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Blind Citizens Australia (BCA), a not-for-profit organisation serving a nationwide community of about 450,000 people, has propelled its customer relationship management into the digital age with a unique CRM system that makes member data accessible to its entire staff – most of whom are blind or vision impaired.

In taking on this unusual transformation journey, BCA worked with KPMG Australia to develop a digital database that now allows BCA’s team to manage and accelerate tasks such as member communications, resource and information updates, membership requests and more.

The CRM solution replacing paper-based data sharing also provides database access via mobile devices for the many BCA employees who work remotely and rely on mobile devices equipped with assistive technology such as voiceover.

Using technology to foster inclusion

In BCA’s quest for a game-changing solution, CEO Emma Bennison needed to look no further than her BCA team to discover the expertise and creativity she needed in Rocco Cutri – a BCA board member who is vision impaired and also a Solution Architect with KPMG Australia’s Sydney-based team.

Cutri, who works on technology enablement on the Management Consulting team, was positioned to bring BCA and KPMG together on a ground-breaking initiative that made digital transformation and accessibility a priority for BCA and its employees who are blind or vision impaired.

“As part of KPMG Australia’s inaugural Act for Good Day, we were challenged to think of what we could do for not-for-profits and social enterprises in Australia to make a difference – and that led me to this significant innovation project with Blind Citizens Australia,” Cutri explains.

“I had expressed to Rocco my enormous frustration,” adds Bennison, “over the fact that we had a database that was inaccessible beyond just a few people in our organisation, and I asked him if we could come up with a fully accessible database. For an organisation with our values, that was critical. To my delight, he ran with it in a way that I could never have imagined.”

Cutri, who began to lose his sight about 7 years ago, was ideally positioned to share his personal understanding of the challenges facing employees who are blind and vision impaired as he brought BCA and KPMG Australia together to deliver new CRM capabilities based on Microsoft Dynamics 365.

‘Creative thinking’ unlocks exciting capabilities

BCA’s unusual challenge called for deep technical expertise, cutting-edge technology, intense collaboration and a healthy dose of creativity. Mission accomplished.

“Once we had the database ready to go and transferred our information into it, it was a pretty quick process to get staff using it,” says Sally Aurisch, BCA’s General Manager of Projects and Engagement. “It’s working really well. Everyone on the team can access everything they need – wherever they are and without assistance or concerns about security. With creative thinking and close collaboration, we’ve taken a mainstream product and made it work for all of us.”

Cutri says the impact of the project – and the exciting example it sets for other organisations and businesses to be more inclusive among employees and customers – has been a remarkable source of inspiration.

“Technology can level the playing field and if it’s designed and implemented correctly, it can deliver tremendous new benefits to everyone in the community – including people with a disability. It gives me great inspiration for the future.”

Bennison, who has been blind from birth, says this project has truly been a game changer. BCA has already shared its learnings with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, which is working on a project to implement new CRM systems with other community organisations.

“We can go to other employers and say, ‘Look, we’ve done this – you can, too! It is doable.’ It has a huge impact beyond our own organisation and community,” she says.

Meeting the community’s unique needs

While confident at the outset that Microsoft Dynamics 365 would meet BCA’s technical requirements on managing member-data, Cutri also needed to determine whether Dynamics could be made accessible organization-wide for BCA’s staff – 75 percent of whom are blind or vision impaired.

Undaunted, Cutri put his expertise and creativity to work and collaborated with BCA’s Aurisch to initially develop a unique prototype that proved a fully accessible Dynamics 365 CRM could indeed be built to meet BCA’s requirements.

“We needed to make sure that the database wasn’t just accessible, but fully functional as well for anyone using a screen reader or with very specific requirements,” Aurisch explains. “If we want to send things to people who want Braille and who don’t have an email address, we can do that now without any fuss. We are able to tailor our communications to meet our unique needs.”

BCA has a proud 40-year history that includes resource sharing, community support, advocacy, research and public-policy initiatives in areas such as telecommunications and disability standards. The not-for-profit has an admirable record of success thanks to its keen focus on driving progress that makes a difference in the daily lives of its members.

Like any organisation enduring rapid change in the digital era, BCA could not ignore the pressing need to modernise its processes, including its traditional reliance on paper-based spreadsheets to share customer data among its team. And its new CRM capabilities are a source of pride in enhancing BCA’s commitment to supporting its community in every way possible.

“I think I’ve rarely been as excited about a project in my working life,” Bennison says. “It’s just been really, really special to me – to get this done in the way that we have.”

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