Modernization can be especially challenging for needs shelters. Often underfunded, these agencies lack the digital assets to properly track its visitors and manage resources.

Drop in Calgary (DI) was one such case. Before Helen Knight helmed the association’s modernization efforts, only 70 of the 270 staff members had email addresses. Exaggerating the problem were the dated, donated computers, forcing the organization to invest thousands of hours into manually managing a database. The system was in disarray, and in turn, the stress rippled down to the 1,400 people it needed to serve daily.

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“There will always be people getting services and connecting with our social workers face to face and that’s their preference, and I’ll never move them away from that,” said Knight. “What I’m trying to do is provide faster, more accurate service, and a different level of interaction to start relationships with those clients that aren’t served by that face to face interaction.”

Prior to Knight’s arrival, IT investment was not a priority because the demand for emergency services was so great. Knight, who joined the DI in 2016, decided to partner with Sierra Systems to design an integrated Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution to eliminate manual data entry. Knight said what’s impressed her most about the project is how the digital transformation ended up leading a process improvement program for the entire organization.

Knight, with ample experience as an IT executive, immediately set out to alleviate these pain points after chairing her leadership role. After proving a return on investment of $2 million annually, Knight quickly replaced non-functioning equipment and provided everyone with an email address. She also launched a sharepoint site, which held entertainment and learning resources for visitors and staff. Most importantly, she and her team performed a full analysis of the agency’s systems and removed any outdated or non-critical modules.

Additionally, with the help of solution providers, the DI set itself up with an Azure-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 system layered on top, Knight explained.

Since shifting to a better system, the agency has been functioning as a more cohesive, more efficient unit. Its digital transformation strategy has returned 20 hours per week to staff members. In addition, the front-line leadership team has reaped back 1,460 hours annually.

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