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MSF’s Shared IT Services

This project is raising the quality and efficiency of IT services by creating a global MSF Shared IT Service Centre in Prague for transversal services used by all sections.


    What is the problem you are trying to solve?

    MSF is a highly decentralized organization and there is both a need and an opportunity to consolidate some IT services into a shared capacity to support MSF entities across the movement. There is currently an ongoing digitalization of MSF’s business streams (Finance, HR, Logistics, etc.) as well as a transformation in how we are delivering our medical and humanitarian operations. MSF’s past underinvestment in IT at a global level has prevented us from achieving synergies in working together – the SITS project aims to address these challenges.

    What is your solution? What motivates you to work on addressing this problem?

    We provide centralized IT services in a standard way – whether you’re an MSF staff member based in a project or in any MSF office such as Hong Kong, New York, Amsterdam or Paris. We have created a shared asset that can be used by all sections for IT service delivery. SITS is a means to help MSF improve how we operate. When we designed the SITS program, we decided to keep it internal to allow us to retain the DNA of how MSF works. The solutions we provide are delivered for the good of MSF. This approach also allows us to assess organizational readiness to see how we can help MSF progressively transform – to do things differently for greater impact.


What have you done so far and what results have you achieved?

In 2014, there was an effort from MSF’s Core ExCom (the highest executive body of the movement) to collaborate and to find synergies. It took two and a half years to get the SITS business case approved and time to obtain stakeholder buy-in for this project. Change management is an important piece to this project. We put effort into getting buy-in at the executive leadership level and we’re now driving change management at the operational level.

In the last year, we went from concept to implementation – we created the MSF SITS entity, secured facilities, hired 20 staff and are, as of July 2019, delivering services from Prague, Czech Republic. To date, we provide support for Symphony Services (functional and user support) – which is an IT solution for MSF Human Resources – and for Microsoft Services (Exchange services, Office365, SharePoint, infrastructure services). Indeed, there are currently 85+ Microsoft-related ongoing projects across MSF that are being supported by the SITS team. We’re helping to accelerate MSF’s transformation and to overcome challenges in working together.

What challenges have you faced? What lessons have you learned?

At MSF, we are known as “doers” and we prove ourselves when we deliver. As a first step, we focused on the delivery of services. Now that we have gone “live”, we appreciate the importance of ongoing communication. The potential of SITS is fully realized when people have a full understanding of how we’re able to help.

In lessons learned, being able to say “no” is important. When people ask us for a new type of support, we ask “are you ready to shift” to receive this support? If they are not ready, we are able to decline providing these services. This freedom in how we work is extremely critical – everyone wants to be part of it, but not everyone is ready to change. It’s key to achieving an honest and fair relationship with our internal clients. We also say no to requests that are not technologically compatible with the SITS vision that strives to deliver efficiency and effectiveness to the movement.

    What have staff said about the project?

    We have received positive feedback from those we’ve served. We recently helped MSF Australia with their SharePoint migration:

    “Your enthusiasm, commitment and support were highly appreciated by all, and it has been of great value for us to know you and some of your SITS team personally. We look forward to continuing a strong relationship and wish you all the best with your ambitious workload!” – Paul McPhun, Director-General, MSF Australia

    We aren’t perfect, we’ve made mistakes and we’ll continue to do so but the key is that we remain service focused. We have a great team with a diverse range of competencies – individuals who are joyful, solutions-oriented and who have the capacity to persevere through the challenges. It’s important to learn from our failures first, and then our successes.

      What is the expected long-term impact of the project? How will this project improve MSF’s lifesaving work and the lives of MSF’s patients?

      Our long-term impact will depend on our collective ability to benefit from SITS. The SITS is about people and strengthening how MSF works. If we are pragmatic, we can bring value to MSF’s activities that benefit our patients. It’s more than an efficiency gains project; it’s about improving quality. There are many MSF sections that have reduced IT capacities. With the SITS, we’re able to structure, harmonize and standardize basic IT services. We are building an entity that is a preferred partner within the movement for transformation. By harnessing our knowledge of MSF, our flexibility, and our culture, we are creating value for missions in the field and ultimately for MSF’s beneficiaries.

      The TIC has been a supportive partner in pushing us toward impact and safeguarding against roadblocks. Going forward, the TIC has a role to play in continuing to challenge us on transforming, striving for more impact and challenging other core functions to build shared assets.