Work Unleashed: PATH streamlines technology to expand its humanitarian mission

Work Unleashed

Welcome to our Work Unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

PATH is a global nonprofit dedicated to health equity. They use their expertise strengthening health systems and developing people-centered interventions to solve some of the world’s greatest public health challenges, like HIV, malaria, and now COVID-19. To create change, 1,400+ people at PATH work with communities, government ministries, and healthcare workers across 70+ countries.

David Smith, Senior Manager of Knowledge Management, supports the PATH vaccine team with knowledge management solutions. When he started at PATH a few years ago, the technology environment encompassed a lot of disconnected software platforms. Documents and collaboration tools were spread out across various repositories. One of his early goals was to hone in on a centralized repository for files: Box. It turned out to be a timely IT project in light of what happened next. 

When COVID-19 came along, PATH had to be nimble in its delivery of services. In a recent conversation with Box, Smith painted a picture of an organization that had already put the right foundation in place when it was forced to suddenly pivot project priorities and ways of working.

Staying lean, but with robust technology

Like most nonprofits, PATH has to stay as resourceful as possible. The onus is always to find tools that are affordable but not "cheap."  Smith says, "One of the challenges we have as a nonprofit is that whatever technologies or resources we have, it behooves us to be able to maximize the value we can out of them. We need to be good stewards of our resources."

Technology that can support a nonprofit’s mission without getting in the way becomes part of the solution. It may operate relatively seamlessly in the background, without a lot of fanfare, and that’s the idea: “Our drive is to get people thinking less about technology and really focus on what the work is," explains Smith. 

Certain teams within PATH were already using Box, so when Smith conducted an audit, Box emerged as the leading contender. "It's a very easy tool to pick up," he says. "Being a nonprofit, it's also really important we can sustain it and provide maintenance." Smith's team worked closely with Box Consulting during the migration of around 120K docs in just four months, allowing them to design a taxonomy and content architecture with Box best practices in mind.

A timely transition from legacy systems to the cloud

As fate would have it, PATH wrapped up migration of all existing content into Box in early 2020, just as the pandemic began impacting operations. Suddenly, a lot of the travel inherent in their work got put on hold, and employees began to work remotely from their homes. 

Smith says, "Having the coincidence of consolidating everything within Box at the same time that we all moved into remote work helped us better support our folks. In addition to the physical technical migration of files that we went through, we also had a pretty robust change management strategy in educating our users and bringing them along."

With the ambiguities of an obsolete content management system gone, Smith's team could support globally dispersed employees in a hands-on way. “Our currency is documents, and Box is our foundation,” he confirms. "Box was just one less thing we needed to worry about.”

A tech stack streamlined for optimal use

PATH now has what Smith calls “plumbing”, with Box as a content layer and Smartsheet software for project management. To serve up content to stakeholders, Tableau dashboards are also in the mix. This very simple, streamlined content management paradigm has served the organization well as priorities have shifted this year.

PATH experts have spent the last several months engaged with governments around the world, building emergency operations centers and advising on testing and treatment protocols. They've helped build digital data systems to support real-time surveillance in countries including Senegal and Vietnam — where efforts include the creation of dashboards, mapping tools, and case forms. And in their headquarter city of Seattle, the organization has been deeply involved in manufacturing PPE for local workers.

Having technology in place that is essentially "invisible" has meant Smith's team hasn't had to spend time troubleshooting and has instead been able to spend time closely supporting such projects. "There's so much going on with COVID," Smith says, "It's nice not to have technology get in the way of work. The best technology is so integrated and seamless that it's invisible."

In service of solutions

As Smith puts it, "Times of crisis have a distilling effect to help you understand what's really important." The sobering reality is that, even as COVID-19 rages globally, there are plenty of other very serious diseases out there PATH is still trying to control.

Cloud content management isn’t going to directly end human disease or even find a vaccine for COVID-19. But any tool that takes the focus off technology and puts it on meeting human needs faster and more efficiently will ultimately be part of the solution.

To learn more about how Box enables your dispersed teams, check out our remote work resource hub.