We caught up with Chris, Founder of Sightlines Group. Learning all about his latest project, how it was impacted by COVID-19 and how they've used Cronofy's API.
We caught up with Cronofy client, Chris Barber, Founder of Sightlines Group. Learning all about his latest project, how it was impacted by COVID-19 and how they've used Cronofy's API - to provide communities in Brooklyn, New York with a range of services through the non-profit organization, The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
I founded my company, Sightlines Group in 2001. I have a background in organizational training and development, and software development. It’s a bit of an uncommon mix, but this skillset is really useful for the projects that we consult on. Recently we’ve worked with a mix of global financial and technology companies, foundations, and city and state governments, the work is really varied. I tend to get involved in longer projects that last two or three years where we have a chance to see through changes in culture and technology.
Yes, we’ve been working for about two years on a digital transformation project for the country’s first community development organization, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, located in Central Brooklyn, NY. Since their founding in the 1960s, they have become a force in the community and a general source of support for individuals and families.
Restoration has a really broad offering of vital support, which they fund through many different channels including individuals, private foundation grants, and public sector contracts. Grants and contracts come with research-based guidance on how to carry out a program - and all of them require data capture - but in the nonprofit sector a data standard has yet to emerge. The result is often a tremendous amount of duplication, data overlap, and double-entry for staff, which is no one’s intention, but it does mean staff spend too much time in front of a computer and not enough time with human to human contact.Restoration’s leadership and staff have been tireless in their efforts to use current technology to improve their services, and also to improve their own day to day experience of providing these services. Broadly, leadership wanted to achieve two things. First, they wanted to be able to tell the full story of the change they were making in the community. Many of their grants and contracts required staff to enter data in separate, proprietary systems. That meant, for example, that if Restoration helped someone receive benefits in 2017, and then a job in 2018, and then they helped their child gain work experience in 2019, all of these data points would be spread across different systems that didn’t speak to one another. Leadership wanted to bring everything into a single data warehouse so they could tell a single story about their clients and community. Second, leadership wanted to use automation to allow clients to book their own appointments and fill out their own intake forms from their phones or computers, all of which would free up enormous amounts of staff time. This is where Cronofy came in!
Cronofy allowed us to build a robust scheduling system that is practical for both clients and staff. Due to the complexities of real-life scheduling, with myriad calendars, locations, rules, etc., this was next to impossible using off-the-shelf scheduling tools, or even other scheduling APIs.When a client comes to Restoration’s website to request help, they begin the process. They first indicate what kind of help they need, for example, accessing health insurance. Then they provide a little information about where they live, what language they speak, and what other needs they may have. Next, the system looks across 50+ staff to see who can provide that service, speak that language, and who is allowed to see this person based on various geographical and contractual requirements. It then uses Cronofy to query the calendars of each qualified staff person. The catch, and to my knowledge only Cronofy makes this possible, is that staff can set rules for when they are available to provide each service. This means that Stan Staff Person can say he’s available to help people with health insurance only in the afternoons, because it takes a fair bit of time, and he wants to reserve his mornings for other work. Or Yemisi Staff Person can say she’s only available to help people with health insurance on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Fulton Street Office.All of this is invisible to the user, who just sees a simple interface where they can select a location, day, and time that works for them.With Cronofy, we found a solution that respects both personal and work commitments of staff. Staff can add their child’s soccer parent-teacher phone call at 2PM, and instantly that slot will be removed from availability so no client will accidentally book that time. This is starting to put an end to the many scheduling hacks that people have had to use over the years.Pre-COVID, we actually found that in just the first two and half months of this year, about 300 hours of administrative time were saved by introducing the new online system, and staff were able to spend more time helping people instead. Cronofy’s role in the platform is responsible for a significant portion of that.
"Cronofy seamlessly integrates with our data collection technology, without clients noticing they're interacting with anything other than our branded platform. It allows us to turn on a dime to add new features and flexibility. In the short time that we’ve been using it it has saved staff hundreds of hours of administrative work, and we expect that benefit to continue to grow."
A lot changed with Covid. Covid immediately impacted so many people in so many different ways, and Restoration responded immediately. Cronofy’s flexibility and ease was pretty critical.By the end of March, 2020, it was clear that Restoration needed to provide many new temporary and emergency services, and to provide them all remotely. Developing and launching new programs is always a challenge, and technology often makes it even more difficult.The addition of video conferencing to the Cronofy API couldn’t have come at a better time for us—it’s been vital in adapting to virtual meetings and session bookings. We removed the locations feature and made everything virtual but of course one day we will need to put them back, and we can do that with minimal development time, due to Cronofy’s API.
Every six months Cronofy organises a companywide meet up. This May, we met in Amsterdam to give our teams the chance to see our recently opened office and the sights this wonderful European capital has to offer.
Developing how your company describes and represents itself is a challenging and enlightening journey. You have to revisit long held assumptions and confront the reality of what your customers and the market value. I absolutely believe that you can only do this effectively with outside help.