To ensure victims of domestic violence receive legal and medical support quickly, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service (DVAS) in Perth, Australia, wanted the ability to store client information in electronic files and selectively share them with other support providers. In 2012, DVAS teamed with a highly agile Microsoft Services Consulting team to deploy a cost-effective solution in just three months. Working with world-class product experts on the Microsoft Services Global Delivery team, a solution architect crafted a customized design with unique application file security features, while an engagement manager ensured the system could be used by associated service providers. Because the new system mirrors established work patterns, employees find it easy to understand. With rapid referrals to legal and medical aid, domestic violence victims find refuge in hours, rather than days. Situation
The Domestic Violence Advocacy Service (DVAS) in Perth, Western Australia, provides free help and support to victims of domestic violence. Staffed by professional counselors, legal aid officers, and child protection officials, the service helps clients assess their situation, provides access to legal and medical services, and expedites admission to safe refuges. DVAS is part of a larger organization, Womens Health & Family Services (WHFS), which provides a broad range of associated services, including support for women with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol dependencies.
To provide a fast, comprehensive service, DVAS staff members need to collaborate with personnel in other WHFS service areas, as well as external medical and legal entities. Each WHFS service, however, maintained its own records and reports, with employees recording client information on specially designed paper forms, in personal notebooks, and in spreadsheets. As a result, DVAS staff members sometimes struggled to consolidate client information in single files and share details quickly with WHFS colleagues and external organizations.
|The consultants gave me confidence our system would work the way we wanted it to work. The things that needed to be fixed were fixed quickly, so we moved rapidly from user testing to rollout.|
| Vivienne Pillay|
Manager, Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, Womens Health & Family Services
“We wouldn’t automatically know if a client had already consulted another department within WHFS, which meant we couldn’t establish a full 360-degree view of her situation,” says Vivienne Pillay, Manager at Domestic Violence Advocacy Service. “This affected the speed and quality of our service, and it also created a risk that the client might receive guidance that did not take into account all available facts.”
DVAS was steadily expanding. It had recently begun an outreach service for victims of domestic violence at four suburban and rural centers across Western Australia. The vast distances involved, however, made sharing physical files impractical. As a result, DVAS staff in Perth might have to ask clients to repeat their stories before being able to provide help.
“By 2011, we received 30 to 40 calls per day, and we were struggling to efficiently manage our caseload,” says Pillay. “We wanted to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ offering a seamless service as part of WHFS. To achieve that, we needed the ability to log all client information in one place, to share selected information with other areas of WHFS, and to securely exchange client information with external parties.”
A technical solution had to be exceptionally easy to use because some highly valued staff members were not familiar with IT systems. DVAS also wanted the solution quickly to help them manage rising demand. And to meet the reporting needs of state and federal funding bodies, DVAS wanted a system that would give them the potential to design and generate multiple types of reports. With limited resources and complex security requirements, however, DVAS struggled to find a local IT service provider that could do the job. Solution
In early 2012, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service secured funding from the Western Australia Department of Finance to develop the one-stop-shop concept. As part of the agreement, DVAS approached Microsoft Services Consulting, which provides world-class Microsoft expertise that helps customers craft solutions. The service includes solution architects who work directly with customers and the Microsoft Services Global Delivery team, which builds solutions offshore. “The solution architect was highly experienced, having designed customer relationship management [CRM] solutions for six years,” says Pillay.
To ensure rapid delivery and minimize risk, the solution architect employed the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step delivery methodology. Using established project management techniques and field-tested best practices, the solution architect systematically established business requirements through a series of staff workshops and designed the solution. “The methodical approach gave us real confidence the system would be ready on time,” adds Pillay.
As an efficient and cost-effective alternative to hiring a local solution provider, the solution architect asked the Global Delivery team to build the CRM system offshore. Composed of technical experts who are familiar with a product’s intellectual property—and who work at the forefront of Microsoft product development—the Global Delivery team can rapidly create solutions that are technically advanced. They used their expertise to create a customized solution for DVAS using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, with collaboration and case load–management features and an integrated branch office capability.
