Cloudforce: Workforce Utilization in the Cloud
Background Cloudforce, a leader in Microsoft cloud consulting, began its mission to leverage the power of the cloud to build awesome things and make lives better in Virginia in 2010, before...
Based in Washington, DC, the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA) is a 90-person firm that sponsors insurance plans for US Federal government employees working in foreign policy. Its 80,000 members work at US embassies, consulates, and military bases worldwide, as well as at home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. AFSPA provides its members with a variety of insurance policies, including Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP), a healthcare plan. FSBP staff provide support for insurance claims, acting as a liaison between insurance underwriters, in-country service providers, and members filing insurance claims abroad.
AFSPA’s long-established, custom-built database had limited reporting capabilities, requiring users to submit report requests to the IT department for tasks as simple as building a mailing list for an email newsletter to members. Canned reports only allowed date ranges to span time ranges in months, but not weeks or days. According to AFSPA’s Chief Operating Officer Kyle Longton, “It would take days or weeks to get a simple report or list, so we couldn’t reach out to our members as often as we wanted.”
In addition, AFSPA’s reports expressed data in text/tabular format only, making it very difficult to spot trends in key business drivers such as member enrollments. “Of the 20 canned reports available with our previous reporting capabilities, I only found three of them useful,” recalled Mr. Longton. “Since we couldn’t run useful reports, queries and filters on-the-fly, it was very difficult to trust the data and make informed decisions. Our members simply deserved better.”
GOAL 1: ELIMINATE REPORTING DELAYS
GOAL 2: IMPROVE CUSTOM REPORTING FLEXIBILITY
GOAL 3: ENABLE SELF-SERVICE DATA VISUALIZATION
AFSPA had partnered with Cloudforce on several other projects, including the association’s Office 365 cloud migration and database modernization. When asked about improving AFSPA’s reporting capabilities, Cloudforce recommended Microsoft Power BI as the solution best fit to provide a user-friendly visualization tool – enabling access to real-time data that could be easily sliced and diced to empower actionable insights and decision making.
“After providing an initial Power BI demo, the Cloudforce team took the time to gather requirements across all the teams throughout AFSPA,” said Mr. Longton. “They not only worked with the managers, but also worked with the end-users to understand their processes and workflows to ensure that the new reporting system would be fast and easy for all stakeholders.”
Cloudforce then built dashboards and reports tailored for each AFSPA work group in Power BI and provided on-site training for all users. A separate advanced training session and custom user guide was delivered for senior staff to demonstrate the ease by which they now could build, customize, publish, and share new reports across the organization.
“For the first time, I have confidence in the statistics we are reporting. That’s a huge relief!”
Chief Operating Officer
“For the first time, I have confidence in the statistics we are reporting. That’s a huge relief,” said Mr. Longton. Reports that previously took weeks to generate now run instantly. Mr. Longton reflects his experience during a recent meeting to decide about a new product launch: “Within two minutes, I had Power BI open and was able to pull the information I needed, which enabled us to make decisions in the meeting rather than needing to follow up.”
AFSPA is also now able to communicate with members much faster, using Power BI. When the states of emergency were declared for the 2017 California wildfires and for the gulf-coast hurricanes, AFSPA immediately emailed emergency care information to members in these specific areas and activated emergency protocols with their partners. This process simply wasn’t possible with AFSPA’s previous reporting system, because of the delays in custom report queries.
Data visualizations now facilitate AFSPA’s report analysis, thanks to Power BI. “Numbers are fine, but the visualizations we build make a huge difference in helping everyone understand the information at-a-glance,” said Mr. Longton.
“I truly appreciate the partnership and support I’ve received from Cloudforce over the past three years.”
Kyle LongtonChief Operating Officer
Thinking back on the work that Cloudforce has done for AFSPA, Mr. Longton said, “I would highly recommend Cloudforce. The team takes a collaborative approach which has made all the difference for AFSPA.”
Ms. Jakub characterizes Cloudforce as, “Excellent, trustworthy, complete, and comprehensive. I trust them to think of things I don’t even know about. They are an extension of the organization and they are allowing us to accomplish goals that we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
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