Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leveraging the power of the Cloud to care for those in need - Microsoft Guest Blog

Keith R. Thode
Chief Operating Officer/Chief Technology Officer, The Aidmatrix Foundation
Leveraging the power of the Cloud to care for those in need 

When we think about the uses of cloud based technologies, we tend to think about corporate cloud consumption, or governments leveraging the cloud to support their operations and provide services.  The nonprofit sector does not often receive the same attention as other parts of our economy. Despite this, there are some pioneering nonprofit organizations who have started to significantly leverage the power of Windows Azure to transform our ability to help care for those in need.
Here at our nonprofit organization, Aidmatrix, Windows Azure helps us raise the quality of Humanitarian Aid Supply Chain Management solutions and other SaaS products (like our Virtual Aid Drive™ pictured below), while at the same time lowering operational costs.
Virtual Food Drive.gifFareShare, the national food bank network for the UK, uses us to manage the warehousing and distribution of the country’s donated food supply.  With a small technology footprint in the UK, we paid top dollar for sub-par service and performance for a technology infrastructure close to the FareShare food depots.  By migrating our solutions to Windows Azure, our application performance is markedly improved, and at a fraction of the cost.

In the Disaster Relief world, you don’t know when the need for your services will spike, or where in the world that spike will happen.  With Azure we are able to scale our applications immediately, as well as have instances of our applications available at all times, hosted in parts of the Azure Cloud closest to our users. So no matter where in the world the event takes place, Aidmatrix technology is optimizing performance at the most critical times.  
Having the data in Windows Azure makes it much easier for us to expose this data to other systems, and ultimately, other people who may be able to step up and help those in need.  For example, specific needs are posted in our system immediately after a disaster, and then can end up places like on Microsoft HelpBridge – a Microsoft app that allows thousands of users to see the needs and respond with offers to help, right from their phone.
This effort has laid the groundwork for even more advanced uses of Azure tied to mobile applications. With SafeNight, we are embarking on a new effort to leverage the power of the latest Azure and mobile technologies to combat domestic violence, and more.

We are thankful to our partners Accenture and Avanade, each of which have contributed greatly to our success migrating to Azure.  Microsoft itself, through Microsoft Corporate Citizenship, the Windows Azure team, the Microsoft Technology Center and individual employees, have been extremely supportive with their time and their talents.   We have developed a significant capability with these partners in getting our Azure migration capabilities underway and delivering on the promise of Windows Azure to be a force for social good. We hope this blog will spark new ideas for you and your company – what are other Microsoft Partners doing to support the community?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cisco Funds Key Enhancements on the SCM4Good Roadmap in 2013

The rapid pace of evolution already established for Aidmatrix’ humanitarian logistics platform, SCM4Good, received a welcome boost recently from Cisco Systems®. 

This modular, web-based  supply chain management system began with a focus on  warehouse management, has developed,  in the course of the last three years, has grown to a suite of supply chain management modules.  The development efforts have been collaborative, working the interagency design with  our International NGO partners.  

The full breadth of functionality encompassed by the unique field of humanitarian logistics is extensive and complex, and our work with key actors in the sector over the years has provided us with an accumulated wealth of ideas, enhancements, and features that continue to feed into our roadmap. 

Cisco® has been a valued partner of Aidmatrix for several years and our latest collaboration comes in the form of a grant that will help us take an additional step forward on that road:

  • Usability enhancements that will make SCM4Good easier to navigate, learn, and use – to help make aid workers even more productive
  • Enhancements to our Distribution functionality extending our “last-mile” supply chain functionality to beneficiary level
  • The integration of mobile technologies to provide new ways for the farthest reaches of humanitarian work to interact with the system
Aidmatrix set up a collaborative design portal specifically to encourage wide participation from the humanitarian sector in these exciting new developments. These enhancements are only part of the work underway for the development of SCM4Good this year. 

If your organization might be interested in feeding into the SCM4Good roadmap, please do drop us a line!

Meanwhile, the funding limitations inherent to the humanitarian sector make such contributions invaluable. We thank and applaud Cisco, and all of our key industry sponsors, who continue to help us advance toward our vision: a new level of sophistication for humanitarian relief chain and logistics management tools.