Case Study | PHDC

PHDC manages projects more efficiently and serves clients faster with Dynamics 365

Overview

PHDC helps low-income residents make needed repairs to their homes. The agency used disparate, manual processes to plan projects, track documents, schedule inspections, and pay for repairs. To streamline its complex processes, PHDC adopted the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Field Service business applications and Power Apps portals. Now, the agency has increased productivity, made remote work possible, improved reporting, and pays its valuable contractors in half the time.

A mission to serve residents

The most affordable home for someone is the one they already have. This is a core belief at PHDC, an agency that works with the City of Philadelphia to provide housing assistance to low-income residents. PHDC provides grants so that homeowners and renters can make needed repairs and accessibility modifications, such as installing a new roof, making needed electrical and plumbing repairs, or weatherizing a home.

“Philadelphia has some of the oldest housing stock in the country, and houses require ongoing maintenance,” says Jamila Davis, Public Information Officer at PHDC. “Residents might not always have money for repairs, so our programs are key to reducing homelessness and keeping people in safe, affordable homes.”

PHDC has a thorough process for its services. First, residents call to express a repair need, and the agency determines their eligibility by verifying income and residence. PHDC then sends field staff from its inspection unit to walk through the house, develop a work order, and create a scope of work. Next, those work orders are sent to one or more of the approximately 100 third-party contractors that PHDC works with to provide these services. The contractors perform the work and submit invoices to PHDC. Finally, the agency sends another field staff member to inspect the work, and then PHDC pays the contractors.

The entire process was tracked through manual, disparate methods, including phone calls, paper notes, and six standalone tools. Sometimes orders got lost because a client address was entered differently in multiple different systems. PHDC needed a modern, unified way to manage its end-to-end client service, streamline its contractor interactions, improve reporting capabilities, and increase overall efficiency.

Adopting Dynamics 365 has helped us provide our services to residents more quickly and efficiently and keep them safe and healthy in their homes. 

George Russell
Director of Home Improvement Programs PHDC

Customer engagement in the cloud

PHDC created a 145-page request for proposal (RFP) detailing its system requirements and shared it with partner RSM US. The partner recommended Microsoft Dynamics 365 as the perfect fit to simplify the agency’s complex processes. PHDC was able to use the solution out of the box, and RSM US helped the agency with additional functionalities configured through custom scripts and add-ins.

The agency adopted Dynamics 365 Customer Service to help manage its intake process, including applications, orientation attendance, document submission, and award status. PHDC also implemented Dynamics 365 Field Service for its inspection process, including the Field Service mobile app when inspectors are onsite. “We showed PHDC how to automate tasks and reduce 22 steps down to 7 using Dynamics 365,” says Bob Kanzler, Director of Technology Consulting at RSM US.

PHDC was about to go live with this solution when staff were required to stay home because of the COVID-19 crisis. But the agency was still able to launch Dynamics 365 in a remote setting and continue the agency’s vital work. “Before, we didn’t have the capability for staff to work from home, and there’s no way we could have operated remotely for the past 10 months without Dynamics 365,” says George Russell, Director of Home Improvement Programs at PHDC.

Seamless contractor interaction

PHDC used to exchange daily calls and emails with its contactors. Staff had to scan documents to email, which was time-consuming and cumbersome. To streamline its contractor processes, the agency built a portal with Power Apps portals where it can now assign projects, review work orders, schedule jobs, and track project status.

“By using Power Apps portals with Dynamics 365, we have far more visibility into what contractors are working on and the status of those projects,” says Kevin Bane, MIS Project Manager at PHDC. “The portal is an outstanding productivity tool for both PHDC staff and contractors.”

With more automated processes and centralized data, PHDC can pay contractors in less than half the time. “We now pay contractors in an average of 15 days instead of 35 days,” says Russell. “We’ve become much more efficient with Dynamics 365 and Power Apps portals, which makes our contractors very happy.”

Improved reporting and project oversight

PHDC gained better overall understanding of its projects, including intake, inspection, and contractor assignments. The agency uses the reporting capabilities in Dynamics 365 to view graphs and work order dashboards and to generate custom reports. The reporting makes it easier to monitor project status and what future work is planned.

“We can generate more granular reports, especially for internal management staff,” says Bane. “Managers have details on the exact progress of a project—they can gauge timing and see what’s in production—helping us be better prepared than ever before.”

With more automated processes and centralized data, PHDC can pay contractors in less than half the time. “We now pay contractors in an average of 15 days instead of 35 days,” says Russell. “We’ve become much more efficient with Dynamics 365 and Power Apps portals, which makes our contractors very happy.”

Fast, critical client services

PHDC’s dramatic improvement in productivity isn’t just a nice perk for the agency—it’s essential to residents’ comfort and safety in some cases. For example, if a resident’s furnace breaks during freezing temperatures, PHDC must be able to help that client immediately. “With Dynamics 365, we’re better equipped to respond quickly to urgent client calls,” says Russell.

The agency is meeting its goal to continue delivering the same quality service it always has, but more quickly and to more residents. “If residents had to spend money on a new roof for their house, they might not have as much in their budget for food or medication,” concludes Russell. “Adopting Dynamics 365 has helped us provide our services to residents more quickly and efficiently and keep them safe and healthy in their homes.”

This case study was originally published by Microsoft

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Thad Neal

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