From April 26th through the 29th, Polly McDaniel, Director of Business Development, and Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations, will be in Washington, DC for Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) Conference.
For nearly 100 years, CWLA has existed as a coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies that work to serve children and families who are vulnerable. Their expertise, leadership and innovation on policies, programs, and practices help improve the lives of millions of children across the United States, though their work makes a positive impact worldwide. They envision a world where every child will grow up in a safe, loving, and stable family, and focus on children and youth who may have experienced abuse, neglect, family disruption, or a range of other factors that jeopardize their safety, permanence, or well-being. CWLA also focuses on the families, caregivers, and the communities that care for and support these children.
We’re very excited to attend this conference for the first time in 2018. iCarol serves many clients who work directly in this space and use our solution to log their contacts with families and caregivers, and connect vulnerable families with resource information using the built-in service inventory that iCarol offers. So that we can continue serving them well and add more such agencies to the iCarol family, we’re eager to meet more of these organizations in person at the conference so we can continue to learn about their needs and see how iCarol might assist them improve the quality of life for children everywhere.
We’ve long promoted the idea that data sharing can help our clients build coalitions and partnerships, make a greater positive impact in their communities, and create new revenue streams for the organizations. One way we’ve adapted iCarol to make this easier for them is to build support for the Open Referral data standard in iCarol. If you like, before you read about the announcements we’ll go over in this blog, you may wish to get a refresher course on what data standards are, how they make such collaboration possible across different software systems and databases, and why Open Referral in particular has been adopted in iCarol.
Today we’re excited to announce two new and exciting iCarol Resource API enhancements, which now extends support for the Open Referral’s HSDS 1.1 schema and a full list of resources. Both of these new enhancements are designed to help you with your sharing collaborations and to access new funding opportunities.
iCarol is the first major I&R Software vendor to support emitting resource data that is fully compliant with HSDS 1.1 and the HSDA specification. For over a year iCarol subscribers have had access to downloading resource files from iCarol in the HSDS 1.0 schema, but we are pleased to now announce support for an updated HSDS 1.1 schema in the iCarol Resource API! You can read more about this schema here: Human Services Data Specification (HSDS). This schema creates a common language for software applications to share information across platforms.
Our clients in current sharing relationships using our iCarol Resource API have also asked for a way to access a full list of all resources available in their system, or even better, to filter that list by records last updated. We are happy to announce a new Resource API feature allowing a simplified, unpaged list of resources to be returned allowing your data partners to better access and use your resources in external projects.
We know that the ability to share data and to collaborate with your partners both within and outside of iCarol is important to you. Sharing resources can also open up new revenue opportunities in your communities. If you would like more information about how iCarol can help you success with your sharing and collaborative projects, contact us — we are here to help!
Are you concerned that the volume of Chat or Text traffic coming through to your service is lower than you were expecting it would be? Or, are you in the planning stages of adding a Chat or Text service to your center and want to develop a plan for alerting the community to this new way to access your program?
Join us on Monday, April 9 at 2pm EDT for a Q&A webinar with a panel of staff members operating successful Chat and Text programs to hear about how they communicated their service offerings to their communities. Can’t make it? Fear not! We’ll have the recording available to watch at your convenience.
Learn More and Register
On Sunday, June 3 in Dallas, Texas, members of our team will hold our annual iCarol User Group Summit. This Summit happens each year the day before the AIRS Conference sessions begin, and throughout the day we hold trainings on iCarol functionality of particular interest to the Information and Referral industry. We end our day with a traditional User Group session to discuss the latest enhancements to the software and the planned developments ahead. We also welcome your input and suggestions during this user group session, so that we can continue to evaluate and prioritize the enhancements currently on our development schedule.
If you’ll be at the AIRS conference this year, we hope you’ll join us on Sunday for this free event. Click the button below to learn more about the User Group Summit and register to be there!
Have you been considering adding on popular and in-demand communication channels like Live Chat or Texting to your organization’s services? Are you curious to see how these channels are handled in iCarol, and how they fit seamlessly into the rest of the functions of the software? I hope you’ll join my teammate Mary and I for a live demo on Thursday at 2pm EDT so we can show you!
To find out more about this webinar and what we’ll cover, visit our registration page.
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We’re excited to announce that iCarol is now a part of Harris Computer Systems — a software company focused on providing long term software solutions to local government, utilities, school districts, healthcare and other public sector clients. iCarol will be run as its own entity within the CityView portfolio of solutions.
More than 14 years ago, iCarol began with a simple idea that by introducing technology that was designed specifically for the unique needs of a not-for-profit helpline, the managers could improve the service delivery, the quality of the people, and ultimately the lives of help seekers. Founders Neil and Jackie McKechnie combined their mutual experiences in two very different worlds – volunteering at a Distress Centre and careers in the high tech industry – and built a solution that would go on to be used by hundreds of organizations and over 76,000 users worldwide. We’re very proud of our origin story and honored every day to serve the caring and selfless people who work at those organizations.
