When you wish upon a cloud - Make-A-Wish UK's CEO on creating "life changing experiences" for seriously ill children

Profile picture for user Mark Samuels By Mark Samuels May 29, 2019
Summary:
The CEO of Make-A-Wish UK explains how the charity has built a Wish Cloud using the Salesforce platform.

Make-A-Wish UK is a charity act exists to help create life-changing experiences for children with critical illnesses.  To date, Make-A-Wish UK has granted upwards of 12,000 wishes.

It is also a business and needs to measure the impact of the wishes it grants and tracking the extent to which wishes are successfully granted each year, which has led to what CEO Jason Suckley calls a Wish Cloud, built on the Salesforce Service Cloud platform.

Make-A-Wish UK is using the technology to streamline the wish intake and delivery process to allow its teams to focus on creating unforgettable experiences for children when they need it most. Suckley says the cultural change process was the critical factor during the adoption of the technology:

We’ve just gone through an intensive period of development where we’ve implemented Salesforce across the Wish journey. It’s been a big deal for the organisation – the least big deal was the money and the biggest issue was the culture, the newness and the speed. Once you’ve implemented technology, you need to look back and see your challenges as a fantastic insight into your organisation. What you learn is something about your resilience as an organisation and things you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Suckley argues that the implementation process has provided lessons for people at the highest levels of the organisation, including himself. The key take-away, he said, is that digital technology can help change a business for the better, as long as the implementation process is carefully thought through:

I’ve learnt that it’s very easy to be over ambitious. Unless you are a capable of achieving your goals, you’re in danger of creating a degree of disappointment – and technology is a key enabler to strengthening your capability. We took a long time to think about what we wanted to achieve on behalf of the business. At the end of that process, we chose Salesforce as our platform and Bluewolf as our implementation partner.

The technology is now embedded in the charity’s wish-delivering processes. Despite recognising the scale of the cultural change involved in the implementation of any new digital service, Suckley says he's been pleasantly surprised at how well Salesforce has been adopted across the organisation – and with a consequential impact on decision-making processes:

One of the great things about the Salesforce platform is that it enables flexibility and the ability to provide autonomy across an organisation. That’s something we aspire to, but it’s something we’ve also struggled with in the past. In the case of the Salesforce implementation, we’ve created specialist account managers across the organisation that help drive change. As a leadership team, you need to give decisions as close to the child as possible. And that means I’m learning, too. And if you want to be an agile organisation, that’s really important.

Learnings

Suckley says one of the key lessons from the project thus far has been the greater sense of autonomy that the project has inspired. By having information at their fingertips, people in all levels of the organisation are now more confident to make decision quickly:

We haven’t got everything right yet but the principle should be that if you have representation from all parts of the organisation, and you’re empowering your people, then the key roles of leaders should be about giving context. If you give that context, you’re in a great position to make decisions. The holistic view shouldn’t just be held by leaders – you don’t want blockages, so everyone needs to have a say.

Make-A-Wish UK’s partnership with Bluewolf was critical to the success of the implementation, adds Suckley. One of the key strategic lessons for other c-suite executives, he said, is that relationships with external parties must represent a good fit for the host business and its incoming partner:

Partnerships are about what have you got in a common – and if you have that, it’s a great place to start. I don’t want to work with people who don’t genuinely believe in the mission of the organisation. There’s degrees of support and I’m looking for people who have a genuinely emotional connection because that will help you get through the difficult days. A partnership must go two ways, too. So, what are the benefits for Bluewolf of working with Make-A-Wish UK? I think we’ve developed a common purpose and that’s important from an employee engagement point of view. We want to create value across both organisations.

Conversations with Bluewolf and Salesforce have continued through this year and will continue going forward, helping to define the future shape of the implementation, he adds: 

Don’t kid yourself that a strategic partnership will happen overnight. Having had a positive experience around the first stage of the programme, there’s now the trust about thinking how we develop our strategy together and what that might mean in the long term.

Suckley is keen to find a way that some of the lessons he’s learnt from Make-A-Wish's experiences might be passed to other charitable organisations. Once again, a partnership approach is likely to be crucial:

In our world, data is a child’s life – it’s so important. There’s far more room for collaboration in the charity sector. We’re working with hospices, for example, and we all want what’s best for the child. If you reach out, you get a positive response. Fundraising can get in the way, so put that to one side and think about what you can work on together in terms of technology. If we develop technology that allows us to capture information on how we get children’s wishes, we could work across organisations in the charity sector and this shared approach could really underpin those developments.

 

You can support the work of Make-A-Wish by donating here.