The Community Builders Goes with the Microsoft Platform for Digital Transformation, Clearing the Way to Help More People with Self-Sufficiency
With the need for affordable housing increasing at a rapid rate, organizations like The Community Builders (TCB) are needed now more than ever. A national non-profit real estate developer that owns or manages more than 13,000 apartments, TCB is a “neighborhood catalyst”—their housing, commercial, and resident program investments make it possible for families and seniors of all incomes to have a home they can afford. The TCB team also works to help residents access opportunities to learn, earn and thrive. And, if that’s not enough, TCB invests in local businesses and public amenities that strengthen neighborhoods…whatever it takes to “create better places for meaningful lives to unfold.”
With big commitments that impact so many people, TCB was also facing some big business challenges. As with most non-profits, they operate within tight budgets and resources, and the technology it relies upon is expensive to keep up to date but can get in the way if it falls behind.
When it comes to technology, however, TCB had a big advantage: A very talented Business Information Systems team that was ready and able to get the right technology in place, learn it inside and out, and run with it. They were ready to do whatever it took to ensure their infrastructure could support their mission. They came to HSO (then Green Beacon) over a decade ago for help with one application, and that was just the beginning of a long and productive collaboration that has resulted in a full digital transformation story.
2011: It started with CRM on premise
The TCB team, led by BIS Senior Director Ronda Moody, identified a need to replace a core legacy system with a platform that would allow the organization to be agile with modifications to meet the changing business needs. This is where Dynamics CRM on premise came onto the scene. The initial project went very smoothly—in fact, there is little detail to share because the implementation was “textbook.” TCB’s team was able to quickly take over the reins from us, and we didn’t hear much from them for some time (that’s a good thing in HSO’s world and why it’s one of our core goals as a company).
One item to note was that we shared with them an automated, custom integration and migration tool with the capability to pull data from almost any source and drop it into any other target and handling the required transformation using configurable business rules and mappings in between. With that and the successful implementation of Dynamics CRM on premise, TCB went back to focusing on their mission.
2020: Unique Case Management needs required a system to match
All was quiet until late 2019, when Ronda reached out to us for guidance. TCB was ready to embark on a digital transformation of various systems. The first of these systems was the Help Desk Ticketing system. HSO (then AKA Enterprise Solutions) worked with Ronda and her team to replace the current Help Desk Ticketing system with Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Next, Ronda came to us for a rather unique and complex Case Management solution. The external Case Management system they were using at the time to support site staff was expensive, complex, over-engineered, and couldn’t accomplish key tasks such as providing meaningful management reports. The annual subscription was coming up for renewal, so the time was right.
We demonstrated Microsoft Dynamics 365 and its various out-of-the-box capabilities, which they instantly recognized as a full, “engagement management” system. It would have everything necessary to help TCB improve management of their properties, from infrastructure to process to financials, including email-to-case (very important for TCB because of their distributed employees and supported residents), queuing of cases, responses to inquiries and requests, and so much more.
But TCB doesn’t just manage properties; they serve the residents who live in those properties. They call this mission-driven business “Community Life” –not only helping residents remain stably housed, but also identifying and connecting to external partners and resources, providing educational programming for youth, and more to help communities grow stronger.
During the design and implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365, we also took the opportunity to put Microsoft Power Apps to work to eliminate many manual processes and to clean up incomplete workflows around resident management, which was not intuitive and was keeping employees from seeing a complete picture of residents and staff within their communities.
Compounding this, like other non-profits, TCB manages private, state and federal funding sources. The ability to reliably and accurately report out on grant requirements, and to show outcomes, is essential.
One of Microsoft Dynamics 365’s strengths is that it enables easy connectivity across systems such as email, legacy applications, databases, and so forth, and makes it easy to drill into data to obtain detailed information. With a foundation in CRM, it is naturally adept at helping users know who people are, where they are, who and what they are interacting with—basically everything associated with the people living in TCB properties—as well as program management, like seeing the efficacy of residential support programs.
2022: Digital transformation complete…but there is more to do
Dynamics 365 went live, and we continued to help with their digital transformation by upgrading them from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-prem to Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE in the cloud. With all that in place, TCB got quiet again…which meant they were doing well. In fact, Ronda and her team continued with the organization’s overall digital transformation and completed their final lift-and-shift of Dynamics CRM on-prem to the cloud in January 2022. Overall, TCB migrated 5 distinct business applications to a single platform.
This is all great progress, but TCB realized how important proper reporting is to their success, so they have turned their attention to improving on that area with HSO’s Business Intelligence team Microsoft Power BI. Any non-profit knows how critical it is to keep funders, sponsors, and donors abreast of your progress. TCB relies on reporting for maintaining their relationships with their partners, some of which require tracking of outcomes based on surveys. When that is required, TCB creates data point questionnaires with which they engage their residents. The results of which are used to create the necessary reports which justify and prove their program successes.
To assist with these efforts, we’re helping them create a pre-built metadata model which enables management to easily execute both planned and ad-hoc reporting to respond to donors, sponsors, and partners. But for the TCB Community Life team, that is not what is most important: “For us, the greatest benefit of the metadata model is that it provides on-site staff with real-time tracking of resident engagement, needs, and case history which allows for targeted outreach, more intentional program planning, to avoid staff burnout.” – Ronda Moody, Senior Director, Business Information Systems, The Community Builders
With this analysis, TCB is becoming more efficient and effective in their programs.
- Read why starting with case management is the path to digital transformation
- See how BronxConnect, an Urban Youth Alliance Organization, is effectively managing client cases with a complete view of their data
- Listen in to a case management-focused round table and hear how these non-profits are addressing technology challenges