Just as we aim to empower our clients, joining Harris Computer Systems empowers our team and the iCarol solution to reach new heights. We feel that the deep market knowledge and not-for-profit industry experience at the iCarol level, combined with the infrastructure, guidance and business expertise of Harris, is a winning combination.
The iCarol story only gets more exciting from here, and we’re looking forward to all the new possibilities ahead. Becoming a part of Harris Computer Systems is the latest positive step for the growth of iCarol, and for the benefit of our expanding client base.
The skills and natural abilities that make us great listeners, social workers, and mental health advocates don’t always lend themselves to making us naturally at ease in management roles. Yet, at the heart of every thriving behavioral health organization is a strong and well-functioning team, and these teams often do not exist without adaptive leadership and effective management. As the demands on managers increase and access to resources becomes more elusive, the team’s ability to deliver on its performance indicators becomes even more crucial to program success.
Simply put — you can’t adequately deliver services, maintain funding for your program, and ensure quality performance, enthusiasm and job satisfaction among your staff without effective managers.
We hope you can join us for our next webinar on this topic, scheduled for January 9, 2018 at 1pm EST:
Practicing Effective Management presented by Sarah Bowman and Travis Atkinson of TBD Solutions.
What You’ll Learn:
In this webinar, we’ll provide tangible keys to effective management through strong working relationships, performance communication, delegation, and professional growth. We expect that by joining us you will:
- Learn the four critical behaviors of effective managers: knowing your people, communicating about performance, pushing work down, and growing your people.
- Understand benefits and challenges of managing people in a mission-driven organization.
- Learn how to proactively address the most common challenges faced by managers, including burnout, turnover, poor communication, and lack of accountability.
Space in this free webinar is limited! Click here to register.
Meet Our Presenters:
Sarah Bowman, Associate Consultant, TBD Solutions
Sarah has infused the behavioral health system with infectious energy and a commitment to excellence for over 15 years. Her strong leadership, utilization of data-driven decision making, and focus on outcomes measurement has helped enhance a vast array of behavioral health programs and services. She is a dynamic presenter and trainer, with an excellent track record for building high performing, strengths-based teams.
Travis Atkinson, Associate Consultant, TBD Solutions
Travis has served as a manager and educator for over a decade. A consummate student of management and leadership, Travis has supervised diverse teams and maintains a reputation for getting lasting results and spurring innovation. He has trained hundreds of managers across the Midwest.
The end of a year is typically a time for introspection as we look back on what we’ve accomplished and begin to plan for the future. This past year has certainly been challenging for a variety of reasons, but you, our clients, have been a consistent source of inspiration throughout it all. You have repeatedly stepped in to assist the most vulnerable in their time of greatest need. Whether it was responding to those at risk during and after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, helping survivors in the aftermath of a violent attack and addressing the surge in awareness and discussion around those topics, assisting those struggling in their day-to-day environment, or handling countless other problems and requests, you have stepped up to make a positive difference in the world.
They say there’s strength in numbers, and you demonstrated it this year with creative partnerships to aid each other in your respective missions. In the interest of brevity, I’ll cite just two examples: first, a California 211 who on very short notice agreed to back up a Florida crisis center as Irma grew close, utilizing iCarol’s ability to share contact forms and resource data. The plan ensured help seekers would still have someone to assist them even as the Florida center lost its power and telephone service. The California 211 logged over 1,100 call reports during that crisis.
In another powerful example of strength in numbers, a group of crisis centers across Canada banded together to form the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), agreeing on a common process and technology standard in order to provide a seamless network of assistance to those in crisis. The vision of a unified national service was first championed by Karen Letofsky, and began providing service in late November of this year. CSPS uses iCarol for logging contacts, chat and texting. Their very first interaction, a chat, resulted in an active rescue of a teenager. Countless other stories could be told of the valuable services you’ve all performed throughout this year, and of the powerful network you’ve built to assist each other in times of need.
At iCarol we have always strived to provide the best possible software and service we could to empower you further. After listening closely to your feedback last year, in 2017 we focused most strongly on overall service stability, product quality and in the addition of critical functionality to iCarol. We also wanted to ensure we built in additional feedback loops from you to help us continue to improve. So, you might ask, how have we done?
I’m pleased to say that for 2017 thus far, we’ve achieved our best “up time” in the past 10 years, exceeding 99.972% system availability, per our third-party monitoring service. To put 99.972% in context, it averages out to only 24.2 seconds of down time per day, or a total of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 15.9 seconds for the entire year. We’re feeling especially good about the percentage given that this year our customers logged over 10 million contact forms in iCarol, doubling the number of forms entered just 3 years ago. Your need for access to iCarol stretches ‘round the clock, and our relatively small company has delivered this year with up times comparable to industry giants like Salesforce and Amazon, ensuring you have access to your systems as you provide vital services.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve product quality. iCarol contains almost 300,000 lines of code, which implies a significant amount of work to continually test its feature functionality. In late 2016 and throughout 2017, we’ve been investing in automated testing as a way to ensure more ongoing, consistent testing. To date we’ve created 220 automated test cases, which will be kicked off nightly as the codebase is updated with new bug fixes or features. Our plan is to grow the number of automated cases to cover more and more of iCarol, thereby relying a little less on manual testing, which can be subject to human error. The more product defects we can capture before a release, the better iCarol will perform for you. This will also help us to speed up our release cycle in 2018, releasing an update on average every two weeks throughout the year, delivering feature functionality to you more quickly. As always, check the iCarol Dashboard for news on upcoming releases and any features it may contain.
