach to data modeling called the Common Business Model. The Common Business Model allows the business to centralise their data to create a single source of truth, which is used for applications and reporting. Additionally, it helps the business enforce a standard data model, governance, ownership, and architecture.

The second was chartering an internal group to build and maintain these models. We brought together representatives from every department, including data owners, and formed the Common Business Data Panel to agree on (and determine ownership of) the rules, definitions, and processes for data that goes into the Common Business Model. The panel also helps contribute to a business data directory, approves any changes to the Common Business Model, and regulates what can be seen in the model and by whom.

The third was to coalesce around best-in-class data and analytics products, including those shown below.

Data virtualization was a new addition. Cisco Information Server was selected to instantiate and operationalize the Common Business Model.

We saw fast results

We achieved the following milestones in a very short time:

  • Delivered a consistent, single data view to Adobe Campaign Manager regardless of original source
  • Began plans to replace a legacy data warehouse with a virtualized feed to save costs while providing more consistent reporting
  • Reduced interim staging environments, and their associated storage costs and ETL processing workloads

Finally, we leveraged Cisco Information Server’s agile and iterative coding capabilities to prove a successful, agile delivery process across business and IT. This level of agility couldn’t be done using a traditional waterfall delivery model, and is now the standard model for our software development.

“The way of collaborative working has been transformational. Previously, the business would provide detailed requirements (sometimes utilizing BA resource), and then IT would development and test. This process has been streamlined as we all now work as one team and can accommodate change as the work progresses. For example, data discovery can identify changes in requirements and we can now make (and see very quickly) the results.”

We are positioned to build on our success

With data virtualization skills, infrastructure, and agile delivery processes in place, we are well positioned to build on our success. Partly funded by savings from our first initiatives, a number of projects have been identified and commenced including:

  • Refine and expand the Common Business Model
  • Further integrate with Adobe digital platform
  • Deliver projects continuously as required by the business pipeline/roadmap
  • Advance the new data, analytics and insight architecture
  • Continually improve the agile delivery process

 Learn more

To learn more about Save the Children UK, visit www.savethechildren.org.uk.

To learn more about Cisco Data Virtualization, visit http://www.cisco.com/go/datavirtualization.


Graham Tucker

Head of Data & Development

Save the Children UK