Economic development organizations (EDO) play a key role in helping businesses and communities reclaim lost ground as the pandemic shifts from an acute, resource-straining emergency to a somewhat more manageable situation. As departments in local, regional, and state government, in utility companies, associated with chambers of commerce, or in form of dedicated, independent organizations, they frequently spearhead the efforts of creating a resilient, economically sustainable communities. While the urgency of EDOs’ mission has increased along with hopes and expectations for their success, EDO team members are generally making do with the same tools and processes they used when their goals were less ambitious. Modern cloud technology, designed for EDOs and delivered by an expert partner, can make it easier for them to fulfill their mission.
Sky-high expectations meet legacy practices
In earlier times, many EDO efforts focused on underserved neighborhoods and districts with unrealized potential. Today, expectations are much higher. Entire communities, municipalities, and regions look to their EDOs to drive revitalization and innovation in local economies. Some informal EDO teams are receiving more funding, staffing, autonomy, and authority to advance these objectives. At the same time, Sikich hears from EDOs where a lack of the right tools and resources gets in the way of mission success. For example:
- EDOs track projects and finances, including spending associated with grants or measures like the American Rescue Plan Act, in multiple spreadsheets and use business software not designed for EDO use cases in their communications and business management.
- Employees set up their own spreadsheets, which may not always harmonize with those used by their colleagues. When it’s time to produce progress reports to justify funding or build confidence in the community, that can be an arduous, time-consuming task requiring a laborious effort of locating and verifying information.
- When EDO staff members leave, their spreadsheets and other documents don’t always make sense to the remaining team. Relationships they nurtured and their portion of progress and project reporting may fall by the wayside. Their commitments, promises, and initiatives may be similarly overlooked and forgotten.
- Many EDOs don’t have a coherent way to manage relationships, communications, and engagements with businesses, community organizations, individual stakeholders, partners, and vendors. It’s difficult for them to plan and perform projects and initiatives, track their progress, and share successes. On the other hand, it makes it all too easy for constituent businesses and opportunities associated with them to be overlooked.
Building EDO functionality on a powerful foundation
Some EDOs try to adjust software tools like Microsoft Access or Excel for their purposes. Others experiment with standard customer relationship management (CRM) solutions or specialized EDO products that neither look nor behave like their other software. With substantial, costly efforts, these systems can be made to support EDO operations to a degree, but their limited ease-of-use and functionality may still not serve EDO users well.
Sikich felt that delivering an EDO-ready software solution that incorporates robust, richly featured CRM technology was the most promising and efficient approach to giving EDOs the capabilities they need. We created our solution, Sikich Cloud Nine Economic DevelopmentTM for Dynamics 365 CRM, by using the same Microsoft Power Platform cloud technology that also underlies Dynamics 365.
The Sikich EDO solution provides EDOs with a unified environment for pursuing their mission and engaging with constituents and communities. It has proven its dependability and security in facilitating the efforts of many different EDOs. It’s at home in the cloud, and EDOs can make it available to team members working in an office, remotely, or in a blended work arrangement. The Economic Development Accelerator delivers important functionality that practically every EDO needs, with the configuration flexibility to address specific requirements and adjust to the processes of individual organizations.
An EDO-ready solution to replace disparate and legacy software
Deploying, configuring, and provisioning the Economic Development Accelerator can happen quickly. EDOs can implement the solution’s core functionality on their own within one to two weeks. Deployments with role and workflow optimizations based on the Sikich QuickStart methodology with standardized, best practice-infused processes usually take four to eight weeks. Training requirements are minimal, because the solution presents most of its important EDO functionality in zero-click manner, right at the starting screen, and the design is comfortable and clear, consistent with Microsoft 365 applications like Outlook and Excel.
As soon as an EDO goes live with the Economic Development Accelerator, staff can, for example:
- Create master project records as the core resource to help them advance and manage economic development initiatives and projects
- Track economic incentives in the context of master project records
- Record and manage possible project sites and match them to fit the economic development needs of businesses and the community
- Manage grants with all their defining information, clearly connect them to master project records, and accurately track grant-related spending.
- Initiate and manage lease agreements for a variety of business locations, including incubator hives
- Set up business support and service cases, assign them to team members, and manage them to resolution
- Create business retention and expansion (BRE) reports and surveys that draw on business records in the system and which allow targeted engagement with prospect and constituent businesses
- Take investment and donation commitments from inception to fulfillment, assisted by automated reminders to EDO supporters
- Report on the status of job creation and economic impact goals, project outcomes, the progress of community engagement, and the results of other EDO activities, at highly granular or more summary levels
How Sikich works with EDOs
At the beginning of every engagement, Sikich consultants meet with EDO clients to learn about their priorities, goals, and processes; understand the current technology environment; and hear about their challenges and expectations. That allows us to adjust the implementation of the Economic Development Accelerator to the needs of individual EDOs. As much as we can, we garner team members’ support and participation in a software project, learn from their experience, and help them take advantage of nondisruptive, beneficial change.
With best practice-powered, proven configurations and an efficient, friction-free deployment approach, Sikich-led EDO software projects can yield positive outcomes quickly and help EDOs accelerate their vital mission. We also perform data migrations from legacy or specialized, disparate systems to the Economic Development Accelerator and integrate the solution with other data sources and software tools an EDO may use. Depending on what clients aim to accomplish, we create dashboards to help them translate information into insight or build portals to enable access to data and EDO programs for constituents, partners, vendors, and communities.
Take the next step
To get your questions answered or go ahead with a solution deployment, you can:
- Contact the Sikich EDO team.
- Read our City of Austin and Calgary client success stories.
- Review a summary infographic about the Economic Development Accelerator and its advantages.
- Watch a demo of some capabilities of our EDO cloud technology solution.
- Visit our Economic Development Accelerator page.