American Foreign Service
Protective Association:
Microsoft Power BI Implementation

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Background

Based in Washington DC, the American Foreign Service Protective Association (AFSPA) is an 80+ person association providing insurance and other services for US Federal government employees stationed in the US and overseas. Its 73,000 members work at US embassies, consulates, bases and federal offices worldwide, spanning every continent. AFSPA provides its members with support for insurance claims, acting as a liaison between insurance underwriters, in-country service providers and members filing insurance claims around the world.

Challenge

AFSPA’s long-established, custom-built database had limited reporting capabilities, requiring users to submit report requests to the IT department for tasks as simple as building a mailing list for an email newsletter to members. Canned reports only allowed date ranges to span time ranges in months, but not weeks or days. According to AFSPA’s Chief Operating Officer Kyle Longton, “It would take days or weeks to get a simple report or list, so we couldn’t reach out to our members as often as we wanted.”

In addition, AFSPA’s reports expressed data in text/tabular format only, making it very difficult to spot trends in key business drivers such as member enrollments. “Of the 20 canned reports available with our previous reporting capabilities, I only found three of them useful,” recalled Mr. Longton. “Since we couldn’t run useful reports, queries and filters on-the-fly, it was very difficult to trust the data and make informed decisions. Our members simply deserved better.”

GOAL 1: ELIMINATE REPORTING DELAYS

GOAL 2: IMPROVE CUSTOM REPORTING FLEXIBILITY

GOAL 3: ENABLE SELF-SERVICE DATA VISUALIZATION

Solution

AFSPA had partnered with Cloudforce on several other projects, including the association’s Office 365 cloud migration and database modernization. When asked about improving AFSPA’s reporting capabilities, Cloudforce recommended Microsoft Power BI as the solution best fit to provide a user-friendly visualization tool – enabling access to real-time data that could be easily sliced and diced to empower actionable insights and decision making.

“After providing an initial Power BI demo, the Cloudforce team took the time to gather requirements across all the teams throughout AFSPA,” said Mr. Longton. “They not only worked with the managers, but also worked with the end-users to understand their processes and workflows to ensure that the new reporting system would be fast and easy for all stakeholders.”

Cloudforce then built dashboards and reports tailored for each AFSPA workgroup in Power BI and provided onsite training for all users. A separate advanced training session and custom user guide was delivered for senior staff to demonstrate the ease by which they now could build, customize, publish, and share new reports across the organization.

Results

“For the first time, I have confidence in the statistics we are reporting. That’s a huge relief,” said Mr. Longton. Reports that previously took weeks to generate now run instantly. Mr. Longton reflects his experience during a recent meeting to decide about a new product launch: “Within two minutes, I had Power BI open and was able to pull the information I needed, which enabled us to make decisions in the meeting rather than needing to follow up.”

AFSPA is also now able to communicate with members much faster, using Power BI. When the states of emergency were declared for the 2017 California wildfires and for the gulf-coast hurricanes, AFSPA immediately emailed emergency care information to members in these specific areas and activated emergency protocols with their partners. This process simply wasn’t possible with AFSPA’s previous reporting system, because of the delays in custom report queries.

Data visualizations now facilitate AFSPA’s report analysis, thanks to Power BI. “Numbers are fine, but the visualizations we build make a huge difference in helping everyone understand the information at-a-glance,” said Mr. Longton.

“For the first time, I have confidence in the statistics we are reporting. That’s a huge relief!”

Kyle Longton Chief Operating Officer

Conclusion

“All of us have greater confidence in our own abilities and the overall system, and that’s because of the approach that they take every day.” said Mr. Longton.

“They can speak both ‘computer’ and English,” he continued. “Before Cloudforce did any work for us there was a cultural fear around anything IT related. They turned that around in the first couple of months and completely changed people’s attitude with IT. Our staff is no longer afraid to say they have IT related questions or issues, thanks to the great service we’ve received from Cloudforce.”

“I truly appreciate the partnership and support I’ve received from Cloudforce over the past three years.”

Kyle Longton Chief Operating Officer

Cloudforce mission

Cloudforce is comprised of a group of IT professionals with one goal; to serve our customers various technology needs in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

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