The Burden of Legacy

By Osman Mazhar  |  Posted 2009-04-10 Print this article Print

When the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society upgraded its fund-raising systems and infrastructure, it experienced a tremendous boost in both site performance and user satisfaction.

Previously, we relied on an outsourced online donation service, which provided a personalized fund-raising Web site for each program participant. Donations were collected by the service provider and transmitted monthly to LLS. This system worked well for some time, as we were able to access the online channel relatively quickly and focus our efforts on other projects. Over time, though, as donations accelerated, the system couldn’t scale to meet the demand.

As a result, the outsourced application began to experience frequent outages and performance issues. Users were seeing their donation transactions fail or were mistakenly making duplicate donations. These performance problems were compounded by organizational issues because there were multiple owners of the IT infrastructure. The LLS IT group was burdened with managing customer support calls, often for issues that stemmed from the outsourced solution. Weak integration between the outsourced application and our internal systems led to problems with functionality and higher maintenance costs.

As the percentage of online donations increased, we were paying ever higher fees to the outsourced provider—a whopping 7 percent of every online donation. Because the provider held donations until the end of the month, we were losing valuable interest on those funds. Finally, we decided that our fund-raising costs had become prohibitively high with this partner.

We needed to regain control of the infrastructure from end to end. As we started our search, we kept in mind that donors were entrusting their critical financial data to us and were making important transactions, so our system had to be highly reliable. We needed a solution with robust exception strategies and an active/passive failover architecture that would provide full redundancy and would keep us from losing any messages.

This was something we couldn’t ignore: The last thing we wanted was for contributors to get frustrated with the donation process or to worry that their financial data was at risk.

To deal with these issues, we developed a rich user interface, using Adobe Flex technology, and built a series of front-end applications that would allow program participants to register themselves and manage their own fund-raising. We also created a set of tools for individual Team in Training chapters to administer their organizations at the local level. On the back end, we created a core set of reusable services to feed the front-end interface—a combination of newly developed applications and repurposed legacy systems.

Osman Mazhar is chief architect for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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