The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. As the needs of the communities it serves evolve over the years, the Y turns to technology to keep ahead. The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, in particular, is recognized within the larger organization for its innovative and forward-thinking approach. Its IT team consistently adopts the latest technology to ensure its members and employees experience a smooth digital experience and enjoy consistent and reliable access to its Internet, cloud-based solutions, as well as the Y's various online websites and services. Here’s the story of how it has approached its digital transformation.
Pinpointing the Priority Areas
"We created a five-year roadmap to strengthen our critical IT apps," says Tom Case, Senior Vice President of Information Technology at YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. "On the employee side, we had quite a bit of failure with voice communication networks as well as CRM and HR tools—they were just tipping over daily, which of course hampered our employees' abilities to do their jobs."
"And when it comes to our customers," Case continues, "it's vital that any client can go to our website and select a program that's out there. It's just not a good experience to have people filling out paper forms or not being able to process a credit card on site. In addition, we need to make sure that parents watching their kids' aquatics class or people coming in for a coffee group have good, seamless connectivity."
Case and his team decided to make the decision to shift the Y’s architecture to a cloud-based environment, leveraging solutions like Microsoft Azure, Office 365 as well as a SaaS-based HR solution. They also moved to an SD-WAN approach for branch office connectivity.
Identifying Critical Connectivity Issues
Getting and staying connected to the Internet is critical when your most important apps and services are in the cloud. So when employees began to complain about frequent connectivity issues, the IT team knew it had to act. Case recalls, "I would hear complaints from our employees as well as branch executives, who would say that people were getting kicked off the network. We had as many as twenty different employees helping, yet we still struggled to address this issue for nearly a year."
The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities ran a proof-of-concept project leveraging ThousandEyes Endpoint Agents and Cloud Agents. ThousandEyes provided rapid visibility into the Y's environment. "Within weeks, we had determined where the Wi-Fi issues were," states Case. "We could zero-in on the issues in this building and make a better determination of where things are overlapping. We could identify where we had to either add additional access points and radio frequencies or close down other frequencies—so we can effectively 'close-out noise' from the other tenants nearby."
The visibility ThousandEyes has provided helped radically improve the performance of its Wi-Fi system—a critical gateway to its cloud-based apps and services.
Ensuring Digital Performance within Cloud and SaaS Environments
In addition to improving WiFi connectivity within its locations, the IT team at the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities now has greater confidence in its ability to troubleshoot and resolve issues within SaaS and cloud-based environments, as well. "We're now about 90-95% cloud-based within IT," states Case. "ThousandEyes has given us visibility into Microsoft's cloud, so now if we have an issue with a SharePoint instance, we can see if the issue sits on the Microsoft side." The success of these initiatives has resulted in positive digital experiences for YMCA members and employees alike. "The kind of response we're getting back from members and employees compared to before is night-and-day—we get really positive feedback about the experience from employees and members. It is already much better than we used to get."
Want to know more about the Y’s experience? You can read the full-length case study. The Y’s experience includes several challenges that are shared by many other enterprises. Below are some additional resources to consider, which help with the challenges outlined above.
- The Nuances of Networks: If you are experiencing network or Wi-FI connectivity issues, you can read our white paper on WAN and LAN monitoring. And, if you’re considering an SD-WAN transformation initiative, you should watch our SD-WAN readiness webinar before proceeding.
- The Individualism of Apps: When it comes to monitoring, each cloud application has unique architecture and its own various quirks to consider. To gain insight into what you should watch out for, please feel free to watch our best practice webinars on O365, Microsoft Teams and Salesforce.