4-page Case Study
Posted: 4/10/2012
Rate This Evidence:

National Heritage Academies Leading Charter School Organization Uses CRM System to Facilitate Effective Learning

National Heritage Academies (NHA), one of the largest charter school organizations in the United States, makes innovative use of technology to drive student achievement and ensure that classroom activities lead to the desired educational outcomes. NHA developed an employee performance system based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, introducing new levels of consistency and efficiency into performance management. Connected to student achievement data and other decision support information, the solution facilitates accountability to results and steady professional growth for teachers. NHA also uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to manage the outreach and communications with parents of prospective students and bring learning opportunities into communities. In addition, the organization is finding other opportunities to strengthen educational accomplishment by using Microsoft Dynamics CRM creatively.


“Challenging each of our students to succeed, we do everything we can to ensure that all children have the opportunity to achieve their goals and potential,” says Max Hunsicker, Senior Director of Coaching and Learning at National Heritage Academies (NHA). “We seek to make the best possible use of technology to fulfill our mission. We often deploy it to improve operational processes so that we can channel more resources directly into the learning environment.” Since its founding in 1995, NHA has grown into one of the largest charter school management organizations in the United States, serving more than 45,000 students, who attend 71 schools in nine states. The organization focuses on K-8, public-school education and has its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

* By using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to facilitate data-driven, consistent performance management and by supporting other key processes, we are making significant progress in helping children to fulfill their promise and potential. *

Max Hunsicker,
Senior Director of Coaching and Learning, National Heritage Academies


Looking for Effective Outreach and Communications

NHA offers a wealth of centralized technology resources and supporting services that help its schools maintain their focus on student learning instead of managing systems and administrative overhead. That includes a marketing and admissions department, which reaches out to parents, manages parent information meetings and related communications, and develops lasting relationships with parents and households. Employees had access to NHA’s student information system (SIS), but that tool lacked critical relationship and communications management capabilities. Admissions representatives, registrars, and others relied on individual processes and tracking mechanisms to manage the relationships and results of their outreach efforts.

Using Performance Management to Drive Student Achievement

In a very important effort, NHA aimed to bring its employee performance management practices more closely in line with its goals. As Hunsicker explains, “My challenge was to implement a new employee performance system (EPS) that better aligned with our philosophy of fostering meaningful discussions between teachers and instructional leaders. That meant a redesign of the EPS from the ground up, considering the effect our classroom activities have on students. We sought a higher level of accountability that would include students’ achievements and the factors that make them possible.”

At the time, NHA’s performance review practice consisted largely of individualized processes supported by documentation on paper. When principals, deans, and other managers sought to produce a coaching plan for employees who needed to improve their performance, the HR department collaborated with them in writing each plan as a unique deliverable and vetting it for compliance with legal standards and organizational guidelines. NHA sought not only to make performance management more consistent and efficient, but also to make better use of the organization’s insight and experience.


After reviewing available technology tools, NHA chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM to support outreach and communications and to facilitate EPS organizationwide. In both cases, NHA engaged with a Microsoft Dynamics partner,DPT Solutions, for assistance with implementing the solution, integrating it with other key systems, and adjusting it to the organization’s requirements. Because the two projects were a couple of years apart, they involved different product versions. Andy Brownell, IT Manager at NHA, says, “We realized very quickly that Microsoft Dynamics CRM offered the flexibility to support our key relationships and educational goals. We also analyzed the licensing and ownership outlay over five years and found that the costs were extremely competitive. This was the case with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and was an even greater advantage with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.”

Relationship Management Solution Becomes Available Organizationwide

Brownell and his team performed a proof-of-concept project to test the effectiveness of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in a small number of schools, focusing mainly on the campaigns and communications related to events for parents. When this successful project quickly garnered visibility within NHA, the IT group refined the data model, integrated the solution with NHA’s SIS, and made it available across the organization. Today, 243 employees, including the marketing group, parent relations specialists, registrars, and admissions representatives at every school, use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to manage their relationships and communications with parents. “Most of our remote users of Microsoft Dynamics CRM access it through a convenient, web-based console, and others use the Microsoft Outlook client to do so,” explains Brownell. “This eliminates the need to connect through a virtual private network.”

* Today, we can connect with parents in a highly focused way, incorporating best practices into our processes. We know where parents are in their decision making so that we can approach them effectively and at the right time. *

Andy Brownell,
IT Manager, National Heritage Academies


New EPS Comes Online in Fewer Than 90 Days

When it came to developing the EPS, the IT group had to meet a rapidly approaching deadline of 90 days to have the solution fully functional in time for the next midyear performance review cycle. “To support our performance review process, we had tried to integrate two learning and talent management products, but we could not fit them to our goals,” says Hunsicker. “When I heard about the accomplishments we achieved with Microsoft Dynamics CRM in our parent outreach, I asked for a proof-of-concept. The IT team managed to produce a functioning model in a very short time, proving that Microsoft Dynamics CRM could, again, be of great value.”

