About The National Trust
With more than 4 million members and more than 20 million visitors to its properties each year, the National Trust is the largest membership organization in the United Kingdom. Its core purpose is to “protect historic places and spaces—forever, for everyone,” and since its establishment in 1895, it has done just that, focusing on the preservation of historic houses, landscapes, and gardens. The Trust relies on its network of about 67,000 volunteers and up to 15,000 employees, depending on the time of year, to keep its extensive operations running smoothly and to give its members and visitors excellent experiences across the UK.
The National Trust was looking to create a data warehouse—referred to as the single supporter view (SSV)—that would hold data from multiple operational systems, including those for CRM, events booking, and the online shop. The aim? A 360-degree view of members and other supporters, including when and where they interact with the different arms of the organization. This insight into supporter interaction with the Trust would be revolutionary in terms of its marketing potential, ultimately helping one of the UK’s best-known charities to continue its work protecting the country’s heritage.
“We wanted to know our members and visitors better—where they’re based, what their visiting patterns are, how they use the Trust,” says Glen Yarwood, IT operations director at the National Trust. “We had all this information, but it was scattered across different systems. If we could make all this data accessible, we’d be able to target promotions more effectively and increase the impact of our marketing campaigns.”
The challenge for the Trust was twofold. First, it needed to find the right IT solution to get the SSV up and running. And second, it had to ensure that the technology would evolve along with the organization’s larger strategic initiatives, and do so cost-effectively and without disruption to the business.
Why Amazon Web Services
“It was clear that the best way to achieve the SSV was to take the Trust’s IT operations to the cloud,” says Martin Brambley, director of managed service provider Sirocco Systems, which has been working with the Trust on several of its key IT programs. “I was familiar with AWS technologies as well as what the National Trust needed. Specifically, Amazon Redshift looked to be the right product to enable this 360-degree view of all customer channels across the Trust.”
Yarwood continues, “When we started the project, Amazon Redshift had only recently been released. It was clear that it was a disruptive technology, which is exactly what we wanted to help us realize our SSV vision.”
In addition to Amazon Redshift, which acts as the data warehouse, Sirocco Systems built an environment using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC). Brambley says, “We host several EC2 Linux servers on which we run Oracle Data Integrator (ODI). This is a key tool for extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes, and it was vital that any system we used would interoperate with it seamlessly.”
The data from the Trust’s disparate source systems is brought into Amazon EC2, encrypted, and then loaded in Amazon S3, from where it moves into Amazon Redshift. After this, processes are triggered from ODI that merge the data into a single view.
Dealing with vast amounts of membership and supporter data meant that security was an important requirement for the Trust. “Our data is hosted in Europe, which is crucial for us from a security perspective. With AWS, we have complete control over where and how data is stored, and who has access to it. This control, along with the extensive encryption, means we feel safe. We know the Trust’s data is protected,” says Brambley.
The following figure illustrates the National Trust data warehouse and analytics architecture:
The SSV is a central tool in helping the Trust get a better understanding of what its supporters are doing. “We’re always looking to grow as an organization and expand our activities, but as with most of our initiatives, we have to keep a close eye on costs,” says Yarwood. “When we sat down with Sirocco Systems at the start of the project, we calculated that running our SSV data warehouse on AWS would be about a third of the TCO of hosting and licensing the data warehouse on traditional technologies. Essentially, it was the affordability of the solution, especially Amazon Redshift, which has enabled our SSV vision.”
Brambley continues, “With a traditional setup, the Trust would have been looking at huge capex just to get the project going. But with AWS, not only was overall total cost of ownership (TCO) reduced, but there was also no huge upfront investment.”
And, with the system’s big capacity to scale, the Trust knows its current 3TB of data can easily be doubled or tripled without a corresponding increase in costs. “The benefit of building this system on AWS is that if the Trust decides it wants to bring in twice the amount of data, there will only be a 20 percent increase in price. However, if we built it using traditional technologies, we’d be looking at a whole hardware refresh, potentially doubling the price, if not more,” says Brambley.
"We’re only at the start of the larger SSV journey, but with AWS we’re getting real insight into our supporters and for the first time can see which of our members also book holidays with us or use our online shop. This is transformational for us. As we start to truly understand our supporters better, we can more effectively anticipate their needs,” says Yarwood. “With the functionality that Redshift has given us, we can break down our analysis to individual properties, so they can drive local marketing campaigns with a view to increasing visitor numbers. AWS technology isn’t just changing what we do at a group level—it has been a real revelation for us across the board.”
One of the next projects that the National Trust is looking at is linking the SSV to core marketing tools. Yarwood says, “With complete consistency and visibility of data, we’ll be able to drive highly tailored marketing and give supporters even richer experiences, inspiring loyalty and extending the work of the Trust.”
“We calculated that running our SSV data warehouse on AWS would be about a third of the TCO of hosting and licensing the data warehouse on traditional technologies.”
Glen Yarwood, IT Operations Director