Connecting state and local government leaders
A West Virginia state agency sped up its grant processing by building an app on top of a CRM.
WASHINGTON — West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources oversees around 1,000 grants worth about $240 million annually, and manual processing was neither quick nor good for morale.
Staff frequently found themselves sifting through stacks of paper to check on grant statuses, and data wasn’t being collected to identify reasons for the grant backlog.
Upset legislators’ and grantees’ inquiries weren’t getting answers, so the agency had Planet Technologies build it a business app on top of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM—CRM stands for customer relationship management.
“Grants are a pretty big part of what we do, and timeliness is of the essence,” said Starlah Wilcox, DHHR chief budget officer, during a breakout session at Tuesday’s Microsoft Government Cloud Forum in the nation’s capital. “We had grantees that were saying that they were going to go out of business.”
DHHR isn’t the only state government agency under pressure for more services and information “as fast as a human touch on a device,” said Planet Technologies Vice President Steve Winter, which is why more and more are exploring modernizing citizen engagement through cloud-based services.
Planet uses Microsoft’s CRM as an application development platform that takes projects to production 25 to 60 percent faster, he added.
At DHHR, a workflow has been established between the agency’s different bureaus dependent upon grant type, review times are shorter, and agreement changes are monitored via audit trails—improving accountability.
About 50 homeless shelters require grant funding each year, but staff personnel only have to type up the necessary info once and the rest populates when the grant type is selected. The app interfaces with DHHR’s accounting system to track when grant payments are made and how many.
App changes can be made on the fly by Planet, which emphasizes iterative corrections in lieu of feature releases.
At its heart, all CRM software manages people, places and things while providing decisionmakers with data-driven insights, which is why Planet can go from building an app for inmate complaints in Alabama to one for dog licensing in the borough of Port Allegany, Pennsylvania.
In the state and local government space, 80 percent of the apps built are case management apps, Winter said.
Departments can deploy the apps on premise or as a service and extend the CRM out to their constituency through a .net site or customized portals in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Planet’s mobile strategy involves providing the same user experience across iOS and Android devices.
If an agency lacks an app portfolio, a portfolio management solution is often the best first step to development.
“I never encourage boiling the ocean upfront,” said Al Smith, Microsoft public sector CRM architect. “Look for old excel spreadsheets … things you wish had mobility around them. Those are typically good targets to begin with.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.