Case Study

100 Neediest Cases Platform for United Way of Greater St. Louis

Published on Jun 22, 2023

The Challenge: End of Life for a Critical System Means Re-Designing a Replacement that will Serve into the Future

Over 100 years ago, the “100 Neediest Cases” program began in the St. Louis area to help thousands of individuals in need during the holiday season. Originally beginning as a tradition during the Christmas festival to provide food and toys, the program has exponentially grown over the last 70 years to be a well-known, household staple in the community since its partnership with the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Despite processing thousands of cases annually, 100 cases deemed as the “most neediest” for the year are published around Christmastime in the newspaper in order to encourage donations.

The entire program within United Way was managed on a software system from 2004, and not only was it hitting the end of shelf life due to its age, but there were many pain points for the volunteers and employees. Many parts of the system were not serving their current needs, and the team was worried that it would suddenly require retirement mid-campaign without a suitable replacement.

Because of this, UnitedWay approached ArchitectNow to rewrite their legacy system. Their goal was to not only rebuild current as well as new functionality, but also ensure it would continue to serve hundreds of thousands of families throughout the unforeseeable future.

ArchitectNow’s Approach: Understanding the Business’s Needs is Critical for a Legacy Re-write

First, we collaborated with our clients to learn more about their goals and immerse ourselves in their business. We brainstormed with the United Way’s power users to establish what their old system did well, and what they would like to be different in a new one. In order to ensure the success of the project, ArchitectNow’s Product Owner had to become a subject matter expert of not only the legacy system, but also United Way’s business and financial needs. Continuing to look at the problem through the lens of the client, their needs were kept at the forefront of our minds while we strategized to build a system in a way that would maximize shelf life. As the system was expected to be used for the next 15 years, we wanted to give them something that would serve them and their cause for a very long time.

The Solution: Prioritize Workflow Efficiency and an Intuitive User Interface

In addition to re-writing all of their legacy systems features (and adding new ones), we re-designed their database architecture to accommodate their future data needs, as well as evaluated every workflow to capitalize on opportunities to increase their team’s efficiency. We identified many pain points in their current process and remedied them, often automating many altogether. For example, we reduced an eighteen step process in their old system down to five steps by eliminating the need for manual credit card donation input. This saved the team hours of future time and labor.

Results: 500 Users and 4,700 Cases Entered in Only 1.5 Months: With No Strain on the System

In only a month and a half into using the system, the 100 Neediest cases team onboarded over 500 users as well as had a significant amount of data input. These items would typically strain many software systems, but the system that was built by ArchitectNow was able to handle the load without any reported problems. Both internal and external users completed successful input of nearly 4,700 cases for the campaign year without barriers, or requiring any major adjustments to the workflows that we implemented for them.

We particularly enjoyed this project because of the constant, positive feedback we have received since its inception by their current users, as many volunteers and team members reached out to us to thank us for how “beautiful” and user-friendly the system is. The consensus was that the users felt they could get straight into the system without much hesitation, and knew exactly what they needed to do right off the bat: something we strive for when building systems for our clients.