The Geneva-based Global Fund is an international institution that invests money to save lives by fighting the world's three biggest killer diseases: Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. To date, it has committed more $16.3bn in 140 countries.
The Global Fund provides a quarter of all international financing for Aids, and two-thirds each for tuberculosis and malaria. Its board comprises representatives of donor and recipient governments, non-governmental organisations, plus the private sector and community groups.
Formed in 2002 under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), by December 2008 the Global Fund needed to become an independent organisation and manage its own corporate policies and processes. This was vital to the future ability of the fund to do its work in the most efficient, flexible and appropriate way.
When Atos Consulting arrived, the fund had just over seven months and an immovable deadline by which to achieve autonomy. The scale of the programme was huge. The entire Global Fund had to set up afresh every function that was currently being supplied by the WHO, from designing and implementing new policies and operations, to creating new services and negotiating employment packages - plus all the communication and training needed to ensure a smooth separation.
All 420 staff were employed by the United Nations, so the separation would take the whole culture and organisation outside this familiar jurisdiction. An added complication was that the fund also had to adapt to the introduction at WHO of a comprehensive computerised management system, which added complexity and strain. And, of course, all this had to be done without disrupting its disbursal of funds.
Staff at the fund reflect the nationalities and cultures of donor and recipient countries. So Atos responded by fielding a team comprising a dozen nationalities, speaking at least eight languages and with a mix of skills, including HR, IT, compensation and benefits, policies and regulations, procurement and finance. Atos managed inputs from five other consultancies and providers.
One of its most important early steps was establishing a framework for the programme steering group, comprising senior executives from across the Global Fund. This proved to be an influential decision-making forum.
If timescales were to be met, meticulous planning had to start immediately, with the development of a huge 25,000-line programme plan. A new IT system had to be chosen and implemented to support all the new administrative functions.
In response to that urgency, an Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning system was chosen in just six weeks, using a speeded-up Atos methodology.
The team then had just six months to develop and implement the new system - a phenomenally short timeframe. It used input from existing WHO work practices, and reviewed best practice from public and private sectors, together with the functionality of the new technology, to establish optimum new policies and processes.
Working groups comprising staff representatives alongside Atos and other specialists designed and implemented policies, processes and functions across HR, finance, administration, procurement and IT services. New salary, pension and grading arrangements were needed - all developed with close input from the employee representative body, the Staff Council. Employee benefits packages had to be comparable to existing arrangements.
Before separation took place, all staff needed training in the new policies and new self-service online HR tools. Atos partnered with the internal training department to design and deliver training, supplementing resources when needed.
Delivering a programme that would have taken 18 months, Atos overcame cultural, logistical and technical challenges to create a new organisation, with new admin, finance, procurement, HR and tech systems and functions; 33 new employment services; and the smooth transfer of all 420 staff.
And all done without any hiccups in the organisation's ability to disburse funds. The Global Fund is now an administratively autonomous organisation that has since grown to nearly 600 employees.
Says Ines Garcia, program manager for the Global Fund: 'We could not have managed the transition without the drive and energy from the incredible Atos team.'
With full autonomy just seven months away for the Global Fund, Atos went to work on a huge programme to set up all the 'corporate' functions previously supplied by the WHO - without disrupting normal disbursal of funds. Once it had installed a framework for the steering committee and chosen an IT system to support all admin functions, Atos set about establishing optimum new policies and processes across HR, training, finance, administration, procurement and IT services. Overcoming cultural, logistical and technical challenges, Atos built a sound new organisation in a phenomenally short timeframe.
- Be relenteless and resilient to meet tight deadlines, and lobby decision-makers.
- Prepare and support steering group leaders intensively.
- Make the client team feel involved and recognised for its achievements.
*Award sponsored by BLT