Case study | NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)

Case study | NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)

Company profile

NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) is a national children’s rights-based charity, providing advocacy and legal representation to care-experienced children, young people and vulnerable adults. NYAS has a network of 200 salaried staff, 550 volunteers and 350 self-employed advocates and works with many local authorities and partner organisations across England and Wales.

I just feel that they listened to our requirements, understood our needs and then delivered for us. It seems that any challenges we throw at them, however complex, they figure out a way around them and come up with a solution.

What were the challenges?

NYAS has to manage confidential and often sensitive information about children and young people. This includes legal and advocacy information, such as emails, letters and records of phone calls, which for obvious reasons must be held securely.

NYAS’ legacy IT infrastructure included not just one, but three different systems, including a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system created in house some 10 years ago which was no longer fit for purpose. It was also software-based, rather than cloud-hosted like most of today’s modern CRMs.

Dean Burgess, Head of IT at NYAS explained: “One of the challenges was that our CRM system was outdated. Whenever we needed to update the database or add new services, we’d have to update the software package, deploy to all our computers and then fully test. This caused a lot of problems and was a real headache to manage from an IT perspective.”

He added: “We were constantly putting a sticking plaster over the problem. It was also very confusing for staff – they used one system, external contractors used another and then referrals were made using a different system. It was very messy.”

The decision was made to decommission the legacy system and implement a new solution that would integrate with NYAS’ Microsoft Office 365 infrastructure – Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.

Key takeaways

We contacted one of their existing clients and received some very positive feedback.

The solution

NYAS created a basic specification for the new CRM and sent it to five different companies. Dean Burgess said: “We decided that CRM Dynamics, as a smaller company, could provide us with the expertise and service we were looking for, as well as deliver the new CRM within our planned timescales and budget. In fact, their pricing was very competitive! We also contacted one of their existing clients and received some very positive feedback.”

To ensure business continuity, the team from CRM Dynamics worked on the implementation of Dynamics CRM while NYAS’ legacy systems were still operational. “They basically developed the new system in the background so that we could carry on with our business,” said Dean Burgess. “We discussed our requirements with CRM Dynamics and they helped us move the project forward.”

After making various tweaks to the new CRM, NYAS opted for a ‘soft launch’, with some staff members testing the features in ‘real world’ scenarios. In April 2021, the new CRM was launched and was initially operational alongside the legacy systems. “We went live with most services on Dynamics 365, with CRM Dynamics helping us to migrate the other services.”

The process

Dynamics 365 CRM is a cloud-based system, which has enabled staff and contractors to work more collaboratively, as Dean Burgess explained: “The process really starts from our website where a social worker sends a service request. Basically, that is triaged and goes straight to the helpline where staff assess if the referral can be dealt with. If it can, they email the request to a line manager in the local area who then allocates it to someone in the field. It’s a really smooth process.”

The new CRM also benefits external contractors, as Dean Burgess explained: “Previously our contractors had to use a basic web interface to access information, but now with a cloud-based CRM they can use an app on their phone to upload their reports remotely on the move. This saves time and avoids creating multiple paper reports and it is also more secure.”

To help both staff and contractors become familiar with using Dynamics 365, CRM Dynamics created a Learning Hub, enabling staff to go online and go through all the educational material on using Dynamics 365. Dean Burgess said: “Having that support from CRM Dynamics has been really helpful, it is a great resource which has prevented a lot of issues and calls from users, who can now do a lot of things themselves.”

He added: “CRM Dynamics is continuing to work on the CRM in a test environment, what we call a ‘sandbox’, developing features for new services in the background without affecting anyone else’s work. These new features will eventually be pushed out onto the live system without any day-to-day disruption.”

I just feel that they listened to our requirements, understood our needs and then delivered for us. It seems that any challenges we throw at them, however complex, they figure out a way around them and come up with a solution.

The benefits

One of the biggest benefits of the new CRM is the enhanced ability to extract data and information. Dean Burgess explained: “Extracting reports is so much easier and faster, which is really important for us internally and for the local authorities we liaise with. Previously I would have to create complex database queries, now staff can access information without any technical expertise.”

Previously, the finance department had to “jump through hoops” to extract the right data to pay staff and IT would have to spend hours collating figures from the legacy system each month. “Now, I can achieve that by clicking one button,” said Dean Burgess. “So not only does it save IT resource, it saves the finance team a lot of time and effort too. Similarly, processing expenses on the legacy system would take me seven hours, now it’s just a click of a button for the finance department.”

Working with CRM Dynamics has been a very positive experience, according to Dean Burgess: “What CRM Dynamics has effectively done is removed three legacy systems from the equation and put everything into one centralised solution, so there’s much less confusion now.”

Trust has also been a major factor in the success of the project. “One of the reasons we decided to work with a smaller company like CRM Dynamics is that we felt we could trust them. They understood straightaway the sensitive nature of our business and the importance of managing data securely. They ensured that only certified users could access certain parts of the data. That was very reassuring.”

He added: “Another benefit of the new CRM is how easily we can upgrade it to meet our requirements. We can easily make changes and create new reports. It’s been a really good experience.”

So how did NYAS find CRM Dynamics as an organisation to work with? “They’re great,” said Dean Burgess. “I just feel that they listened to our requirements, understood our needs and then delivered for us. It seems that any challenges we throw at them, however complex, they figure out a way around them and come up with a solution.”

Looking to the future, NYAS is going live with another service that is currently being worked on by CRM Dynamics and which will be live in January 2022, with further services expected to be integrated in Spring 2022.