4-page Partner Case Study - Posted 12/12/2013
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Ontario College Application Service

Long-term commitment to Microsoft Business Solutions greatly enhances productivity at OCAS

“We are now far more productive than before. As OCAS has grown we’ve increased our services and reporting output to support the expanding operation, all without any increase in staffing levels.”

Paul Wemyss, Director, Corporate Services, OCAS

The History

Ontario College Application Service’s mission is to support the Province’s public colleges, providing reliable, applicant-centered information and application services, data warehousing for business intelligence and marketing services in order to make their 24 colleges the first choice amongst prospective students. As Canada’s most populous Province and therefore the one with the highest numbers of students, the services of OCAS are essential to provide prospective students, some 200,000 annually, with access to Ontario’s colleges.

The progression of Microsoft-based solutions at OCAS

In the early 2000’s OCAS undertook a solution search and vendor RFP process, looking for a potential replacement for their decade old Dos-based ACCPAC accounting solution. The existing system was rigid, lacked the ability to be easily scaled up and therefore was no longer able to cope with the growing needs of their organization. Frustratingly it also required a significant amount of manual processes such as printing and re-typing of information. In addition, around this time a change in department management brought about the impetus to move off the old system and implement a new solution.

Following this search, Danish solution, Navision was selected as the best fit for OCAS and was implemented in 2002, providing a new General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable solution. “I can’t believe we have been using NAV for over a decade. We have records in the system dating back to 2002!” comments Senior Financial Analyst at OCAS, Deb McCollum. This was all happening around the time Microsoft was increasing its business solutions offering, purchasing Great Plains as well as the Danish company that produced Navision.

Navision or Microsoft Dynamics NAV® as it is known today has moved on since those early days with vastly improved functionality and a high performing user interface with personalized screens. And OCAS have moved along with its development, upgrading through several different versions over the years resulting in ever increasing productivity.

OCAS’s Technology Environment
Servers Windows
ERP System Dynamics NAV
Business Database SQL
Application System Dynamics CRM
Employee Self-Serve Portals SharePoint
Communications Infrastructure Exchange
Desktop Systems Microsoft Office
Deployment Strategy On Premise
Following on from the successful implementation of the Navision financials solution, OCAS continued the roll-out of Microsoft based technology in 2005 with the replacement of their ADP outsourced payroll solution, bringing it in-house and integrated into what had now become Dynamics NAV.

Then in 2010 came the replacement of their Oracle-based, highly customized college application processing solution. Keeping in line with the IT strategy its replacement was chosen from the Dynamics family - Microsoft Dynamics CRM®. Its function was to manage the receipt and processing by OCAS of the approximately 200,000 annual applications to the 24 colleges.

Most recently of all, OCAS implemented the Altus Dynamics Employee Portals (AEP) for Finance, Procurement and Human Resources, based on Microsoft SharePoint®. The introduction of the Portals enabled wider role-based access to the back-end NAV solution, without the need to purchase full licenses.

We have our 6 core users who work in the solution all the time, but the Portals allow non-financial users and those who only need to carry out limited tasks to access elements of the solution such as viewing department budget vs. actual data or making a purchase request. We no longer have to take requests from outside the system and manually input them. They are already there for us which is a great improvement and reduces work for Finance,” says McCollum.

The Solutions

“Leveraging Microsoft Dynamics has been of great benefit to our organization and resulted in a level of service unachievable with disparate solutions. Working off one underlying platform was truly the right strategy to take,” comments Wemyss.

Over a decade ago OCAS implemented a Microsoft-centric IT strategy, having the foresight to envision the advantages that can be gained from solutions that have different functions, but feel the same and communicate with each other. Today they have in place just that; multiple solutions each carrying out a different function but inter-operable.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV: As Microsoft’s business solution for the mid-market, Dynamics NAV is perfectly positioned to run OCAS’ finance, HR and Payroll requirements. Providing powerful base functionality and reporting, the OCAS version is enhanced by the layer developed by Altus Dynamics to meet the vertical functionality needs of their type of organization. “NAV, in my opinion is the market leader in providing broad horizontal features and functions while the flexible platform of NAV enables Altus to deliver enhanced capabilities for the public sector”, comments James Faw, Chief Technology Officer at Altus Dynamics.

