Hans Andersen Club (HAC) is a nonprofit organisation with a strong focus on the wellbeing of children and youth. Aimed at enabling the holistic development of children, HAC promotes reading-related activities to help them adapt more easily to a knowledge-based society.
The nonprofit, named after renowned Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, was established in 1963 to serve underprivileged children and new migrant families in the Diamond Hill district of Kowloon. It provides services, which includes counselling, tutoring, learning programmes such as the Reading Club for Parents (to support parents in becoming better storytellers), and offers resources for compelling storytelling sessions and interactive activities.
Today, HAC has expanded its reach to serve Hong Kong through six centres located at Quarry Bay, Wong Tai Sin, Lamma Island and Tai O of Lantau Island. It also conducts volunteer training and delivers its services to more than 120,000 people every year.
Delivering effective services to people across Hong Kong
Despite its operations being spread across various locations, HAC has only 31 full-time staff. As the organisation’s reach widened and operations expanded, the staff were struggling to cope with the increasing workload.
Employees had to constantly delete emails to keep within the limited storage capacity that they were allocated (the maximum size being 30MB only). Communications were further hindered by busy telephone lines during peak hours. The problem for internal collaboration was compounded by a dispersed and highly mobile workforce: employees were often deployed to work in locations across Hong Kong, and those located in the Outlying Islands would take over four hours to commute to the headquarters.
“To continue delivering our services efficiently, we needed to shift towards an infrastructure that could support our operations and facilitate effective communications,” said May Wong, Executive Director, HAC. “However, we knew the required expenditures would be significant—a cause for concern for a small nonprofit like ours. Besides cost issues, our employees were also daunted by the thought of having to adapt to new systems.”
Ensuring constant communication through Microsoft® Exchange Online and Lync® Online
HAC received Office 365™ through the Office 365 for Nonprofits donation programme and decided in April 2012 to deploy Exchange Online and Lync Online, so that their staff could stay productive and connected to one another, regardless of their location.
Besides enabling anywhere access to emails, Exchange Online offers the staff 25GB of inbox storage per person. This allows users to store more emails—even those with large-sized mail attachments—without having to worry about exceeding storage limits.
Lync Online unifies voice and video calls, presence and instant messaging (IM) in a single easy-to-use platform, the ideal communications channel for staff to collaborate remotely. Service users are also able to contact the nonprofit at any time via IM or video conferencing, instead of having to depend only on telephone.
Utilising cloud-based solutions for increased productivity and significant cost savings
The deployment of Exchange Online and Lync Online has improved productivity significantly. With user-friendly interfaces, the shallow learning curve has enabled employees to get up to speed with using the solutions in a short time.
“Our duties consist of coordinating referrals, tending to requests, answering volunteer enquiries and filing reports,” said Wong. “Being able to access emails and documents anywhere has been a great boost to our productivity.
We feel that we are able to work effectively even while on the move.” HAC is enjoying cost savings from improved communications that have reduced the need for travel. Microsoft is providing IT support and training at rates reserved for nonprofits, so HAC does not need to add a full-time IT employee to its headcount. The solutions are also driving down expenditure by providing free and timely software updates.
The solutions’ inbuilt multi-layered security measures, together with recovery capabilities, ensure that all data and information are stored and exchanged securely.
“As a nonprofit organisation, minimising spend while effectively delivering services has always been one of our key operational objectives. Microsoft provided us with a one-stop information and communications technology (ICT) solution that enables us to trim away unnecessary expenditure,” added May Wong.
In the years to come, HAC will continue to collaborate with its extensive network of partners across Hong Kong and plans to expand its reach even further and wider.
“The cloud solutions fill the gap of resource limitations; they are key enablers for us to deliver better services and to a wider range of people. We are proud to be among the first social workers in Hong Kong to use the latest software for smarter working,” concluded Wong.