To offer non-profit insurance, health and retirement plans, Christian Brothers Services faces tough competition from big commercial providers. How could it deliver responsive service cost-effectively?
Christian Brothers Services provides an efficient, secure way for employees and clients to collaborate, via a new platform built on IBM Connections Cloud.
Avoids 2xincrease in headcount as the business grows thanks to greater efficiency
Enablesemployees to engage with clients in near-real time, raising service quality
Boostscompetitiveness and helps Christian Brothers Services win new clients
Business challenge story
Supporting nationwide growth
There’s power in numbers—and Christian Brothers Services offers cooperative initiatives that help Catholic organizations to secure better deals for their members in everything from health and retirement to property insurance and information technology.
Tom Drez, CIO at Christian Brothers Services, says: “We work with church organizations across the United States—and although we’re a non-profit, we’re competing in highly competitive commercial industries.”
In recent years, Christian Brothers Services has been growing steadily by organic growth and acquisitions, and today administers benefits programs for more than 4,000 Catholic organizations from coast to coast. To retain existing clients and attract new business, the company aims to differentiate itself by providing high-quality, responsive services.
“We’ve expanded from a single location in Chicago and around 200 employees to five locations across the country and more than 260 employees—including remote consultants who are constantly on the move,” continues Drez.
“To provide the kinds of personalized and attentive client experiences that have made our business a success, effective collaboration is essential. As our business grew, we knew that relying on traditional methods such as phone calls, emails and shared drives would start to slow our people down, and we looked for a smarter way to work.”
Building the business on collaboration
Based on its positive experiences with IBM Notes® and Domino® for email and calendaring and IBM Sametime® for instant messaging, Christian Brothers Services decided to augment its IBM collaboration environment with IBM Connections. The solution integrates digital communities, video meetings, file-sharing, collaborative document editing and more in a unified platform.
“Every investment we make in the IT function ties back to our key strategic objectives: helping our employees and clients work more efficiently and effectively,” explains Drez. “We were confident that IBM Connections offered the capabilities we needed to support a world-class IT organization. By moving to a centralized collaboration platform, our people no longer have to collectively spend hours every day searching through mailboxes and shared folders to find the information they needed—freeing them to invest more of their day on delivering value-added services to our clients.”
As its on-premises IBM Connections platform took off, Christian Brothers Services deployed new features for its growing employee population.
“Our IBM solutions have become an integral part of the working day at Christian Brothers Services. When our people log on in the morning, the first thing they see is an intranet powered by IBM Domino with links to our IBM Connections communities,” continues Drez.
“As the cloud model reached maturity, we saw an opportunity to transition to IBM Connections Cloud. We knew that the cloud would enable us to avoid manual system updates and patching, while ensuring that we were always on the latest version of the software. Better still, by decommissioning our multiple servers, storage and networking infrastructure, we could reduce our operational costs substantially.”
To support its cloud migration, Christian Brothers Services engaged IBM Silver Business Partner Mercury Consulting Corporation.
“Mercury Consulting have been with us since the start of our journey with IBM Connections, and it was their team of experts that helped us to deploy the on-premises version of the platform,” recalls Drez. “Our work with Mercury Consulting continues to be an excellent partnership, and their team helped guide us through our migration to IBM Connections Cloud.”
In a multi-stage project, Christian Brothers Services began by analyzing its existing IBM Connections content to separate current from obsolete data, then designed its migration plan accordingly. In parallel, the company worked with Mercury Consulting to train its IT team and power users in the differences between the on-premises and cloud versions of the solutions. Adopting a train the trainer approach helped the company to get its business users up to speed quickly.
“Our migration went very smoothly, and at the end of the project we successfully decommissioned ten servers in our production and disaster recovery environments,” comments Drez. “With IBM Connections Cloud, we have the peace of mind that our mission-critical data is always backed up and protected. To ensure high levels of security for sensitive data, we have also integrated IBM Connections Cloud with our single sign-on authentication tool. Our cloud migration project was such a success that we have since embraced a cloud-first strategy, and outsourced our entire data center to a managed services provider.”
Standing out from the crowd
With IBM Connections Cloud delivering a centralized communications hub and content library, Christian Brothers Services is supporting its employees with the tools they need to stand out in a competitive market.
“Whether our people are working on the road via their iPhone or iPad or in the office on their PC, they’re always in contact with their colleagues via IBM Connections Cloud,” says Drez. “By transitioning away from silos of information buried in inboxes to a centralized repository for business data, we estimate our knowledge workers save around 20 minutes per day because content is so much easier to find. In fact, we estimate that the efficiencies we’ve gained from our IBM collaboration platform, among other automation, has helped us avoid doubling our headcount as the business has grown.”
Today, Christian Brothers Services employees manage digital communities for key business areas, facilitating effective knowledge-sharing as the business grows.
“As we expand by acquisition, it’s very important that newly onboarded employees can work seamlessly with their peers in other parts of the organization—even if they’re based hundreds of miles away from one another,” comments Drez. “Thanks to IBM Connections Cloud, employees can learn from their colleagues across the business. Our people have been quick to recognize the value of IBM Connections Cloud, and many of our supervisory personnel participate in 15 communities or more.”
Christian Brothers Services is now transforming its IBM Connections communities into a differentiated offering for clients.
Drez adds: “Over the last three years, our employees have started creating shared industry-specific communities for the organizations and dioceses we serve. Not only do these communities give our clients a fast and convenient way to engage with our employees, they also offer them the benefit of discussion and networking with their peers. For example, our education community contains HR managers and CFOs from a range of different Catholic colleges and universities. Without a doubt, client communities add value to our offering, which plays an important role in attracting new members.”
Looking to the future, Christian Brothers Services is planning further enhancements to its collaboration environment. The company is in the process of deploying IBM Connections Engagement Center, which will help it replicate the experience of its IBM Domino-powered employee intranet in IBM Connections Cloud.
“Our people really appreciate the fact that they get the latest version of IBM Connections Cloud as soon as it’s released,” says Drez. “For example, we heard a great deal of praise when IBM launched the Orient Me home page capability, which makes it even easier for people to find content in their communities. When our IBM Connections Engagement Center solution goes live, we predict the user experience will be better still.”
Drez concludes: “Whether you’re a commercial organization or a non-profit like we are, responsive services are a powerful differentiator. By collaborating with our clients via IBM Connections Cloud, we’re sharpening our competitiveness in crowded markets.”
About Christian Brothers Services
Founded in 1960, Christian Brothers Services began as a mutual cooperative purchasing group for Chicago area high schools to enable better insurance coverage, with higher limits, at significantly reduced costs. Christian Brothers Services has since grown into a non-profit organization that administers cooperative programs to church organizations in the areas of health and retirement, property and casualty and consulting and technology to church organizations across the United States.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Connections Cloud, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/marketplace/enterprise-social-collaboration
Headquartered in Hinsdale, Illinois, Mercury Consulting Corporation is an IBM Silver Business Partner specializing in security, cloud and collaboration solutions. To learn more about services from Mercury Consulting Corporation, please visit: www.mercurycc.com