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August 14, 2014

American Cancer Society CIO Keynote: 'The Walls of IT Had to Come Down'


As the world’s largest nongovernmental funder of cancer research, the American Cancer Society stands as one of today’s most influential and impactful organizations. The company boasts over 6,000 staff members, 3 million volunteers and 70 million donors—all of which help support the brand’s efforts to fight harder and stronger against cancer with each passing day.

What many may not know, however, is how big a role technology plays in bringing the American Cancer Society’s goals to fruition. Jay Ferro, CIO at the American Cancer Society, divulged the organization’s technology transformation during a highly anticipated keynote presentation at ITEXPO 2014, taking place now through August 14 at the Rio in Las Vegas.

According to Ferro, the American Cancer Society is built upon four core pillars—all of which technology plays a key role. These four pillars include:

1. Mission: A quick visit to the American Cancer Society’s website will show you that the company’s mission is truly ever-expanding. The company provides resources for those dealing with life after cancer and survivorship; preventative measures; and assets detailing where the organization’s money is allocated to and how its fundraising efforts are spent. To help aid the company’s mission, it boasts a 24x7, 365 call center that caters to every language in the world. Furthermore, the company provides the right technology solutions that match the right volunteers with incoming callers.

2. Fundraising: Again, with over 3 million volunteers and 70 million donors, the organization requires robust technology to help aid and sustain its extensive fundraising efforts and campaigns.

3. Advocacy: The American Cancer Society is more than just a resource for others to come to for support—the organization also actively fights to change current policies in advocacy of cancer prevention. For example, the organization fights for tougher anti-smoking laws and more thorough cancer research.

4. Research: To this end, last but not least, the American Cancer Society is known for its unending research efforts to help further its global mission.

As mentioned, technology plays a huge role in these four core pillars. But at the same time, Ferro was noticing that the organization’s IT and technology backbones were growing increasingly weak and outdated. For example, there were too many applications, and the applications that it did have were too old and couldn’t talk with one another. Additionally, enterprise data was locked up and was inaccessible. Overall, it made for an underperforming IT organization. “You have to have a thick skin,” Ferro said. He knew that he had to create a technology roadmap, led by some key guiding principles, to rebuild the American Cancer Society’s IT foundations—and fast.

To help rebuild and sustain its core pillars, the American Cancer Society had to undergo a significant IT transformation. As Ferro excellently put it, “The walls of IT had to down.”

“We knew we had to be a different organization,” Ferro said. By that, he knew it had to move toward a business without barriers to realize its lifesaving mission without barriers. “There was a lot riding on the success of our IT transformation.”

And the company’s painstaking transformation paid dividends. Ferro’s presentation was inspiring coming from a CIO working to push an over 100 year-old company into a new age of IT—to bring such a company into an agile age of performance in a cost-efficient way— to achieve ultimate, long-term success.




Edited by Adam Brandt

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