The BConnect project

In 2014, Barnardos asked Fusion5 to step in and complete stage 2 of BConnect. This ground-breaking project was specifically designed to support Barnardos’ Child and Family Services and improve their ability to collect and report on casework data in real-time.

The original version of BConnect was a complex and comprehensive case management system underpinned by Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, an on-premise solution with an SQL database.

Jaco van der Lith joined Barnardos as their Chief Technology Officer in 2015. One of his first tasks was to look at the organisation’s line-of-business applications and their lifecycles. “We engaged Fusion5 to look ‘under the development hood’ and develop a roadmap. Between us, we soon realised that the original design included a heavy degree of customisation with lots of case overviews and custom entities. This presented roadblocks to a smooth upgrade path - even just to the next level up, which was Microsoft CRM 2016, another on-premise solution.”

Van der Lith prioritised replacing customisations with out-of-the-box best practices, while avoiding any impact on their all important front-line users.

Fusion5 delivered a cloud-readiness assessment, recommending that Barnardos migrate directly to Dynamics 365 On-premise, readying the business for its final destination - Dynamics 365 Online. The project launched in 2017.

The business case for change

“Moving to the cloud was a compelling business imperative,” says van der Lith.

“Microsoft clearly signaled their direction with limiting enhancements or updates to on-premise solutions. Plus, moving online offered significant opportunities to save on our operational costs. The numbers stacked up and it was clear from a business case perspective that we should migrate. As a not-for-profit, cost is one of our biggest constraints. Our great relationship and partnership with Fusion5 helped minimise some of the pricing hurdles we faced.”

Boy hugging a tabby cat. Boy hugging a tabby cat.

“With the servers gone, and no further requirement for outsourced infrastructure management, the charity is saving 50-60% on their Dynamics 365 operational costs.”


BAU, from day one

Van der Lith’s goal was for the project to impact on end-users and clients as little as possible. “We can’t afford downtime as some of our services run 24/7. We wanted the cutover to Dynamics 365 to be seamless for our staff and our clients. The fact that none of them were affected is exactly the outcome we wanted.”

A post-implementation review (PIR), completed by Barnardos’ Independent Quality Assessment (IQA) consultant, delivered positive feedback. Front line staff commented that the defined grids and “cleaner” user interface were a significant navigational improvement, especially for staff new to the organisation. They also noted that BConnect runs faster, especially when generating reporting, including time-sensitive intervention summaries.

Stevenson says that the speed of the solution will help with services such as their Family Breakdown Assessment, where the timely turnaround of information is crucial.

“We have assessors around the country working with clients under the care of various government departments. We only have 30-40 minutes to meet with them and collect information, and five days to turn it into a report. So we expect to see efficiency gains with the new system.”

Better reporting and compliance

Like most not-for-profit organisations, providing timely, in-depth and accurate information to their funders is critical. “Leveraging the Dynamics 365 Online Common Data Service (CDS) certainly helps us comply with our funders’ reporting requirements,” says Stevenson.

He also anticipates that utilising the automation available to them through Dynamics 365 Online will reduce the cost of reporting. “I think we can deliver a lot more understanding and analysis for the same capacity and the same infrastructure. Which means getting a lot more for the same cost. And we’re keen to leverage the wealth of information and data we have in the CRM more effectively for our business planning.”

Which is why Barnardos set up its BConnect Enhancement Program, focusing on how to drive benefits from the new cloud platform, in particular PowerApps and Power BI. “These tools will be invaluable in developing and improving our internal quality assurance processes and outcomes for our clients. We’re already starting to push more of our reporting from dashboards in BConnect into Power BI to search for new insights from existing data, as well helping to define how we structure data for our management and staff.”

Two children playing in a tunnel, background image Two children playing in a tunnel, background image

"I wouldn’t change anything, I would go with Fusion5 if I had to do it all over again."


The benefits of Dynamics 365 Online

Barnardos were keen to embrace all the advantages of a full Microsoft ecosystem, including Office 365, as part of their Information System Strategic Plan (ISSP). This, coupled with the significant discounts on Microsoft solution licenses afforded by their registered charity status, reinforced the decision to take their cloud journey with Fusion5.

