In mid-2019, Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), the public housing authority for Knoxville and Knox County in Tennessee, contracted Avèro Advisors to help the agency gain an understanding of its current information technology platform (e.g., infrastructure, staffing levels, processes, operations, hardware & software) through an organizational IT assessment.

KCDC wanted actionable strategic recommendations to assist in developing, maintaining, supporting, and upgrading a responsive, secure, and stable technical environment cost-effectively. To further support this initiative’s objectives, the Avèro team conducted a series of fact-finding and visioning sessions with various key stakeholders across KCDC’s Departments.

During interviews, Avèro focused on gathering critical feedback from KCDC staff regarding daily activities, including challenges they faced, their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to technology, and any changes they believed would enhance their productivity through modernizing IT operations. Our findings provided vital information to evaluate the current state of KCDC’s IT program and determine its technology needs and potential improvements, which could be made to build efficiencies, optimize processes, and streamline operations in the future state.

Following the closure of the data gathering activities, Avèro conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis through Gap Analysis, which considered the inherent gaps identified between the findings from the “AS-IS” state in relation to KCDC’s aspirations for the “TO-BE” state. Our team identified IT best practices demonstrated by local governments and public housing authorities to alleviate gaps similar to those identified at KCDC. Avèro subsequently developed an IT Strategic Plan report that included a set of IT modernization strategies to resolve the potential setbacks of identified weaknesses & threats and emphasize the strengths & growth opportunities for both internal and external controls at KCDC.

Additionally, this IT Strategic Plan (ITSP) also functioned as the cornerstone of KCDC’s efforts to improve the balance between demand for more, better technology and available IT resources and guide the agency’s decision-making in the next five years.

Below are some highlights that the Avèro team identified and provided to KCDC with strategic recommendations to mitigate the gaps within its IT environment:

Procure and implement a new ERP system

The existing Public Housing Authority Software, EmPHAsys Elite, did not provide sufficient integration and applications to support KCDC’s business needs (i.e., payroll/HR, reporting, contract management.) Avèro recommended KCDC to replace EmPHAsys Elite with a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that would be used as a single repository for all information regarding KCDC’s business operations. The new ERP would automate standard business processes (e.g., PO management, AP, budgeting) to improve efficiency and integrate with other KCDC’s enterprise systems to have relevant data across departments (e.g., HR, payroll, inventory control, asset management.)

Avèro currently serves as a consultant to assist KCDC in system evaluation and selection to ensure the potential software vendor’s level of service aligns with the agency’s business needs for an optimal ERP solution.

Establish periodic training for IT end-users

Lack of proper, consistent training for all software and systems prevented staff members from utilizing available IT resources to their optimal potential, which could result in a negative impact of customer service. Avèro suggested KCDC consider enhancing the performance evaluations process to identify IT training needs, develop and maintain training documents consistently for critical systems to be made available to its staff. This continued training would ultimately lead to less manual work done by staff, optimized processes, and continued excellence in customer service.

Re-implement EDMS

The current EDMS (Electronic Document Management System), Eclipse, was implemented without effective file-naming conventions and hyper-targeted search abilities, which resulted in creating bottlenecks when attempting to recover documents. Furthermore, the absence of automated document workflows and lack of ability to organize and locate documents efficiently required KCDC to maintain an abundance of hard-copy documents.

Avèro recommended the agency to re-implement its EDMS software by conducting business process analysis, determining functional needs & requirements, and performing a proper system implementation (e.g., system configuration, integration and testing, UAT, training.) This should enable KCDC to reduce paper for critical business processes (i.e., plan review, permitting, work orders) and provide easy search and retrieval operation.

Update the Disaster Recovery Plan

Avèro suggested KCDC review its disaster recovery plan annually and test it thoroughly to ensure current disaster recovery best practices were met. The detailed action steps for this recommendation also guide the agency to maintain fault-tolerant, duplicate internet connections for enhanced nosiness continuity.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Avèro Advisors completed two projects with us and has another one underway. I find they have two critically important attributes that speak well for them: communication skills and technical knowledge. The Avèro team builds trust and relationships with our staff enabling comfortable communication about IT issues. By using ordinary English and humor, the Avèro team can speak to different levels including our ‘front line’ employees, our managers, our IT staff, and our executives because they understand that most people do not speak ‘IT.’ Their technical knowledge is superb and always beneficial to us. Both of these attributes are critical to successful projection completion.”

Terry McKee

IT and Procurement Director

Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation

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