UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein + Platform.sh

Challenge

To eliminate limited, time-consuming testing processes that impeded development workflow

Solution

Adopt Platform.sh to gain the flexibility to test and deploy new services faster

Results
  • 60% reduction in costs
  • Ability to scale during emergencies
  • Improved donor and fundraising experiences

Pioneer in nonprofit digital transformation moves to Platform.sh, gains flexibility, drives innovation

For more than 70 years, the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, has been committed to children’s rights throughout the world. Today, more than 12,000 employees in 150-plus countries worldwide work diligently to advocate for children and to provide support and services for education, health, nutrition, and hygiene. UNICEF also campaigns for refugees and against recruiting children into military service. All of the organization’s efforts are financed entirely by voluntary contributions from governments and private donors.

Numerous national committees represent UNICEF on a global scale, acting as independent nonprofit organizations that educate the public on a local level about UNICEF’s sustainable development goals and collect donations for both national and global UNICEF projects. One of these committees is UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein, founded in Zurich in 2018. As an independent non-governmental organization, it’s one of UNICEF’s 33 national committees.

Manfred Ruf, the head of information technology at UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein, has been working with the organization for nearly 15 years. His responsibilities include IT infrastructure maintenance and ensuring the security and operability of unicef.ch. He’s also responsible for the continuous development of communication systems and the donation portal. In recent years, Ruf repeatedly encountered setbacks in his development workflow due to a lack of flexibility in testing processes—until he migrated from his old hosting provider to Platform.sh.

“Today, I can easily create a clone of my current system, and it's fast. We’re much more flexible.”

Creating more efficient ways to work

Ruf’s goal has been to replace outdated systems with modern technologies to create agile workflows that can help manage the organization’s IT infrastructure more efficiently. UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein uses Drupal for web development and is supported by the expert Drupal team at Swiss-based MD Systems and its subsidiary Kampaweb, both Platform.sh partners.

Part of the organization’s digital transformation was a long-needed overhaul of the outdated unicef.ch website, last updated in 2013. With swift, ever-evolving technology advancements and the official November 2021 end of support for Drupal 7, a timely transition to Drupal 8 was needed. Platform.sh provided the necessary flexibility to the organization’s testing process.

Prior to adopting Platform.sh, UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein was hosted on Nine, the leading cloud provider in Switzerland; a sandbox was used for testing purposes. Even though there hadn’t been major problems with the old solution, Ruf encountered obstacles during the transition from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. And creating a testing environment was limited and time consuming, Ruf explains.

“Eventually MD Systems asked us if we wanted to change our hosting provider. They said Platform.sh would make it much easier to create test environments and copy entire web pages, so we could proceed faster. In general, we trust our agency to recommend the best possible solutions.”

A compelling combination: cost effective, reliable, and GDPR-compliant

Since UNICEF Switzerland joined forces with Liechtenstein in September 2018, an important criterion for any tool used by the organization has been its conformity with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); Liechtenstein—unlike Switzerland—is subject to European data regulations. Ruf quickly learned that Platform.sh not only complies with the GDPR, but also enforces strict security standards in general.

Although Ruf normally tests and compares three to five different solutions, he says that the Platform.sh price/performance ratio was unbeatable, which led to a quickly made decision.

“The cost was a major reason why we decided to go with Platform.sh. It is far less costly than our previous provider, and we actually decided relatively fast that we wanted to change,” Ruf says. “And I have to say we’re very satisfied. We didn’t have any failures or loss of speed.”

60
Reduction in costs

Less complexity, more productivity

UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein has been with Platform.sh since 2018, and Ruf says he’s more than satisfied. He emphasizes that the organization has benefited from numerous Platform.sh services and that he’s happy to have made the switch.

“Even though we didn’t have any serious issues before using Platform.sh, everything was more complicated,” Ruf explains. “Especially when it came to building test environments. I had to call MD Systems, and they had to copy all the content. So it took a long time to test something new. Today, I can easily create a clone of my current system, and it’s fast. We’re much more flexible.”

New pages go live faster, can be scaled at any time

One of the most important technical criterion for Ruf is to retain flexibility in providing new services. Fast and smooth deployments are often critical factors for the organization. Emergency situations, where quick action is required, are not uncommon.

“If, for example, public fundraising reaches out to us in the morning with a request for the creation of a certain page that has to go live in the afternoon, I can do it the same day,” explains Ruf. “Prior to Platform.sh, it would take me half a day or even an entire day.”

The newly won scalability that UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein gained through Platform.sh has become indispensable for the organization today. Ruf also praises Platform.sh for its easy usability and customer support.

"If you ever need anything or want to change something, there's always someone to support you quickly. Unlike other platforms, Platform.sh is much less bureaucratic.”

Enabling the adaptation to modern technologies

Currently, UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein is working with MD Systems on a complete revision of its current donation and fundraising processes. The cloud-based CRM service Salesforce will soon replace the old system to enhance the future fundraising experience for donors and UNICEF. Platform.sh will play a significant role in the transition to Salesforce.

“Everything about payment transactions and the payment status is now being completely revised,” Ruf says. “It’s a huge project.”

Even though Salesforce has been offering a custom solution for nonprofit and charitable organizations for years, not many nonprofits in Europe are using the solution. UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein is now considered to be at the forefront of digitization in the nonprofit sector. Ever since the project started, Ruf has been attending a large number of industry events, presenting the new venture to other organizations. “And I also like to mention our good experiences with Platform.sh,” he says.

Platform.sh provides UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein with test environments and the necessary flexibility to move the project forward efficiently. The revised donation and fundraising processes are scheduled to go live in March 2020.

“Especially in the context of testing, we use Platform.sh a lot,” Ruf says. “We build test environments with Salesforce integration and test processes quickly and easily. The flexibility helps us enormously.”

An optimistic look into the future with Platform.sh

Ruf explains that UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein realizes benefits from Platform.sh in terms of productivity, speed, and cost. “Costs have decreased by more than 60%,” Ruf says and shares that the organization has also started to use Platform.sh to host another children’s aid website.

“Everything has become easier and, above all, faster. The handling of Platform.sh is professional, there are no noticeable failures, and the good price-performance ratio is, of course, very important in the nonprofit sector. The cooperation is simply great and has no downside.”

Manfred Ruf

UNICEF bases its commitment on the principles of tolerance, mutual understanding, solidarity, and peace between peoples. The children’s relief organization opposes any kind of discrimination, is politically and denominationally independent, and works to improve the living conditions for children in developing countries. Learn more about UNICEF and how you can make a donation.