CIO50 2022 #17 Raul Caceres, Canteen
Jumping six places to 17th in this year’s CIO50, Raul Caceres, general manager, data and technology at children’s Cancer charity, Canteen is one of an elite group of technology leaders demonstrating the power of digital technologies to help our most vulnerable.
“Throughout my career in the non-profit sector, I have worked to demystify beliefs around how data and technology can add value in the sector,” he tells CIO Australia.
This has included creating online communities around the world to bring online volunteers together to help remote communities harvest water from fog, building bamboo bikes with local materials to get to school faster in South East Asia, or founding a beekeeping school to help generate income for a community in West Africa after the end of a civil war.
Since joining Canteen in 2019, Caceres has led a number of digital programs that have transformed how the NFP raises funds at a time they were never needed more, boosted the quality of service delivery and improved support for smaller charities.
The implementation of predictive modelling for regular giving income has helped Canteen predict revenue each year with a margin of error of 0.5%, while machine learning has driven a three percent reduction in cancellations as well as improved targeting of donors for appeals supporting critical services.
On the service delivery side, NLP (natural language processing) solutions have helped improve the safety of Canteen’s peer-to-peer online support community using text analysis.
Caceres and his team have also rebuilt Canteen’s ‘client data architecture’, including evolving its online service delivery platform to use an API-first integrated approach to improve the experiences for clinicians and staff.
They’re also using ‘graph’ and sentiment analysis to better understand community performance and to provide better tools for clinicians.
“We have also identified an opportunity to support smaller cancer charities that do not have the type of technical resources we have by providing them with low-cost strategic advice and practical expertise around digital technologies, data science, data engineering and general data and technical support to help advance their missions,” Caceres tells CIO Australia.
Caceres has devoted the past 20 years to investigating how data and digital technologies might be better applied to create value for NFPs, confronting and ultimately overcoming several hurdles along the way.
“My experience has been that most non-profits struggle to find ways to create value in this area beyond looking for cost-saving initiatives or improving descriptive analytics,” he explains.
“I have worked to challenge that concept by using a beneficiary-centric approach where we find ways to more directly make an impact in the lives of the people and communities that we serve”.
The process to come up with these innovations has included the implementation of multidisciplinary working groups and the use of digital design sessions with young people to gather insights that help with the design process.
Caceres stresses that a big part of his driver over the past two years at Canteen has been “on democratising the use of data and technology across the organisation."
Key to this has been the adaptation and instruction of a ‘data maturity’ and ‘digital dexterity’ framework, which encompasses a series of capabilities Canteen is trying to develop across all departments of the organisation.
“As we work to democratise access to data and technology, we have started seeing people taking more initiative in finding ways to create value from their data,” Caceres observes.
For example, after machine learning models were implemented for Canteen’s Regular Giving and Appeal teams, other areas of the fundraising team showed an interest prompting broader deployment.
Caceres has also gained support for the inclusion of several digital transformation-specific goals, ensuring that technology now touches every area of the organisation.
“This has helped evolve the types of discussions I now have with the heads of other departments so that we can look for more opportunities to advance our mission through the use of technology,” he notes.
Product Review Committees have also been introduced, bringing together people from all departments to ensure that technology product roadmaps are not seen as technology-only projects, rather truly collaborative endeavours.
Having spent most of his career in the NFP space, Caceres has acquired some unique perspectives on how best to implement major technology projects at organisations that don’t necessarily have strong digital DNA. In particular, he reflects on the importance of setting the right pace when it comes to change management.
“At the beginning of my career, my desire to implement change did not fully take into account the importance of pace in change management initiatives. This resulted in different projects stalling or failing because, while the solution was adequate, the uptake of the solution was not to the required level.
“The biggest lesson learned from this is that, regardless of how good a solution might be, if not paced correctly, the chances of success are much lower”.
Nowadays, he spends a lot more time working closely with the people that will enable the solution to become successful from the initial planning process, during implementation and after being implemented, and with multiple people championing the initiatives.
“Also, instead of trying to launch solutions that are fully baked, my team focuses on creating the foundations so that other areas can expand on the utilisation of the solution from that initial implementation”.