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  • Non-Profit Success: How Housing Works is Improving Outcomes with Cloud-Hosted Technology

Non-Profit Success: How Housing Works is Improving Outcomes with Cloud-Hosted Technology

Housing Works fights for funding and legislation to ensure that all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to quality housing, healthcare, HIV prevention, and treatment, among other lifesaving services.

How Housing Works is improving outcomes with cloud-hosted technology

HSO has had a long association with Housing Works, beginning in 2015. Since then, we’ve worked together on several successful initiatives. This Success Story is actually three stories: Bringing outsourced financials and billing in-house, moving their data from on-premises to the cloud, and dealing with a global pandemic along the way.

Challenge #1: Bring financials and medical billing in house

Since 1990, Housing Works has provided comprehensive services to over 30,000 homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS or at risk of infection. An organization offering an array of services—from housing and healthcare to job training and legal assistance—depends on technology to keep these critical efforts moving forward.

Housing Works encountered the first challenge in 2015, in the area of financials. As an organization with a broad array of services that support the mission, they also deal with several revenue streams.

They were utilizing Microsoft Dynamics GP for financial management, with accounting as well as medical billing (managed in another system) being hosted by an outside partner. There were issues with this arrangement, so Housing Works brought medical billing and eventually accounting in-house. Deciding to stay with GP, they began looking for a new partner and selected HSO (then AKA Enterprise Solutions, which was acquired by HSO in 2020), a GP Partner since 1989, to implement GP internally and help make the move.

At the same time, the decision was made to change the grant accounting process, which required the purchase and integration of analytical accounting and accounts payable software. In short, the implementation required some complex work, which the HSO team was successful in completing.

“They were very hands-on, and They were very easy to talk to and paid so much attention to us. They really did understand our accounting. And the communication was seamless. That’s why we chose to go with them.”

Lasha Shalamberidze Director of Finance for Housing Works

Jolanta Ilczuk, CFO of Housing Works, added, "We are delighted with the support we got from AKA at that time, and now it continues on with HSO."

Since then, Housing Works has been operating smoothly with the new solution including GP on-premises…until 2019.

Challenge #2: Modernize critical infrastructure that was unable to scale

As Housing Works grew and acquired other organizations, they were suddenly hosting 60 servers on-premises and two large data systems, one of which had grown even more with the addition of medical billing. The result was an infrastructure that could not keep up, which impacted performance and uptime. With so many employees depending on the system, downtime of only a few minutes here and there could add up very quickly.

Housing Works has its own data warehouse and operates across many locations, with the data system serving as the organization's lifeline. The infrastructure, however, was not originally designed to scale to the current level. This became evident when processes were brought in-house and other processes were changed many years ago, leading to a situation that was not sustainable.

Sometime earlier, they attempted to address the issues by outsourcing all IT functions to another firm. However, there were many issues with that solution, and Housing Works had also decided they no longer wanted to continue trying to stay current on their own hardware, so they decided to migrate their data to the cloud—and put out an RFP to find a partner to help.

After reviewing responses, the team narrowed the field down to three, one of which was HSO (then AKA). While all three offered very similar pricing, HSO stood out in two key ways.

First, HSO arrived at Housing Works ready to conduct preliminary scans and evaluations without a formal contract or commitment, aiming to fully understand the situation before suggesting recommendations. They focused on identifying issues, providing a report on the network's state, and what actions could or couldn't be taken. Following a thorough two-day scan of the network at the office, HSO delivered a detailed report and proposed moving everything from on-premises to cloud servers.

Second, Jolanta and Lasha had very positive things to say regarding previous and current engagements—and the relationship that had been established.

HSO began work on delivering a viable, cost-effective solution by moving the infrastructure to Microsoft Azure in a multi-phased approach. The first phase would involve moving the business-critical systems including GP, migrating the data center, and providing hybrid network connectivity. This would eliminate all on-premises infrastructure and applications so Housing Works could operate 100 percent in the cloud.

Challenge #3: The COVID pandemic

There isn’t an individual or organization anywhere in the world that wasn’t presented with an unexpected challenge due to the COVID pandemic. Housing Works was no exception.

The migration project was in its initial planning phase when the COVID pandemic led to widespread business shutdowns in 2020, forcing both HSO and Housing Works to quickly adjust their strategies. They had to expedite the timeline dramatically, shifting from a six-month schedule to just two weeks.

This rapid adjustment was necessitated by the infrastructure's lack of readiness for remote work as the pandemic unfolded. Despite these challenges, intense collaboration between HSO and Housing Works ensued, with efforts concentrated on migrating all operations from local infrastructure to the cloud. This collaborative push enabled a months-long project to be completed in a matter of weeks.

The result:

An infrastructure with scalability, flexibility, and security.

By migrating to the Azure cloud, Housing Works now has:

With their cloud environment fully integrated with their other on-premises systems, they maintain a seamless user experience, which has delivered big benefits.

“The system is helping us to have efficiency and productivity in our business,” said Lasha. “I can’t say enough good things.”

“We did not have any problems,” said Jolanta. “Obviously, it was very complicated, but those guys knew what to do. I went through several other transitions in the past, and this was the best transition I ever went through.”

With a strong, trusted relationship and multiple successes, HSO continues to work with Housing Works to accommodate their continued growth and help more people in need.

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