The RSPCA rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes hundreds of thousands of animals a year with help from Google Apps for Work

Editor's note: Today we hear from Billie Laidlaw, Assistant Director Resources-IT at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the UK’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity with 1600 employees across England and Wales. In 2014 the £43 million that the organisation received in voluntary donations helped rescue more than 128,000 animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Read how the RSPCA is using Google Apps for Work to help give these animals a new chance.

I often refer to our IT spend as kitten food, since that helps us focus on its value. Every pound we save with our solutions helps to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals across the country. So when our legacy email system reached the end of its working life, we wanted great value for money in the short term and opportunities for cost-saving and innovation further down the line. With Google Apps for Work, we got both.

We started the rollout with the IT team, then added superusers, then everyone else. We called these stages “ready,” “steady” and “GO.” In the “steady” stage, we trained up superusers and gave them t-shirts and flags so their colleagues knew who to turn to for advice. We installed timers on everyone’s desktops with a day-by-day “Countdown to Google” that created a real sense of excitement about the change and used Forms to gather post-go live feedback from 1,000 members of our team. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

From the start, we saved significantly on equipment costs alone. Our previous system operated from more than 40 servers, all of which have been decommissioned and will never have to be replaced. At £3,500 per server, that saved us £140,000 just on equipment. And digital signage now costs one tenth of the price we used to pay, from £1,500 per store to a solution using Chromebox and Slides that costs just £150 per store. Chromebooks have proven so cost effective that we bought 150 this year and plan to adopt them further. And because they connect to Drive, we don’t need to carry heavy paperwork around, which is good for the environment, our budget, and our backs. Also, when we needed to add 500 staff to our email platform, we did it in a matter of days with no additional infrastructure other than the provision of Android smartphones.

Every year we find new homes for more than 50,000 animals, and Google Apps tools make that rehabilitation process so much faster. Our 500 RSPCA inspectors are out in the field every day, investigating animal cruelty and complaints. Under our old system, none of them were connected to a central email hub, but now they all have Gmail and Drive on Android phones and access to Chromebooks, so they can instantly share test results, check documentation, send pictures and request temporary accommodation for an animal at one of our animal centres. And as soon as an animal is ready for rehoming, the quest begins to find new owners. We used to make promotional videos that we would burn to DVDs and deliver to our shops and centres by hand once a month, but now we can use Slides and a Chromebox to send promotions instantly to our screens, the same day an animal’s ready for a new home. No driving, no hassle with DVDs.

We’re committed to creating a more united, mobile, flexible workforce by the RSPCA’s 200th anniversary in 2024, and with Google Apps for Work, we’re well on the way to making that a reality. Working together in Docs isn’t just making our internal processes more transparent, it’s connecting people from parts of our organisation that otherwise operate independently and allows us to share knowledge and advice across the country. Hangouts let us meet face-to-face online and keep workflow moving with instant messaging. We’re also using Calendar to keep in synch and Sheets to work out duty rosters and book holidays.

Every time a supporter puts a pound in one of our collection tins, they want it to be spent wisely. By streamlining our services with Google Apps for Work, we make sure that more of that money serves the animals who need it. In the end, it could be food for a kitten, or a puppy, a horse, a seal, a hedgehog…