Microsoft Services Consulting also provided an engagement manager, who coordinated input from all stakeholders, ensuring that the DVAS system conformed to the needs of all agencies within Womens Health & Family Services. The engagement manager also monitored the budget, ensured project issues were promptly escalated, and provided updates for project sponsors and stakeholders.
“The engagement manager and solution architect were critical to the success of the project,” says Pillay. “They helped create electronic forms for each process and service, and workflows that mirror the way we work. We also created a set of privacy rules so that each service could share files while ensuring sensitive information remained confidential. The consultants gave me confidence our system would work the way we wanted it to work. The things that needed to be fixed were fixed quickly, so we moved rapidly from user testing to rollout.”
|The solution architect and the engagement manager displayed a real sense of urgency … turning around all modifications within 24 to 48 hours. From the moment we first talked with the solution architect, he and his team were fantastic.|
| Vivienne Pillay|
Manager, Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, Womens Health & Family Services
With help from Microsoft Services Consulting, DVAS completed the project within three months, and 60 of 70 WHFS employees began using the client management system for day-to-day casework. Once it was complete, the solution architect briefed a local Microsoft Dynamics CRM specialist, to provide ongoing support and help develop the reporting capabilities that WHFS eventually needed. Benefits
With Microsoft Services Consulting, the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service engaged a highly agile team, able to rapidly customize a client management system that is simple and easy to understand, and which immediately improved the quality of service that employees deliver. Cost-Effective Customization and Rapid Delivery
The solution architect’s ability to tap world-class Microsoft Dynamics CRM skills within the Global Delivery team was crucial to the success of the customized client management system. With their help, DVAS created a system with complex security features, using expertise that would have been difficult and expensive to resource locally.
“Our solution architect got the Global Delivery team to do all the customizations we wanted,” says Pillay. “He also reached out to the wider Microsoft Dynamics CRM community to source ideas, which he then incorporated into the design. With the engagement manager, he did a phenomenal job at delivering a high-quality product.”
Just as importantly, Microsoft Services Consulting helped DVAS deploy the client management system quickly. “To be honest, everything happened fast, and everyone was surprised at how soon we had our system,” says Pillay. “The solution architect and the engagement manager displayed a real sense of urgency and a desire to get the system in and working quickly, turning around all modifications within 24 to 48 hours. From the moment we first talked with the solution architect, he and his team were fantastic.” Excellent Usability Yielding Process Improvements
As a direct result of the collaborative relationship established between Microsoft Services Consulting and DVAS, staff members have a system that they like using. “In the very early stages, our staffers were nervous, but once the client management system was in they found it very easy to use. The solution architect designed the system so that it exactly follows the way we work. I have one staff member who had never used a computer. After just a few days, she was totally comfortable with the new system.”
Excellent usability has delivered immediate process improvements. “The system has had a huge impact on our speed of service: we save time on referrals because we can share relevant information with external agencies, and we save time dealing with clients because we have instant access to their files,” says Pillay.
“We can do things we couldn’t do before, like see at a glance if a counselor has a free time slot, which means we can make an appointment straightaway while the client is on the phone,” she adds. “The system is also a great improvement from a management perspective. I can easily track progress on each case, so it’s much easier for me to focus on service quality.” Faster Response to Urgent Client Needs
Within weeks of being deployed, the client management system proved its value. “A gravely ill woman who had just suffered domestic violence came to see us, and she urgently needed medical care, legal assistance, and a safe refuge,” says Pillay. “The new system radically changed the speed at which we can respond.
“As soon as we had taken her information, we passed essential details to a legal counsel so that lawyers were taking action on her behalf—before she was even through their door. As a result, we got a restraining order in place quickly, to prevent further harm. We were also able to pass her clinical details to a doctor, who rapidly assessed her condition and got her admitted to the hospital. And with that clinical assessment in our system, we quickly secured accommodation for her. With our new capabilities, we were able to place a desperately unfortunate woman in a safe refuge within 36 hours, where she was able to live out her remaining time peacefully and securely.”
Pillay credits the customized client management system with improving the way that Womens Health & Family Services works. “This is a testament to the way we work now, not just within WHFS but with external parties such as doctors, hospitals, and lawyers. The system has established such a reputation that we are now demonstrating it to other not-for-profit organizations. They are always impressed.”
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