Improving Digital Experiences for
YMCA Members and Employees

About the Company

Founded over 163 years ago, the YMCA (also known as "the Y") is a global organization that offers community programs to foster a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. The YMCA operates as a distributed franchise, which includes 870+ associations across North America. The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is one part of the wider YMCA franchise, and it is the third largest franchise within the network. It serves communities in the greater Twin Cities metro region, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin across 29 locations and program sites, 8 overnight camps, 10 day camps and more than 90 child care sites.
Industry: Non-Profit Headquarters: Minneapolis, MN Use Case: Digital Experience Monitoring, SaaS Monitoring
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Strengthening Communities Through Innovation

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. It's 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.
Digital Experience

"We were impressed that we could put end user client agents
at different points in the network to do customer emulation out of
our Wi-Fi network, plus server side."

Tom Case
Senior Vice President
Information Technology
YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

Strategic Decisions to Deliver Exceptional Digital Experiences

Five years ago, the Y's IT team made a strategic decision to focus on shifting their organization from a reactive organization to a proactive one, knowing that delivering seamless digital experiences to its customers and employees was critical to the success of the business. "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."

Meeting these needs means moving from a reactive approach to a proactive one, requiring a categorically different mindset. "My vision was to not be in the 'data center business,'" says Case. "I wanted to be in the 'app solution provider business' for our team members." This led the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities to make the decision to shift its 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.

As with any Internet-dependent deployment, user digital experience may vary. Ultimately, the IT team wanted to get closer to the experience of its end users—employees and members alike—to better understand how they are using the Internet. "Ideally, we needed insight across endpoints, Wi-Fi, internal network and our SaaS providers to highlight potential issues before they impact our users' experience." Digital Experience dashboard
Figure 1: Monitoring the YMCA's critical digital experience touch points.

Connectivity Issues Impact Employee Productivity

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."

As it turns out, the new location of the Y's headquarters is within an open campus area, which exposes it to Wi-Fi signals from other providers and customers in the building. Their hypothesis was that this interference was leading to a lot of issues with employees getting and staying connected and having a good digital experience. The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities ran a proof-of- concept project leveraging ThousandEyes endpoint 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."

This ensures that they get a better Wi-Fi experience in their flagship branch for members and employees. Case reflects, "We were impressed that we could put end user client agents at different points in the network to do customer emulation out of our Wi-Fi network, plus server side." 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.

"Within weeks, we had determined where the Wi-Fi issues were,
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."

Tom Case
Senior Vice President
Information Technology
YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

Driving Digital Experience Visibility across Cloud and SaaS

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." Since their POC started, the Y has sent logs to Microsoft and opened cases with them. "This is a big change versus us spinning up cycles internally and troubleshooting for a long time, trying to figure out if an issue is with Microsoft or on site," reflects Case.

These initiatives have 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. It's a pure relief that people don't need to connect laptops and get assistance from us that they need. We can focus on the users' overall experiences versus having to focus on tech at a branch level."

The YMCA is dedicated to providing the utmost experience for its members and employees, and today, that experience starts with the network. By ensuring the IT team has visibility to monitor its Internet-dependent ecosystem SD-WAN, SaaS and cloud service providers, the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities is able to deliver services that impact the communities it serves and lead the way for other YMCAs around the country to follow.

"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."

Tom Case
Senior Vice President
Information Technology
YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities

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