Community Action of Eastern Iowa, otherwise known as CAEI, was using a number of systems to run their business: servers, websites, and job application systems. The problem was, these systems were outdated, and none of them were user-friendly. Their network was composed of multiple physical and virtual servers needlessly complicating day-to-day operations. They also had a self-hosted website with a difficult-to-use interface. There were old copies of productivity suites, unnecessary servers running on Windows and an old Novell operating system that was designed for very technical users. Not only did this make performing updates for CAEI very difficult, but it was also terribly expensive. They were paying double for having these two complicated operating systems. By switching everything over to a single Windows environment, they would be way more cost-efficient.
They were in desperate need of a total update throughout many aspects of their company, which made us a perfect fit to create a more user-friendly atmosphere both inside and outside of the building. When they called us, that single phone call allowed them to solve all of their problems. Our Networking, Software, and Web Design teams worked together to formulate a comprehensive plan of action.
Restructure Community Action’s IT infrastructure, slim their costs down, design a new and responsive website, and improve their ability to share documents.
Each of our departments played an integral role in determining and implementing solutions to CAEI's challenges. Read on to learn what each department brought to this project.
The first thing that was needed was to improve their IT infrastructure. Our networking team did a complete assessment of the updates that would simplify and streamline their existing network infrastructure to allow their daily operations to run more smoothly, saving them money. They were using Novell for various internal affairs, while also using Microsoft for their work stations. This is a very expensive solution because they had to pay for both a Novell and Microsoft license. Our IT department switched their Novell e-mail, file sharing, chat client, intranet, imagine update computers, as well as other operational software, to Microsoft. Our help desk provided support with the minor issues to allow our Network Engineers time to handle the more complicated steps in the process to minimize downtime for our client. They started by adding a new e-mail domain in order to switch over to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). This allowed them to access the cloud. They migrated all of their file servers to make backing up files much easier. They also switched out of Novell Chat Client and transferred to Skype.
Their network has been migrated to an easy-to-use, modern system. By moving to Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and the Cloud, their e-mail was much more stable, reliable, and scalable. This created a lower overhead cost. By switching their file servers, they now have much more control over their security. We can’t stress enough that taking preventative measures and having security over your infrastructure will save you money in the long run. Skype was launched for huge cost savings. There was no cost to have this chat because of their partnership with Microsoft. Not only did it save them money, but it also gave them many more features to work with.
Next up was our Software Programming team. CAEI’s previous document sharing system was old and not accessible from everywhere. By activating Microsoft SharePoint, we managed to migrate all of CAEI’s internal documents into a new and more accessible file system that was available online to all of their staff. We also created company calendars to organize everyone in one system. This allowed for easier scheduling, simplified the process of reserving appointments in different rooms, and allowed anyone with credentials to add new members to an event. It also allows only a specific member to delete their own events and reservations. Everyone was easily migrated to the new system with a couple of management training classes.
During the development phase, we were also informed of a need for a re-vamped online job application. Having recently developed a web form-to-PDF online conversion system, our Programmers added the necessary functionality to allow applicants to upload their own resumes and have it directly e-mailed to CAEI staff. With this modified system, the backend to their website could also take data submitted from a form and place it into a digital PDF, creating a pleasant-looking document that exactly mimicked the written application.
The document sharing system is better and easier. By using just their login credentials, they are now able to access anything from company HR documents to handout for clients, along with resource links. They can also view all of these from home, Starbucks, or anywhere else with Wi-Fi. The system is simple and allows you to easily go where you want to go. Another huge benefit is that it’s automatically backed up. Resulting in a safe, clean, and accessible system.
The job application works without a hitch. The new online version not only benefited the applicants by saving them time, but it also made it easier to get a larger quantity of applicants. It is easy-to-view and able to keep PDFs in digital storage, while simplifying and streamlining the process.
Last, but not least, our Web Design team worked to create not just a new beautiful website, but also made it mobile-friendly and ADA-compliant. They accomplished this by working closely with the CAEI director and staff to create visual mockups of what the newly branded aeiowa.org could look like with an easy-to-use framework for editing content. This brought back focus to Community Action’s core constituency: families with children and families in need. They wanted to have their marketing brand uniform, so we designed templates in MailChimp that matched their branding.
Community Action now has a website which is clean and has easy-to-discover information. It's also accessible to those with hearing and visual disabilities, as well as being mobile-friendly for smartphones. With the old website, Head Start—their preschool program page, had—visits that were numbering in the tens, maxing out at 34. After the new site launched, the number of visitors skyrocketed into the hundreds, with a new peak of 658 users. We’re hoping to see that number climb further as more families discover Community Action for the first time.
Due to the size of this project, the results have been contributed to their individual departments.