Lifeskills takes a two-pronged approach to application development. First, they use m-Power to handle most of their internal custom application development needs. Second, they use mrc's services team for projects that are too large to handle internally. With this approach, Lifeskills found a way to meet all of their development needs...without having a programmer on staff.
Deliver most applications within a couple of hourse
Can create any type of custom application they need
Have a development partner who "feels like a part of our team."
It's just been a really nice breath of fresh air as far as a vendor and customer relationship, because it's not something that you find every day.
Full Case Study
Who is Lifeskills?
Lifeskills is a nonprofit community mental health center located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They provide mental health, substance use, and intellectual disabilities services to 18 counties across the state of Kentucky.
Lifeskill’s lean IT department has a lot of responsibilities. They keep the organization’s technology running smoothly, maintain the network, support the users, and much more.
On top of these duties, they’re also responsible for custom application development. They create and maintain custom applications necessary for their organization to operate.
What does this entail? When other departments need reports or web applications, they ask the IT department. If their off-the-shelf software has gaps or lacks specific functions, they must fill the gaps with custom solutions. If the organization needs a custom application of any kind, it falls squarely on IT’s shoulders.
The challenge: Lifeskills doesn’t have any programmers on staff. How can they meet these demands with a small team and no developers?
m-Power makes our lives here at Lifeskills easier by allowing us to develop applications that meet the needs of other departments within the company.
Lifeskills found a solution that lets them deliver any type of custom application they need, using their current team and skills. They use a combination of m-Power and mrc’s professional services team. Here’s how they use each one:
m-Power is a low-code development platform that helps businesses create custom applications quickly without coding. Lifeskills uses m-Power because it lets them create custom web applications that the business needs…using their current team and skills. m-Power turns their existing team into hyper-efficient web application developers.
Jenny Culver, CIO at Lifeskills explains how m-Power helps their IT department: "m-Power makes our lives here at Lifeskills easier by allowing us to develop applications that meet the needs of other departments within the company."
For Lifeskills, m-Power provides the perfect mix of simplicity and power. As Culver explains, "The thing that I like about m-Power is that entry-level folks come in and learn it rather quickly, but it’s also feature-rich. There are so many different things that you can do with it. If you're trying to quickly meet needs, you can do rapid application development. But if you need to create a big piece of software, m-Power can typically meet all of those needs as well."
mrc’s Services Team
Lifeskills also uses mrc’s professional services team for help on larger projects. While they handle most development in-house (with m-Power), mrc’s services team is always available if needed.
“We've used the mrc services team for large development projects,” explains Culver. “Since we're a nonprofit, our IT staff is very slim. They're available to do some of that development that we either don't have the staff for or the time for.”
This combination of software and services gives Lifeskills the capabilities of much larger IT departments. They can handle most development in-house with m-Power but also have a “development team” on call for larger projects.
Value from m-Power
For other businesses that are considering m-Power, I would 100% recommend that they try it. I don't know how you could say no once you look at the product, work with the product, and look at the pricing of the product. It's one of the most economical decisions that we have made.
Lifeskills started using m-Power over 10 years ago, before Culver joined the organization. “m-Power was discovered two or three IT directors ago,” explains Culver. “I'm not really sure how we stumbled upon it. But the fact that we still use it is a testament to how much we like it.”
Over the years, m-Power became an important part of their business because it helps Lifeskills in a few huge ways:
m-Power turns their existing team into web application developers
m-Power lets Lifeskills develop all of the applications they need without a programmer on staff. It turns their existing team into developers and lets new hires get up and running in days. “The best way to learn it is to jump in,” says Culver. “That's what most of my developers have done. They just jump in and figure it out which hasn't been all that difficult for them.”
As Culver explains, things would be much different if they didn’t have m-Power: “Without m-Power our IT department would be very different. We would have to either hire someone to do the development for us or we would have to actually have a programmer on staff. m-Power helps us in that regard. It writes all of the backend code for you. So you don't have to have a very expensive programmer on staff to kind of do the application development and meet those requirements that the agency needs.”
m-Power delivers applications quickly
But, m-Power goes beyond turning their existing team into web application developers. It also drastically improves development speed.
“If we are given very clear requirements on what the application needs to do, and depending on the complexity of the request, we can typically build apps within a couple of hours,” explains Culver. “This is really helpful for folks whenever they want something quickly turned around.”
m-Power fills the gaps in their existing systems
Almost every business faces software “gaps”. In some cases, the gap lies in their existing off-the-shelf software that just doesn’t offer all of the features they need. In other cases, there’s a gap between different software packages.
When Lifeskills finds software gaps, they turn to m-Power. “It fills in the gaps where we have particular requirements that need to be met by the agency that no other piece of software fulfills,” explains Culver. “It also fills in numerous gaps where some of our off-the-shelf software packages fall short.”
Practically speaking, this helps in two important ways. First, it means that Lifeskills doesn’t need to run out and buy new software when a small need arises. They can just build a custom solution quickly with m-Power.
Second, it means that they can augment their existing systems with m-Power if they ever need a new feature. There’s no need to pay for expensive customizations when m-Power will build applications that easily integrate with existing software.
m-Power saves money
m-Power is one of the rare software tools that is still licensed on a perpetual basis. Unlike the SaaS model (where users pay monthly), customers buy an m-Power license once and can use it forever.
