Pearl Buck Case Study

Pearl Buck Center improves efficiency and gains control over their data with m-Power


Case Study Summary

Challenge

Pearl Buck Center relied on a cloud-based software package to track their day-to-day activities. But, the software couldn't be customized and the software vendor owned their data (and offered no access to the backend database). The software's inflexibility was slowing down their entire organization.

Solution

Pearl Buck Center discovered the m-Power Development Platform, a web application development platform from the software company, mrc. m-Power offered everything they needed: Total control over their data, a simple build process, and integration with other software.

Value

Using m-Power, Pearl Buck Center replaced their restrictive software with a custom solution. Their custom solution gives them complete control over their data and lets them operate far more efficiently.


Full Case Study

Overview

Pearl Buck Center is a non-profit organization located in Eugene, Oregon. They serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing services like:

  1. Job development and job coaching, where they help people find employment in the community.
  2. Supported living services, where they assist with daily tasks.
  3. Production services, in which they provide employment and vocational training.
  4. Day programs, where they do art projects, watch movies, and go on field trips.
  5. Preschool, for children ages two to five who have one or more parent with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Through these programs, Pearl Buck Center strives to help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities be empowered members of our society.

Challenge

"There was no access to the data. They had basic report writing. If you begged them or paid them, they would write you another report. But that's not the way I like to operate."

Pearl Buck Center relied on a cloud-based software package to track their day-to-day activities. But, the software came with a couple of huge drawbacks: It couldn't be customized and the software vendor owned their data (and offered no access to the backend database).

"There was no access to the data," said Sharon Hadley, Systems Analyst at Pearl Buck. "They had basic report writing. If you begged them or paid them, they would write you another report. But that's not the way I like to operate."

This put Pearl Buck Center in a tricky situation. The software locked them down, as they could lose years of data if they ever stopped using it. But, the software's inflexibility was slowing down their entire organization in a couple of ways:

  1. Duplicate data re-entry wasted time and created errors

    Since the software didn't offer backend database access, it couldn't integrate with other systems. This meant that data entered into one system had to be manually entered into others, which wasted time and led to data errors.

    This created problems in a few areas, one of which was their billing process. To receive payment from the state, they had to submit records to the state every month. Since they couldn't access the database, this was a manual process. They printed notes from the system and manually enter everything into the state's billing system. This process required 7-10 days every month.

    This problem also hurt their job coaches, who needed a way to take notes and update client records while out in the field. Because the software offered no database access, Pearl Buck Center couldn't create mobile applications that job coaches could use in the field. Instead, they took notes on paper and re-entered everything back into the system later—a process that wasted time and created data errors.

  2. The software was inefficient and didn't fit their needs

    The software didn't offer all the features they needed, and provided an inefficient workflow. But, since they couldn't modify the software, there was nothing they could do about it.

    For example, Pearl Buck Center used the software for creating and storing notes on their clients. But, accessing these notes within the software was a multi-step process, when it should be one step. Hadley estimates that this inefficient workflow wasted 30 minutes of time per day, for about 30-60 people.

Solution

"I liked that I could buy the m-Power license once, and then I could get some economies to scale just depending on how much I was willing to build or could build."

Pearl Buck Center decided that the drawbacks of staying with the existing software outweighed the drawbacks of moving on. So, they started looking for an affordable solution that would give them full access to their data.

Sharon soon discovered m-Power, the web application development platform from michaels, ross & cole, ltd(mrc). She quickly realized that m-Power offered exactly what they needed:

  • Total control over data: m-Power worked over their existing database, and operates in the cloud or on-premise.
  • A simple build process: m-Power let them build web applications (without coding) that they could customize to their exact needs.
  • Integration with other software: m-Power gave them a way to tie everything together, and eliminate data re-entry.
  • A non-profit friendly licensing structure: m-Power offered per-database licensing, which meant they could have as many users and clients as they need without paying extra fees.

