The Canadian government created the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) in 1997 to learn what practices and treatments work best, and to spread that information across the country. To carry out this mission CFHI has to be flexible and collaborative with health care providers and researchers from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and everywhere in between.

For years CFHI operated an exchange server, data servers, and a remote server. That technology was sometimes very slow and required a lot of work to maintain. However, as Cloud technology emerged, CFHI saw an opportunity to reduce its hardware and the time it takes to maintain it.

“We’re trying to get out of the IT business,” said Dan Dwyer, Director of Information Technology & Knowledge Management—at least when it comes to hardware, allowing IT staff to focus more on efforts more directly beneficial to the business.

Collaboration Is Vital

Staff members travel across the country or work remotely so that they can be closer to where healthcare is delivered and share what they learn with other healthcare workers and the federal government. To do this effectively, CFHI staffers need the ability to access timely information, review and edit documents, and relay information to colleagues.

“Collaboration has always been important to us, but we never found a style of working that’s conducive to it,” said Dwyer. “We’ve found that Office 365 is really hitting the sweet spot for us.”

In 2014 CFHI began migrating its exchange servers to the Cloud, and the organization is now in the last phase of migrating its intranet data to SharePoint. It still manages some data on premises—primarily sensitive health care information—but the vast majority of its files are now in the Cloud.

Staff members use Office 365 to collaborate on documents in real time, reducing the turnaround for feedback. And because they’re accessing the documents through SharePoint, they don’t need to download and upload or email. It’s seamless to save and share files.

“We have a workforce that is not located in one place and it’s becoming more so,” Dwyer said. “We’re going to keep leveraging the flexibility going forward, that is a stated goal.”

Adoption Mostly Positive

Staff members were familiar and comfortable with Microsoft Office, but Dwyer still needed to provide training to help people use the web apps since there are some differences with the desktop version. Otherwise, end users were pleased that they could work on any device.

“Folks are using a lot of different devices to access the data, and that’s good,” Dwyer said. To verify what he had been hearing anecdotally, Dwyer distributed a survey to learn about user experiences. He reports that the response was “very positive.”

The only hiccup was with one longtime IT staffer who wasn’t comfortable with “losing control” of hardware and data.

The switch to Cloud services is often difficult for staff members who have a lot of experience maintaining hardware. They might be afraid that their role in the organization is being diminished or that their skills will no longer be needed. And some organizations may find that they need less IT help when they move to the Cloud—but CFHI found that IT roles have shifted. Technical issues are now solved over the phone with the vendor, and much of the work has moved toward staff keeping up with a more rapid cycle of software updates and communicating those updates to the rest of the organization.

Now the job is as much about working with people as it is machines.“You have to change your skill set to get things done,” Dwyer said.

Learn More

Interested in exploring Cloud-based infrastructure? Download our report Moving Your IT Infrastructure Into the Cloud: Lessons From the Field to learn how you can get started.