On top of that, m-Power has no user fees or distribution fees. That means customers can have as many users as they want and distribute (or even sell) their applications without paying extra.
This means that Lifeskills can build anything they need without paying extra fees. They can even replace other software (and its user fees) using custom applications built with m-Power. They don’t need to worry about user limits or owning software that becomes more expensive over time. Quite the opposite, in fact. The longer they use m-Power, the more economical it becomes.
“For other businesses that are considering m-Power, I would 100% recommend that they try it,” says Culver. “I don't know how you could say no once you look at the product, work with the product, and look at the pricing of the product. It's one of the most economical decisions that we have made.”
Value from mrc’s Services
While Lifeskills relies heavily on m-Power for their development, mrc’s services team is always there to answer questions and provide support.
“mrc’s services team is drastically different than almost any vendor that I've ever worked with,” says Culver. “They're extremely accessible. They take the time to understand our business and what we're trying to accomplish.”
Here are a few ways mrc’s services team helps Lifeskills:
One big advantage to using m-Power: mrc’s customer support is staffed exclusively with m-Power consultants. They understand both m-Power and application development best practices.
For Lifeskills, this is a valuable resource. If they ever have a question about m-Power or application development in general, mrc’s team is there to guide them.
“Whenever we're creating our own apps–which we do almost every day–and run into any issues and need to bounce ideas as far as how the application or the software suite needs to be set up, they're always there and available,” says Culver. “They’ll help us with the best practices way to accomplish what we need to m-Power.”
An on-demand development team when needed
While Lifeskills handles most development in-house with m-Power, they like having mrc’s services team on hand when needed. “The service team helps lifeskills because they're available to do some of that development that we either don't have the staff for, we don't have the skill set for or we just don't have the time for,” explains Culver.
Having mrc’s services team as an option is a huge advantage for Lifeskills. It’s like having a full development team on hand that can step in and deliver large projects quickly.
“I like the mrc services team because they're just good people,” says Culver. “There's something to be said for a relationship with a vendor. Usually, that has a very negative connotation to it. But Lifeskills’ relationship with mrc is extremely an overwhelmingly positive. They're extremely competent, efficient, and we have a very transparent relationship where we can talk candidly. They take the time to understand our business and what we're trying to accomplish. It feels like they're almost part of our team.”
mrc places a heavy emphasis on customer service. Customers can reach and talk to a live m-Power expert should they ever need help. For Lifeskills, mrc’s support is a huge help to their development efforts.
“The other thing that mrc offers us is unprecedented support,” says Culver. “I've been with the company for six years. The same people that were helping me learn m-Power six years ago are still there. I trust them inside and out and I value the relationship that we have. All of our tickets are responded to almost immediately. I can reach them if we have something that's on fire. They're there and ready to support us. It's just been a really nice, like a breath of fresh air as far as a vendor and customer relationship because it's not something that you find every day.”
What has Lifeskills created with m-Power?
Finally, m-Power lets Lifeskills build anything they need. They have a tool to quickly create any type of custom application their business requires, and a team to support them should they need help. In Culver’s words, here are a few examples of what they’ve created with m-Power:
Account Payable Process
“A huge part of what Lifeskills has used m-Power for is our entire accounts payable process,” says Culver. “We use that to essentially process invoices, move them up the chain as far as supervisory approvals based on the particular limit of the invoice, and then move that off into our Accounting Department to process and upload into Business Central, which is our financial GL Accounts Payable system that actually processes the invoices.”
“We've developed a system called workspace with m-Power,” explains Culver. “Within that, there are lots of different areas that provide functionality for our users. There's a facilities section that allows our users to submit work orders. For instance, if they need a light bulb changed or something along those lines, there is a section for it. We keep and document all of those critical pieces of information that we need in case someone is unavailable whenever a problem arises.”
Purchase Requisition System
“The Purchase Requisition System, which was developed by m-Power, has saved us a ton of money, since we didn’t have to to the ‘software as a service’ route,” says Culver.
User Authentication with 365
“The other thing that I think our users really appreciate is the user authentication with 365,” she says. “Before, we were authenticating to a different server, different database. Now, with that integration, they've reduced the number of accounts and passwords that they have to remember. From an end-user perspective that’s always a very positive thing,” explains Culver.
Custom Applications in General
“We've done things like develop applications to keep track of our National Suicide Hotline calls,” says Culver. “We do things like employee evaluations in m-Power with applications we've built. Whenever the Finance Department needs a small piece of software to keep track of something, or if HR needs a report out of our payroll system–anything like that–m-Power allows us to quickly produce it.”
I am the first to recommend m-Power and have them take a look and see all of the different things that it can do and the drastic amount of money that it can save them.
Lifeskills has used m-Power for over 10 years now and it’s helped their business in two important ways.
First, m-Power helps them meet the organization’s needs quickly using their current team and skills. Lifeskills can develop applications in-house…without any programmers on staff.
Second, mrc’s Services Team is always there to answer questions, provide support, or even step in and help with large development projects. To Lifeskills, it feels like an extension of their company.
“I don't have a bad thing to say,” says Culver. “For all of my IT friends that don't have programmers and developers on staff, if the budget just doesn't allow for that. I am the first to recommend m-Power and have them take a look and see all of the different things that it can do and the drastic amount of money that it can save them.”
To learn more about Lifeskills, please visit their website: https://www.lifeskills.com/.