D & L Representative Payee Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that handles the disbursal of Social Security benefits, used Google Docs to share documents, but it switched to Microsoft Office 365, which works with the Microsoft Office products that millions of people rely on. By using Office 365, D & L is increasing efficiency and improving responsiveness to clients while conserving costs and establishing a strong, highly secure technology foundation for future growth. Business Needs
According to the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), more than 1.5 million people in the greater Los Angeles, California, area receive benefits. Many are unable to manage the income that they receive from the SSA and do not have capable or willing family members or friends to help them. Many of those people need a representative payee service to ensure that their basic, medical, and personal needs are paid.
D & L Representative Payee Services is a nonprofit organization that does just that. The two-person company is designated by the SSA as an organizational payee that can become a client’s representative payee. The SSA sends the client’s Social Security benefit payments directly to D & L, which then distributes the funds to the appropriate entities, such as paying rent to a client’s residential-living facility or apartment complex.
||What we get for a total of $12 a month is really priceless: instant availability, a robust suite of products, and the ability to synchronize documents between Office 365 and our workspaces.
Vice President and Executive Manager, D & L Representative Payee Services
The need for these services is significant, and D & L strives to deliver the most comprehensive service to as many clients as possible, but that means managing a very busy schedule. Edwina Donaldson, President and Representative Payee Coordinator at D & L Representative Payee Services, spends her days visiting current and prospective clients, filling out legal forms and other sensitive documents, and helping clients purchase necessary items, such as a bus pass, prescription medication, or a new refrigerator. Because she aims to spend as much time with clients as possible, Donaldson needs constant access to the forms and client-related documents that help her do her job effectively.
Paul Lovette, Vice President and Executive Manager of D & L Representative Payee Services, handles the intake of benefits payments from the SSA and the outlay of funds for clients’ rent, medical bills, and utilities. These activities require constant access to client-related information, too.
In the past, D & L used Google Apps for multiple online services, including Google Docs for accessing and sharing documents. The organization became frustrated by the default settings in Google Docs that automatically changed document formats upon saving. “We’re accustomed to using Microsoft Office products and wanted to continue to use them, so the compatibility issues with Google Docs caused concern,” recalls Lovette. “We were always worried, for example, that our forms’ layouts would be skewed by whatever formats Google chose.” Plus, Google Docs required users to save documents and then copy those documents to Google Docs for sharing, an extra step that was time-consuming and easily forgotten in the midst of a busy day. Solution
D & L decided to participate in a program to test Microsoft Office 365, a set of highly secure, web-enabled tools that offer anywhere access to email, documents, contacts, and calendars, among other services. “I keep up on the IT world, and I wanted to see if Office 365 could make a positive difference for us,” says Lovette. “I was particularly interested in how it could help preserve the confidentiality of our clients’ information.”
D & L found the transition from Google Apps to Office 365 straightforward. “It was so quick,” says Lovette. “I registered our domain, shifted our email accounts to Office 365, transferred our documents, and we were ready to go in less than an hour.”
D & L is using email through Microsoft Exchange Online and secure document-sharing capabilities through Microsoft SharePoint Online, both of which are part of Office 365. “Our new document-sharing capabilities are particularly helpful,” says Lovette. “We use Microsoft SharePoint Workspace 2010 to sync documents directly from SharePoint Online and create a copy that we can work on even when we’re offline. Any changes we make to documents in those offline workspaces get automatically uploaded as soon as we’re back online, so the minute we have an Internet connection, we have up-to-date information.”
The organization expects to expand its Office 365 use in the future, especially as it adds staff members. “I see tremendous value in using Office 365 for sharing calendars, posting blogs, exchanging instant messages, conducting voice conferences, and perhaps hosting our public-facing website,” says Lovette.Benefits
D & L Representative Payee Services is confident in its decision to migrate to Office 365 because the service provides the organization with the tools to stay more productive and deliver effective services to its clients, all with an affordable price tag. The benefits for D & L of using Office 365 include:
Increased efficiency. D & L credits Office 365 with its ability to save steps and ensure that it maintains up-to-date forms, client information, and other documentation. “Our newfound capacity to save documents and automatically sync our computers has been key to efficiency,” says Lovette.
Better responsiveness to clients. With the tools that Donaldson now has at her disposal, she can do more with a client in a single visit because she has access to everything she needs without going back to her office. “I can just download documents from the computer at a client’s apartment, nursing facility, or other residence,” says Donaldson. “That means spending less time tracking down the right paperwork and more time providing services to our clients.”
Affordability. D & L receives a wealth of technology tools at an affordable price because each Office 365 license costs just U.S.$6 a month. “What we get for a total of $12 a month is really priceless: instant availability, a robust suite of products, and the ability to synchronize documents between Office 365 and our workspaces,” says Lovette.
Reliability and security. D & L appreciates that Office 365 is managed and hosted by Microsoft. “We don’t have to handle IT management or worry about cobbling together different hosted services; it’s all together in one reliable package,” says Lovette. “And if a computer fails, our data is still accessible up in the cloud, with Microsoft safeguarding it. That’s great for our peace of mind, especially because we’re handling sensitive, confidential documents.”
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