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Creating a home for NCVO’s digital properties on AWS

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The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is an umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England.

NCVO represents over 16,000 voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and social enterprises across England, supporting its members by developing practical resources designed to support the day-to-day running of their organisations, saving them time to focus on their beneficiaries.

Isotoma helped NCVO undertake a once-in-a-lifetime business change to get control over their digital properties and migrate to AWS, while managing the needs of its extensive stakeholder network.

Opening Pandora’s box

In 2018, NCVO’s digital properties were a complex tangle: numerous disparate websites, all built separately by different agencies, in different languages and hosted in different places. The decision was made to bring in a consultant to help the organisation figure out how to untangle, streamline and increase the efficiency of their digital properties and processes.

These had built up over time as NCVO acquired different projects or organisations that had existing websites, and the result was a digital landscape that was disparate and time-consuming to manage and maintain. A lack of consistency around hosting, access to source code and ownership of paid-for tools meant that for NCVO, managing its digital properties was costly and time consuming.

These included everything from content management systems, a wide range of tools to perform diagnostics and book training and venues, to their learning hub NCVO Knowhow. Users often had no idea the sites were all by NCVO — there was no consistency in brand and design across the suite, and it was a jarring user experience.

Discovering that your digital properties aren’t working together effectively is a common enterprise issue, but not one organisations like NCVO are used to expecting or planning for.

NCVO’s digital technology strategist helped them define their 4-year technology strategy, and to create a working group across multiple different tech agencies with different specialities, including Isotoma as infrastructure partner.

As a charity, budget is always a consideration. NCVO secured some grant funding from the National Lottery Digital Fund to enable it to take on such an ambitious overhaul of its digital infrastructure.

Integrating NCVO’s online presence

NCVO had identified AWS as its preferred hosting provider by this stage, based on its reliability, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, but still needed an integration service.

Isotoma was initially recommended to NCVO due to our extensive experience working with AWS and Django, and our breadth of skills across DevOps and development. It was important to NCVO to find partners who shared their values and ways of working — in particular, agile, open, multi-agency working.

After several open conversations with Isotoma, NCVO felt that we had the right skills and ambition to support their strategy.

We began work with NCVO by liaising with the other providers to migrate their applications into AWS and bring them under one roof. Where possible, we moved to serverless tech and updated the applications, a process that continues today as we work to implement a single sign-on process across all NCVO’s properties and retire old systems.

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Managing the stakeholder network

The key to success in NCVO’s challenging project was coordinating successfully with the various stakeholders involved across their digital properties.

As expected with such a large and complex organisation, there are many different parties whose interests need to be protected and supported.

We worked closely with tech partners, NCVO’s business partners, internal programme managers and other stakeholders to secure their buy-in and make sure the process was as efficient as possible. The Isotoma team and their NCVO counterparts kept in day-to-day contact with a dedicated Slack channel and regular progress meetings.

A project with real benefits

NCVO occupies a unique position in supporting the entire voluntary ecosystem in England. Its activities make a real difference to communities across the country, so it’s essential that they are able to run its digital activities in an effective and efficient way.

By working alongside NCVO to integrate its digital properties, Isotoma has been able to facilitate that and help them focus on their core task of offering support to its members.

We’re still in our final year of our 4-year technology strategy so work is ongoing, though we now have a solid foundation that we are building on. Isotoma has been an integral partner in designing and developing this strong foundation.

Emily Paterson, Digital development manager, NCVO

If you’ve discovered that your organisation’s digital properties need bringing back under control, get in touch today to find out how we can help.

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