The iCarol Ideas Portal was launched this February as a more formal feedback loop for you to suggest improvements, and to vote on Ideas of fellow customers. It also enables the ability for Q&A, allowing our Product Management team to gather more detailed information about selected Ideas. We’re thrilled that you’ve jumped in and begun logging your Ideas, enabling us to see trends in your voting. We’ve implemented multiple Ideas this year, and plan to add more in 2018.
In 2017, 2,769 code changes were made to iCarol, which translates into over 790 features and bug fixes added throughout the year, as we strove to improve iCarol per your feedback. Some of the most notable enhancements this year included a new release of Messaging, which incorporated the text or chat conversation into the call report form, the massive Field Visibility enhancement for resource database managers, and an updated Public Resource Directory 2.0, with its configurable Guided Search, among other features.
Smaller enhancements can also provide a lot of value for our clients, as you reminded us through your suggestions on the Ideas Portal. These included enabling a custom date range for the Summary Report, receiving an email notification when a resource is flagged for review, requesting email outcomes from an Automated Verification campaign, receiving notifications for bounced email from an Automate Verification campaign, and initiating an Automated Verification request when editing a resource record.
Finally, we’ve also begun formalizing focus groups on particular areas of functionality we’d like to improve. If you are a “Power User” of a particular area of iCarol, meaning you use it heavily, and have strong opinions on how it could be improved, we’d love to hear from you so that we can add you into a focus group. Each group will be small, but will hone in on specialized functionality so that we can obtain very detailed feedback on what works, what doesn’t, and the special requirements and limitations you run into in your environment. As I hope I’ve conveyed throughout this note, your voice and expertise is a valued part of our business, especially as part of our product management process.
All in all, it’s been quite a year. We hope you’ve weathered the storm well in both your personal and professional life, and we wish everyone a safe, secure and happy new year. Everyone at iCarol continuously marvels at the fine work you do and your life-changing and life-saving contributions to our world, and we’re excited to see your continued positive influence in the new year. We remain honored to serve you, our clients, and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2018 and beyond.
Microsoft products play a large role in what we do and the innovative service offerings we’re able to pass along to our clients. So, we were delighted to have the recent opportunity for Jackie and Neil to sit down with Andy Pitman, Director of Health and Human Services Solutions at Microsoft, to talk a bit about iCarol and the incredible work of our clients as life-saving social safety nets of their communities. You can check out that interview here. We’ve very excited to announce some additional initiatives between ourselves and Microsoft soon – stay tuned to the blog and your iCarol Dashboard for more information.
Read the Interview
As we mentioned in our recent blog about the iCarol Ideas Portal, quite a few recent and upcoming enhancements to iCarol are a direct result of contributions and engagement on the portal. That includes these recent enhancements to Automated Verification — the iCarol tool that helps you keep Resource records accurate on a regular basis, and helps maintain AIRS accreditation, with less manual work by your Resource Management staff.
Automated Verification Request Email Outcomes and Bounced Email Notifications
Whether you’re sending just a handful or a hundred of requests for verification out to service providers, it’s nice to know what happened to those emails and if they made it successfully to their destination. With this latest enhancement, you now know even more about the outcome of those emails, specifically whether or not they “bounced,” i.e. they encountered a problem along the way and did not make it to their intended destination. This would happen particularly if the email address wasn’t valid, which tells your Resource Managers they may need to contact that organization to verify a valid email to use for future Automated Verification Requests.
In addition to seeing the bounced status when viewing the original request page, the Resource Specialist who initiated the request will also receive an email notifying them that the request bounced and did not make it to the intended recipient. The additional notification via email will help alert them to the fact that the verifier did not receive their Automated Verification request, which could help them address and resolve the issue more quickly.
Initiate an Automated Verification Request While Editing a Resource Record
Sometimes you may want to initiate an Automated Verification Request for a single record in your database. You could certainly do this using the typical method of going to the main Resources search screen, choosing the “Verify” option, and searching for the record you wish to verify.
However, often when a single verification is needed it’s because the Resource Manager was actively reviewing the record and notices it needs an update. Or, perhaps another staff member has flagged the Resource and the Resource Manager is investigating. In these and many other cases, it would be very convenient to initiate an Automated Verification Request right then and there, for that single record, without having to go to the main Resource search page. Well, now you can do exactly that! While editing a record, in the section that outlines verification information, a link appears that can initiate the request. When clicked, the link takes the Resource Manager to the page where they configure the request settings.
We hope our Automated Verification users enjoy these two enhancements to the feature. We think they’ll help maintain Resource accuracy while saving your Resource Specialists some time in the process.