"With a lot of the products out there, you pay by the user," says Hadley. "We have a 120 employees and close to 400 clients, so when we get per user or per client billing, it just gets really expensive. I liked that I could buy the m-Power license once, and then I could get some economies to scale just depending on how much I was willing to build or could build."

Value

"We are really able to fine tune m-Power to match our business processes. You just can’t get that from out-of-the-box software."

Using m-Power, Hadley created custom web applications to replace the existing software package. Pearl Buck Center now has complete control over their data, and a solution that fits their business. As a result, they have:

Created mobile web applications that eliminate data re-entry for their job coaches

Using m-Power, they've eliminated the paper-based system used by their job coaches. They created mobile web applications (complete with signature capture) that their job coaches can access from anywhere. Now, they take notes on their mobile web app which automatically updates the system.

Reduced their billing process to one day

They've eliminated the manual billing process that required 7 – 10 days every month. With their m-Power apps, there's no need to print the data and re-enter everything into the system.

"When we were able to get the monthly billing process down to one day, the manager just came in with a smile from ear to ear and said, 'I'm done with billing, I'm done with billing!'," says Hadley. "Then because she was so enthusiastic, the other two departments that I later deployed to, were actually ready for it. They were eager to have it."

Improved their systems and processes
"People recognize that we can now improve our systems, where before we were just stuck."

With m-Power, they created a system that operates the way they operate. Hadley has already replaced the inefficient note-viewing process found in the prior software. This alone saves a half hour per day for about 30-60 people in the organization.

"We are really able to fine tune m-Power to match our business processes. You just can't get that from out-of-the-box software," says Hadley.

The best part: They are no longer stuck. They're no longer forced into manual workarounds that came with an inflexible system. As others within the organization realize they now have a way to improve their systems, they're coming to Hadley with more and more requests.

"Department managers are coming to me saying, 'Can you do this now?' People recognize that we can now improve our systems, where before we were just stuck," says Hadley.

Bonus: They have the option to sell what they created

The software they replaced is used by many non-profit organizations across the country. The solution they built with m-Power is a better fit (and more customizable) than the software they just replaced.

After seeing what Pearl Buck Center created, other non-profit agencies have expressed interest in using it too. This creates an opportunity for Pearl Buck Center, as they now have the option to sell their new solution. Since m-Power has no distribution fees, they can sell it without any extra fees.

"The former software package is used by, I would say 90-100% of the agencies in Oregon," says Hadley. "And as soon as we got our job coaching community note taking thing done, we showed it to a couple of agencies. That's when my Executive Director and COO said, "We need to take this thing to the world!""

Side Note: The importance of data access

When Pearl Buck Center moved away from their old software, they understood it came with a risk because the vendor owned their data. Now, one would assume that any software company (especially one that only serves non-profits) would give clients access to THEIR OWN data. Sadly, this wasn't the case. While Pearl Buck Center requested access to their data, the vendor wouldn't play ball.

"We asked several times," said Hadley. "As soon as they heard we weren't coming back, they stopped answering our emails. They were just really nasty. We basically lost ten years' worth of history. They own the data and did not want to play."

The experience only reinforced the importance of an open solution. While the convenience of Software-as-a-Service offerings may be tempting, not all of them offer data access. While that may not seem like a big deal at first, Pearl Buck Center plans to avoid any solution that locks down the data.

"I never want to be in that situation again," says Hadley. "You know that is all they serve is non-profit organizations. That's one of the main reasons I didn't want to go with another software service. You don't have control over your data."

Summary

Despite losing some of their data, the solutions they've created far outweigh the drawbacks. They now have complete control over their data, and a way to quickly create new solutions that fit their needs. It's opened up a world of possibilities for Pearl Buck Center.

To learn more about Pearl Buck Center, you can visit their Web site at: https://pearlbuckcenter.com/

Want to know more about a similar solution for your business? If you would like more information about how you can create a similar system, or you would be interested in having us develop a custom proof-of-concept you can show the powers-that-be, please just fill out this form, or, call us today at 630-916-0662 to learn more.