Over 33 years, Shaping Outcomes has seen significant change and growth. However, the organisation is now faced with significant and unprecedented reform through the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Find out how they’re adapting with Office 365.
Our work with Shaping Outcomes began in August 2014. Since that time the Tweed Heads based non-profit has undergone a significant digital transformation. Much of the credit for this goes to Jan Cronly, Shaping Outcomes Executive Officer. At the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference, Jan was invited to speak about her experiences with Office 365 and GCITS. The following case study is an extract of the talk Jan delivered at the conference.
Discover how Office 365 helps Shaping Outcomes make real change, in the words of our customer, Jan Cronly.
Good afternoon. I am Jan Cronly, Executive Officer at Shaping Outcomes. Thank you for the opportunity to come here today and talk about our organisation’s experience in transitioning to Office 365, and the benefits realised in the past 12 months.
Who is Shaping Outcomes?
Shaping Outcomes provides supports to children with disabilities or developmental delays and their families across the Tweed Shire, a large regional area of Northern NSW. We are a small community-based NFP and have recently developed an alliance with a similar service in the neighbouring Byron Shire.
Between Shaping Outcomes Tweed and Shaping Outcomes Byron we have 21 employees: 13 staff who work in the field, 8 staff who are based in the office, and we work with over 20 private-practice and community therapists, 35 preschools and 40 schools.
We have over 250 families each year that access our diverse range of early intervention supports delivered both onsite and increasingly in the home, at preschool, at school and in the community.
Shaping Outcomes’ Challenges
As a parent of a child with a disability, our family was fortunate to have accessed Shaping Outcomes in 2011, and in doing so created the opportunity for me to transition from being a parent of a child accessing the service, to being a parent-member of the Committee, to stepping into the role of Executive Officer almost 2 years ago.
I raise this because through these differing perspectives, I gained a broader understanding of how Shaping Outcomes delivered its supports and this contributed to identifying the way we communicate and share information as an area in desperate need of an overhaul.
Technologically speaking, we needed to upgrade to the 21st century. Outdated technology, standalone PCs, lack of backups, no network and a reliance on paper-based records placed the organisation at risk, particularly in terms of security, efficiency, storage and accessibility.
With the increase in delivery of supports in mainstream settings, that is being offsite, we required a new and innovative platform in which information could be captured, stored and shared remotely.
Also reflecting on my lived-experience as a parent, I was aware that the amount of paperwork and documentation, albeit provided with the best interests at heart, was overwhelming and substantial.
The required solution
How Shaping Outcomes found GCITS
A member of the Committee who worked in IT, recommended Office 365 – so in August 2014, Shaping Outcomes purchased Office 365 E3 for Not for Profits. The package cost $6.50 per user per month which for a small NFP organisation was desirable and financially sustainable.
As a small organisation with no IT department and limited IT skills, the next step was to engage a consultant to migrate data from multiple desktops to Office 365, create user accounts, as well as provide training. I rang three IT consultancies in our area, and only one responded. Elliot Munro from GCITS came in for an initial consultation, listened to our issues, what we needed, and our vision of where we wanted to go, and then developed a range of options including add-ons that were compatible with Office 365 that we could possibly integrate at a later date.
Within a very short time-frame Elliot had migrated our data and set up Office 365. Elliot trained all our staff who had varying degrees of computer competency and confidence, accommodating our diverse training needs by providing both group training sessions, one-on-one training sessions and telephone support.
Using Office 365 to be more effective
The Office Apps
In being able to access Office 365 desktop apps on up to 5 PCs or Macs, staff now have access at home, at work and offsite, in particular access to mail, calendar, OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, and Skype for Business.
This accessibility has supported Shaping Outcomes in providing flexibility for its staff to work from home, removing the need for staff to be at work every day, thus reducing the costs of overheads for the organisation.
There has been an increase in the number of hours that staff are working from home and with many staff already covering vast distances for family visits, staff satisfaction within the workplace has increased as a result. We also utilise Skype for Business for our weekly staff meetings.
Email, Contacts and Calendars on Exchange Online
In transitioning from paper diaries with obvious limitations, to the Calendar, staff are now able to view their own, and other staff members’, calendars remotely. This is key in implementing our safety practices where a key worker needs to advise a colleague that they have arrived and then safely left a location. Key workers now update their calendars as they arrive and leave, and this has removed the need to report back to the office in person or to text or call a colleague.
Perhaps the greatest utilisation has been OneNote where staff have created dynamic lists, placed minutes for all staff to access, included photos, videos and progress notes, as well as sharing research and resources, and managing caseloads and waitlists.
We started with one main site that contained the folders, files and records for Shaping Outcomes Tweed, however with the recent alliance with Shaping Outcomes Byron, additional sites have been added. GCITS has assisted in reworking SharePoint to include:
- A main team site for Shaping Outcomes that contains information relevant to both sites such as policies and procedures, service information, templates, and research documentation.
- A sub-site for Shaping Outcomes Tweed and a sub-site for Shaping Outcomes Byron that contains site-specific information such as HR records, governance information, and client records.
The results of moving to Office 365
If I now reflect on the progress made in the past 12 months directly resulting from the use of Office365, I note that our organisation has:
- Significantly reduced its IT costs
- Staff now work more flexibly and more efficiently
- Increased face-to-face contact with families due to less hours required in the office
- Increased communication between staff, families and other service providers, as well as between sites
- Staff now access video content as learning resources whilst offsite for families, professionals such as preschool teachers, and community providers such as the soccer coach or swim teacher
- Records that are securely stored and accessed in accordance with funding agreements and legal requirements
- Increased office space due to significant reduction in paperwork and archiving
- Increased staff satisfaction