Altus Dynamics Employee Portals based on Microsoft SharePoint: Allows non-core user access to the NAV back-end, empowering users with the ability to make requests, manage profiles and view reports pulled from the NAV solution. For example, Budget Managers at OCAS now have access to more information, right at their finger-tips, than ever before. Does this put extra strain on the Finance Department to produce reports? “Absolutely not. Quite the opposite. Via the online portal, they can access the reports themselves, based on the real-time data that is in the system. They no longer need to make requests of finance for this report or that number. It’s a better use of everyone’s time.” says McCollum.

* I can’t believe we have been using NAV for over a decade. We have records in the system dating back to 2002! *

Deb McCollum
Senior Financial Analyst


Microsoft SQL: Microsoft Dynamics NAV and SQL go hand in hand to deliver an ERP solution with robust centralized database management capabilities.

Microsoft Office Suite: OCAS benefits from the Microsoft Campus Agreement, a program to provide special pricing for higher educational institutions. OCAS negotiates on behalf of its member colleges and sister organizations, who then bulk buy their software licenses through a selected partner. This arrangement and process not only increases the services OCAS provides to the 24 colleges in the network and smaller affiliate organizations, it also benefits Microsoft, giving it greater penetration into the higher education sector.

The Benefits

When it was first proposed to move off their existing ACCPAC solution, OCAS could not have envisioned the path they had set themselves on. The solutions they now use didn’t exist back then let alone have the ability to deliver the functionality and inter-operability they now benefit from on a daily basis.

“Just from the perspective of NAV, It has been very beneficial. Microsoft has consistently added new features and functionality which are of use to us. It has grown and therefore allowed us to grow too.” comments Wemyss. “We are now far more productive than before. As OCAS has grown we’ve increased our services and reporting output to support the expanding operation, all without any increase in staffing levels.”

Integrated Solutions: Using solutions from Microsoft ensures that integration and inter-operability is built into the systems at a base code level. This allows information to be easily moved in and out of the solutions. This could be exporting data from NAV in Excel or transfers from Dynamics CRM into NAV.

IT Infrastructure Cost Savings: Switching to Microsoft-based solutions allowed OCAS to standardize their IT infrastructure as the solutions work off the same type of databases and need similar hardware. This in turn meant standard hardware to run the systems resulting in cost savings.

Support Capabilities: Using the services of one Microsoft Partner to support both the back-end (NAV) and front-end (AEP) has allowed OCAS to benefit from constituent support service delivery.

Much More Information. Much Better Access: With the solutions they now have in place, Finance and HR/ Payroll staff at OCAS can gain access to more information and drill down into records to see what is behind the topline numbers. The wider staff has access, via the AEPs to both input, update and view information, something not possible previously.

Improved Staff Productivity: Staff are no longer burdened with manual processes such as re-keying of information or having to respond to large volumes of information and reporting requests. The combination of an efficient backend solution and front end portals empowers applicants or staff and allows NAV users to focus on core elements of their roles. Shared Services: Having a robust Finance and Payroll solution, managed in house has allowed OCAS to provide financial and payroll services to a range of smaller sister organizations, who lack the in-house capability and don’t want to go with a major outsourced provider. These additional services reinforce the value provided by OCAS and the investment in their Microsoft Business Solutions software.

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

Solution Overview

Partner Profile
Altus Dynamics is a Gold Certified Canadian based provider of ERP and CRM solutions, based on Microsoft Dynamics, to the Not-for-Profit, Education and Government sectors.

Organization Profile
Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) is a non-profit corporation created by Ontario's twenty-four public Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology and Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning. Its primary function is to facilitate and process the approx. 200,000 annual applications to Ontario Colleges.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Microsoft Sharepoint Server
  • Microsoft Office

Vertical Industries
  • Membership Organizations
  • Higher Education



Altus Dynamics