Government agencies democratize data with Microsoft technology

Complying with ever-shifting regulations, efficiently managing a productive agency and maintaining that ever-important transparency is a tall order for federal agencies. And in this rapidly changing digital age, making the most of data is paramount. Implementing the right systems can ease this burden by helping agencies use data to streamline processes, reduce costs and boost productivity while remaining nimble.

With Convergence 2015 in full swing in Atlanta, many of Microsoft’s federal customers, including AgFirst Farm Credit Bank and Centers for Disease Control come together as a community. They come to Convergence to learn from their peers and share how they are using Microsoft solutions to better achieve their missions. They come to network, talk about industry and technology trends, and further explore new offerings such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Government. The stories below are just a few examples of how government organizations are achieving great things through technology.

Tailoring systems for better customer service

As a member of the Farm Credit System, AgFirst Farm Credit Bank provides funding and back-office services to agricultural associations, which in turn provide financing to more than 80,000 farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses across 15 states and Puerto Rico.

AgFirst needed an adaptable CRM platform to support its services, and its affiliated associations needed to improve their customer relationships. The company’s managers formed a CRM selection committee to consider several solutions, including Oracle/PeopleSoft CRM and Pivotal CRM.

After an in-depth comparison, they chose to go with a Microsoft solution to meet all their selection criteria: an economical and robust solution that could also be tailored to meet the needs of its associations. It also seamlessly interoperates with existing Microsoft technologies, making the transition easy for employees.

“Not only did Microsoft Dynamics CRM give us the ability to define our core application, it also gave our affiliate associations the ability to configure the solution to match their own ways of doing business,” said Mike Craft, CRM product manager at AgFirst Farm Credit Bank. “It was ideal for our business because we didn’t have to pick winners or losers. Everyone could adapt it as they saw fit.”

AgFirst implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM as its core CRM solution. The company then offered it as a hosted service to member associations, which could tailor it to their business needs.

As a result, two associations, AgChoice Farm Credit and MidAtlantic Farm Credit, collectively saved more than $2 million by using AgFirst’s hosted CRM solution instead of building their own.

Employees now maintain and nurture close relationships with their customers, even though the number of customers has increased substantially. Enterprise-wide access to customer data liberated salespeople to spend more time with customers and prospects.

Increasing accountability while remaining flexible

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) provides insurance to help preserve the economic stability of America’s farmers and ranchers. The organization sets premium rates and authorizes the insurance products of 16 independent companies. One of its priorities is to more efficiently manage the interactions between staff, private insurance companies and its more than 1 million policyholders.

RMA was using myriad different CRM systems, which slowed access to case management information and restricted performance analysis. Because the information was stored in separate databases, employees found it difficult to efficiently research issues and manage cases.

“Everyone at RMA understands the importance of accountability in carrying out our mission,” said Cornell Webb, manager of Analysis and Reporting for RMA. “We’re constantly innovating to find new ways to increase efficiency and improve operations while maximizing transparency.”

To boost efficiency and increase transparency, RMA needed to simplify performance evaluation and regulatory reporting. The organization selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM based on its ease of use and flexibility, built-in workflow and reporting tools, and interoperation with Microsoft Office.

Now, with a comprehensive view of each participant in its agricultural insurance program and role-tailored dashboards, RMA has reduced the amount of time required to create key reports by 80 percent. In addition, the organization has gained visibility into its operations and is better equipped to evaluate performance across its many locations.

This has helped improve regulatory compliance by enabling RMA to rapidly implement changes in accord with shifting federal legislation.

“Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives us maximum flexibility so we can provide the highest levels of service while adapting to changing government regulations,” Webb said. “Our employees love the fact that all the information they need is available in one place. We think of it as a data concierge — it’s always ready to serve up whatever information we need, when we need it.”

For more on how agencies like AgFirst and USDA are embracing data, and to find out how you can take your organization further, check out the Convergence 2015 website. For more information on how solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics, Windows and Microsoft Surface can benefit your business, head to the Convergence Micro Site.