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Pixels to Policies: How Small IT Changes Make a Big Difference

The hundreds of established processes that the Calgary Drop-In Centre (the DI) runs on are geared to provide the highest quality of care possible. Separately, each stream is developed to deliver a specific service—be it shelter, identification, maintenance or administration—with workflow choices based on the situation.

Recently, the DI took the first steps to revolutionize these processes, bringing all data into one operational service, Microsoft Dynamics 365. It allows staff to turn to a trusted source, leading to better-informed decisions and an overall stronger organization.

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Business Needs

Bringing Dynamics 365 to the Calgary Drop-In Centre

The truth is, there are no easy answers. The Calgary Drop-In Centre (the DI) understands this as well as anyone. Having recently undergone an agency transformation, their mission to end and prevent chronic homeless remains at the forefront of their goals.

Stemming from the core services of shelter, health, education and housing, the DI provides wrap-around services to support an individual’s return to independent living. Over 300 DI employees across five large multi-use facilities, coordinating tasks to deal with new challenges 24 hours a day.

In a similar way, the hundreds of established processes that the DI runs on are each geared to provide the highest quality of care possible. Separately, each stream is developed to deliver a specific service – be it shelter, identification, maintenance or administration – with workflow choices based on the situation.

Recently, the DI took the first steps to revolutionise these processes, bringing all data into one operational service, Dynamics 365. When staff are faced with a complex decision, Dynamics 365 lets them turn to a trusted source, leading to better-informed decisions and overall a stronger organisation.


  • Leverages the strengths of the DI’s CRM and other Dynamics applications for intelligent modification for each department
  • Simplifies triage and scheduling of maintenance tickets is simplified
  • Improves building safety through health-related tasks and instant notifications
  • Delivers an easy method for staff and volunteers to request help, and organises the IT team’s time


Serving a system of care

Recently, the then-director of IT, Helen Wetherley Knight, made the strategic business case for digital transformation. Her detailed review found a patchwork of 170 disparate systems programs was costing the DI up to two million dollars in annual productivity. This finding triggered new initiatives to make the most of a software refresh.

Introducing Dynamics 365

The DI chose a Microsoft platform for a simplified transition: shortened migration of existing data, proven adoption by staff of Microsoft’s UI, and the Azure cloud solution allowed the DI to migrate on their own terms.

To support this large initiative, the DI was approached by the local branch of NTT DATA. They provided certified Dynamics experts to review and outline a modern, single-instance environment, where new cloud-based workflows directly addressed departmental concerns.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 at the Calgary Drop-In Centre

Microsoft Dynamics 365 unifies business data, and with it, business processes. The DI intelligently modified their system for each department, leveraging the strengths of their CRM and other Dynamics applications for each area.


The DI is one entity responsible for multiple locations, including their main shelter, donation centre and supportive housing units throughout Calgary.

In Dynamics, triage and scheduling of tickets is simplified. Maintenance managers reallocate teams’ workloads as new information comes in, using Field Service module to confirm completion of each ticket. Residents are quickly informed of the status and knowledge of events, and the facilities benefit directly from planned preventative maintenance and regular inspection reporting.

Health & safety

Health-related tasks can now be sent directly to the DI’s nursing-led clinic, with instant notifications confirming current status, improving client health outcomes. By partnering with corporations and post-secondary programs, significant upgrades to access control systems have increased building safety.

Fleet management

Supporting five facilities, providing 1.3 million meals annually and serving thousands of clients requires a lot of driving. By tracking and scheduling DI’s fleet in Dynamics CRM’s Scheduler and Field Service modules, staff know when and where they can find the trucks or cars they need, even if someone is behind schedule. The life of the vehicles themselves can also be extended by ensuring regular maintenance is up-to-date, while allocating for accidents and other related items.

IT ticket management

The Dynamics 365 model lets management prioritise the work as support tickets roll in. The IT team’s time is well organised, while staff and volunteers have an easy method to request help, direction or, as needed, new hardware. The system displays capital requests alongside original conversations and approvals, making the context of each request clearly understood.

An accelerated future

Ongoing developments will bring more of the DI workflows under the Dynamics 365 umbrella. Plans are in place to roll out external client management, client employment services, donor management, volunteer services and Human Resources services to support the DI’s satellite locations.

A better way of taking care of each other

Homelessness is a multi-faceted issue. To treat one symptom in isolation is to miss the larger picture, and potentially fall into the same pratfalls. The DI has long recognised this, and in response, continues to be committed to essential care by providing many programmes and support services for clients, fronted through a complex and equally wide-ranging number of behind-the-scenes administration, security and logistics. By bettering delivery mechanisms, the DI can be more than emergency shelter.

This is how the Microsoft Dynamics 365 installation is helping to make a difference in the DI’s litany of services. Higher efficiency with each process can mean real improvements to the individual, and in this aggregate, the DI continues to connect people to permanent housing.

*This case study was originally written by Sierra Systems Group Inc., which has become NTT DATA Services as of 17th December 2018.

About The Calgary Drop-In Centre Client Story

The Calgary Drop-In Centre used Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure to improve delivery of human services.

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