As well as future proofing Barnardos solutions, the move to the cloud delivers some weighty savings.

Getting the latest system updates direct from Microsoft, and access to new out-of-the-box security features like audit logs, Multi Factor Authentication (MFA), were among the many advantages Dynamics 365 Online gave the organisation. It saved Barnardos the considerable investment required to renew their on-premise hardware cost and Internet Facing Deployment (IFD) infrastructure, driving down their operational costs.

“As a not-for-profit, obviously finances are quite sensitive, says van der Lith. “You want to spend money in the right place. With the full migration to cloud, the only thing that we’re carrying over is the licence cost. All the server costs go away, which is significant.”

With the servers gone, and no further requirement for outsourced infrastructure management, van der Lith says the charity is saving 50-60% on their Dynamics 365 operational costs.

“From the business point of view,” says Craig Stevenson, Manager Service Development for Barnardos, “many of the changes and solutions we wanted were a long way off going the on-premise route. So, taking this direction enabled us to resolve a lot of issues quickly, and it accelerated the timeframe to take advantage of some of the related products.”

Scaling made easy

The move to Dynamics 365 Online simplified Barnardos’ ability to grow as their staff and client numbers increase.

“Scaling is really easy now,” says van der Lith. “We just procure additional licenses under our cloud services partnership with Fusion5. Setting up a new department that requires additional services or user accounts or licenses, is just a phone call away. Scaling down will be equally straightforward, when we need it.”

Completely replacing customisations in all instances and for all solutions wasn’t possible, but van der Lith says they managed a very good level of out-of-the-box functionality across the entire system.

And mindful that Barnardos needed the ability to access historical data, Fusion5 loaded the entire database into Microsoft’s Azure Public Cloud. When Barnardos need to run a data query they can use Azure’s SQL database using familiar methods.


Thinking ahead

The CRM function is only the first Barnardos platform to move to the cloud.

“The next step for us is Office 365, Exchange Online, Teams and all the productivity tools Microsoft brings to the table,” says van der Lith. “When we complete these projects over the next few months, we’ll be able to use the integration between Dynamics and Office 365 to drive the platform’s full potential.”

With the new cloud platform completed, Stevenson says Barnardos can react quickly to change and accelerate their ability to meet client needs.

“It’s the nature of our business to experience fast growth in periods of rapid change. For example, care services for young people doubled in revenue in the last twelve months because we started up a wide range of different services. And when Family Breakdown Assessments started up, we had eight weeks to deliver a national service.

Putting infrastructure and systems around new and growing services takes a high degree of flexibility and the ability to move quickly, says Stevenson. “Switching to Office 365 means we can accelerate placing the infrastructure we need across the entire organisation. In the past, it’s been a slow process. It was always tricky integrating the ‘work comes in and reports go out’ process. Particularly with government departments, as they all have specific requirements and different technical capabilities. So, we’re keen to iron out those efficiency wrinkles. We want to provide a much improved user experience for our staff internally, and where they’re interacting with clients off-site.”

Stevenson says that their new platform will meet the demand for improved reporting, and help them collect unvetted evidence of outcomes directly from clients receiving Barnardos’ services.

“We have got some of the capabilities we need in the existing system, and we already gather feedback from clients. But we can now look at ways to build direct pathways for client information into an analytics framework, so we have it at hand for reporting.”

Fusion5, a valued partnership

“We have more than just a relationship with Fusion5,” says van der Lith. “It may be an overused term, but it’s more like a partnership. This was a well-managed and executed project with great collaboration between Barnardos and Fusion5. It was a great team effort, with the business clearly top of mind. Fusion5’s high-quality work and commitment to understanding the detail of what we do was instrumental in making this project a success.”

Barnardos also appreciate the access they had to the Fusion5’s team throughout the project, from the people they worked with day-to-day, right up to Rebecca Tohill, Fusion5’s Founding Member and former CEO. “She was happy to be an active participant,” says van der Lith.

When reflecting on the project, and asked if he would do anything differently second time around, van der Lith says “I wouldn’t change anything,” he says. “I would go with Fusion5 if I had to do it all over again.”

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