Disability Wales

Disability Wales is the national association of disabled people’s organisations, which campaigns for the rights of disabled people living in Wales. They count numerous disabled people’s charities in their members, and use this combined weight to consult with the Welsh Government and influence policy. Excellence IT recently welcomed Disability Wales as a new customer.

Priorities

excellence IT responded to a tender from Disability Wales, who were looking to see if they could get a better IT service than the one they had with their current provider.

“We got a good feeling from excellence IT early on,” commented Emma Cooksey, Finance Officer for Disability Wales. “They were very professional, but they also made an effort to get to know us personally.”

We met with Disability Wales numerous times to get a better understanding for how they operate and how they had approached their IT in the past. “Just from those few meetings you could tell they were very passionate about the job,” Emma noted.

Once we were ultimately appointed, we immediately began looking at how we could reduce IT costs. High on the list was registering Disability Wales as a non-profit with Microsoft, which would give them access to heavily discounted Microsoft 365 licenses. “We had no idea about Microsoft’s charitable donations,” said Emma. “We thought we had to pay full price for our Microsoft licenses like everyone else”. Working together, a submission was drafted for Microsoft’s online registration portal.

Computer Says… No?

It didn’t take long for the submission to receive a response, but it wasn’t the response that either Disability Wales or excellence IT were expecting; the application had been rejected.

“We were really surprised at the response,” noted excellence IT Director Andy Green. “We work with a lot of charities, and this is the first time we’ve ever had an issue with an application.”

It’s understandable that Microsoft don’t want to issue these discounts indiscriminately, but having worked with a number of non-profits in the past, and being acutely aware of the criteria that has to be met for an organisation to qualify, we knew that Disability Wales should have clearly been accepted. Rather than let things lie, we challenged the decision.

“They fought tooth and nail to get us registered as a charity,” commented Emma. “They took the lead on it and were determined to get that discount for us, which was very reassuring. If we’d had to do it ourselves, we’d have likely given up before getting anywhere with it.”

We contacted Microsoft to determine how they came to their decision, backing up our argument with the criteria documents. “We’re not in the habit of challenging Microsoft over every decision that doesn’t go our way,” said Andy “But in this instance it was in black and white; our customer met the criteria, so they were going to get the discount.”

Microsoft initially took a different point of view, restating that Disability Wales weren’t eligible. However, after a considerable amount of correspondence working through the issue with Microsoft, the initial decision was finally reversed, and Disability Wales were accepted as a Non-Profit.  Microsoft didn’t clarify exactly what prompted the change, so the only thing we can be sure that helped the cause was simple persistence, which paid off enormously for our customer.

“Microsoft licences were a substantial cost for us,” noted Emma, “with the new licence model we’re saving over 90% of that money, it’s a huge, huge saving.”

Next Steps

The Microsoft licenses are only the start of Disability Wales’ journey with excellence IT, as we’ll be taking over every aspect of their IT service, including their cyber security. We’ve also implemented a VPN which will allow staff to work remotely, updated their old equipment, and will be providing day to day IT Support on an ongoing basis.

To bring in further savings, we’re also helping the charity migrate to the cloud, eliminating server-related costs and improving reliability. Their new SharePoint hosted solution will enable them to share and collaborate on files and documents, with potential for further functionality to be introduced as they progress on their cloud journey.