EPS Connects with Key Business Systems and Decision Support Data

Incorporating best practices from NHA’s performance management experience, Brownell and his colleagues developed EPS by using the xRM application development framework in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. A fast, iterative process readied the new performance evaluation tool well within the tight schedule. EPS is integrated with NHA’s Lawson human resources management system and therefore reflects the appropriate relationships between managers and their reports. It also is connected with NHA’s rubric content management system and with the data warehouse NHA maintains in Microsoft SQL Server, providing staff with access to student achievement information, performance ratings, managers’ comments, and other decision support information. As a component of EPS, consistent, streamlined coaching plans give managers an effective way to assist employees in improving their performance in line with NHA’s goals for educational success. The 380 employees who use EPS include the human resources team and all managers who have direct reports.

Future Plans

NHA is extending its use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM into other areas. The organization is currently preparing a project that will help it track the academic progress of NHA alumni through middle and high school, college, and postgraduation work. The analysis of alumni achievements will help NHA plan its educational activities even better for the success of its students.


By using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NHA can approach communities with greater impact and provide students with a more effective learning environment. “By using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to facilitate data-driven, consistent performance management and by supporting other key processes, we are making significant progress in helping children to fulfill their promise and potential,” says Hunsicker.

Maintain Accountability for Educational Objectives

In creating EPS and connecting it with organizational decision support information, NHA transforms the way it works, making decisions and taking action based on information and with the desired results always in mind. “We are fostering the meaningful, substantive conversations that matter in terms of students’ learning experience,” says Hunsicker. “EPS is a catalyst in changing from qualitative, subjective evaluation to relevant, actionable feedback. With that, we are also achieving the higher level of accountability we seek, linking all of our activities directly to student achievement.”

* We now have an extremely flexible solution that helps us turn stakeholder feature requests into working functionality in minimal time. The adaptability and ease of working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM were essential to us completing our projects on time. *

Jeff Reinke,
Director, Enterprise Technology, National Heritage Academies


Provide an Effective Environment for Student Growth

From a student’s perspective, Microsoft Dynamics CRM contributes to an enhanced learning environment. “We believe that consistency, safety, and structure are key drivers for learning,” notes Hunsicker. “By using technology to help teachers take those steps that result in better learning, we can now implement consistent practices from classroom to classroom and from school to school.”

Whereas many school districts give teachers two performance evaluations every year, NHA’s deans and principals have meetings with the teachers on their staff every week. Their observations will eventually become part of EPS. “Performance improvement needs regular, consistent feedback,” comments Hunsicker. “We are helping teachers grow quickly through a collaborative growth process that we facilitate through technology.”

Serve Parents with Ease and Efficiency

In NHA’s admissions and parent relations activities, the organization has created simpler and more consistent processes, which keep learning opportunities alive. “Today, we can connect with parents in a highly focused way, incorporating best practices into our processes,” says Brownell. “We know where parents are in their decision making so that we can approach them effectively and at the right time. For our admissions representatives and outreach specialists, it has also become much easier to manage contact data, communications, and parent events and to seamlessly make records available to other NHA teams when parents enroll their children in our schools. That, in turn, results in more responsive, student-focused service delivery.”

Enable Educational Innovation

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NHA owns a technology tool that will be highly relevant as the organization continues to grow. “We now have an extremely flexible solution that helps us turn stakeholder feature requests into working functionality in minimal time,” comments Jeff Reinke, Director, Enterprise Technology at NHA. “The adaptability and ease of working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM were essential to us completing our projects on time. We also established a successful model for using and extending the solution to further NHA’s educational objectives.”

Additional Resources Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success. 

For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about National Heritage Academies, call (877) 223-6402 or visit the website at:

For more information about DPT Solutions products and services, call (616) 957-1727 or visit the website at:

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 1200 employees

Organization Profile

National Heritage Academies (NHA), one of the most successful charter school management organizations, offers K-8 education at 71 school locations in nine states.

Business Situation

NHA sought a close alignment between its employee performance management and educational goals for student achievements. It also wanted to strengthen the effectiveness of its outreach and communications to parents.


The organization deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM to support communications, admissions, and parent relations and took advantage of the solution’s xRM application development framework to enhance its employee performance evaluation practices.


  • Maintain accountability for educational objectives
  • Provide an effective environment for student growth
  • Serve parents with ease and efficiency
  • Enable educational innovation

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011
  • Microsoft Dynamics Extended CRM

Vertical Industries
  • Education
  • Primary & Secondary Edu/ K-12

United States

Business Need
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • xRM

IT Issue
Personal Productivity


DPT Solutions