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Prostate Cancer UK taps into low-code technology to boost its data collection activities

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels November 2, 2022
By adopting Toca’s platform, the charity has reduced the need for manual intervention and can send timely information to key business decision makers.


Prostate Cancer UK (PCUK) is using Toca’s low-code enterprise development platform to streamline data collection processes and provide timely insight to decision makers in the charity.

Gerardo del Guercio, Solutions Architect at PCUK, says the technology has helped liberate data staff from thousands of hours of manual work and is now providing a trusted platform for further digital transformation.

PCUK collects information from a wide range of sources. It uses insight form this data to develop personalised relationships with donors and fundraisers. If someone gets in touch online and says they’re interested in the charity, Del Guercio says PCUK needs to respond quickly – and that wasn’t easy in the past because of a reliance on manual processes.

Prior to using Toca, Del Guercio’s eight-strong data team processed all the data they received on a daily basis. The charity spent about 2,200 hours a year manually collecting and processing data from more than 60 feeds, including Facebook and the charity platform JustGiving:

We had a major issue of data latency. Some data would take a week to get pulled into the CRM system; some data would be uploaded monthly. It was just a non-stop manual process that involved a massive amount of data. We had a major backlog of data being imported because it was just a very manual process.

By using Toca’s low-code enterprise development platform, PCUK has streamlined and accelerated data collection processes. The Toca platform feeds data automatically into a central database repository, where it is combined with other donation data and analysed. This streamlined process provides timely information to business users:

We are now in a position where data is in our CRM by the next day at 11 o'clock – that’s the service level agreement we work to. So if the data is available today, it will be in our CRM by 11 o'clock tomorrow morning – and that includes all exceptions.

Making a change

Prior to implementing Toca, the data team had to visit sites with feeds, download the CSV files, drop the data into PCUK via a secure FTP link, and then transform it, so the data could be held in the charity’s CRM platform. Del Guercio says this time-consuming process created big challenges for the charity, especially around trying respond to requests quickly:

The reality is that people in the charity needed the data as soon as possible. That's what they wanted.

Del Guercio, who joined PCUK in late 2019, started to think about how technology could be used to automate the collection of data. He saw Toca was already being piloted in the organisation as a potential route to Robotic Process Automation. He was keen to find out more and to think about how the technology might streamline data collection processes:

I started breaking it down and I was thinking, ‘OK, this is a robotic tool. It looks good. It works. We've got it already.’ It was an easy sell for me to say, ‘OK, we can use it in a limited capacity initially because I just want to get hold of our data.’

Del Guercio’s team started applying the technology to all the data feeds that weren’t already pushing information to PCUK via an application programming interface (API). For these feeds that required manual intervention, the team used Toca’s platform to download CSV files automatically – and the impact in terms of time savings has been considerable:

That approach meant that all the data files are in our domain straightaway without any of our staff having to go and log on manually. Those tasks are already done by the time they come into the office in the morning.

All the disparate data sources that come into the organisation are now collected in a single location. Del Guercio’s team runs a transformation process via SQL to ensure data is stored in a single, consistent version that can be loaded into the CRM platform. Now, a process that used to take thousands of hours can now be handled in a much less labour-intensive manner, with a consequential impact on data quality:

We have one person working on exception handling, which is about making sure we don't duplicate data, and that takes approximately two hours a day. Rather than doing the administrative aspects involved in collecting and transforming data, our team can spend more time making sure the quality of data going into the database is better.

Creating value

By using Toca, Del Guercio’s team can now focus on higher-value tasks. Rather than spending time on administration, some of the team is working on development. Other members are focused on providing reliable data for decision-making processes, which also impacts fundraisers, who can now spend less time on management activities:

We've got all this data, so how do we use it to target the audience? We haven't lost our team members. We've just reallocated them to high-value activities. They’re working as business analysts and they’re getting the data flowing. The knock-on effect of that switch for our fundraisers is that they’re no longer doing project management – they can focus on fundraising and making money for the charity.

Del Guercio gives an example of the game-changing power of data. PCUK ran a campaign called ‘Missing Men’ earlier this year, where it joined forces with NHS England to find thousands of men who had not started treatment for prostate cancer since the beginning of the pandemic. The charity’s web site received 550,000 additional visitors due to the campaign – and by using Toca’s technology, the data team processed this information in hours rather than the months it would have taken in the past:

Having all the data feed into a single funnel is an enabler for change.

Del Guercio says the work the team has done on its data feeds means they are comfortable thinking about moving onto other digital transformation activities. He says there’s a desire to introduce a new CRM system and his team is also looking at emerging technologies:

We're now looking at using data more intelligently and potentially adopting artificial intelligence. Having access to the data in a timely manner allows us to make better use of it. And as the data team are not focused on administrative tasks, they’ve got time to explore those technologies.

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