Five considerations to make when integrating your charity helpline

By Adam Wilkinson 

Charities face a huge set of challenges when managing multiple different communications streams with service users and donors. There are many factors to consider when running a helpline, particularly when complex and vulnerable people are relying on a certain level of support.

It is therefore easy to understand why so many voluntary sector organisations end up running the different aspects of their digital helplines in isolation. But with increasing budget pressures and more demand for helpline services, the need for greater efficiency is clear.

The prospect of integrating a charity’s helpline services can be daunting, but with the right level of planning and management it can be a straightforward process.

To make it a little easier, we’ve listed five things you should consider when integrating your helpline.

shutterstock_367465007Focus on what you want first

Sometimes organisations start integration by thinking about technical issues, but you have to remember you’re integrating systems to solve a business problem, so start there.

What business questions are you trying to answer? What reports do you need to answer them? The business requirements must lead the technical conversation, not the other way around.

Keep it simple
The key to successful integration is making sure the process does not become over complicated. This can put pressure on your current systems and increase cost, damaging your chances of a return on investment.

Be sure to assess whether integration is right for your organisation and its needs – try to think ahead to how you want your helpline to perform and what you might want it to deliver further down the line.

Evaluate benefits and cost
It’s important to assess the benefits you hope to gain from integrating your systems. Make sure you focus on the improvements integration will bring to the experience your service users are offered and look at the current cost implications of delivering this.

Try not to rely on other business models, but take a look at the way this could work for you.

Systems integration can be expensive, both in terms of tools and man-hours, but the process itself shouldn’t be considered as a cost. The benefits of receiving real-time messages will improve business processes and make this worthwhile.

shutterstock_112309595Make sure all security challenges are addressed

Protecting the sensitive data of your service users is vital, so it’s important to make sure you assess any areas where it could be compromised.

As we discussed in our previous blog the risk of data breaches is now higher than ever. The rising popularity of cloud-based technologies and the increased risk posed by employees’ personal devices means this potential threat will continue.

Think about the ways information can be protected by passwords, encryption and other mobile device management programmes.

Monitoring and performance management is critical
Monitoring and performance management capabilities are a key aspect of integration. When systems involve instant messaging it is essential they are monitored to ensure successful delivery.

Monitoring capabilities also allow systems to automatically cache transmissions that cannot be sent, and commit extra resources to deal with periods of higher demand.

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