Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Census Bureau Data Displays

Have you returned your Census Bureau form?  Using this year of the Census as a kick off, we are pleased to integrate US Census Bureau data into our mapping layer.  This is the same module that allows our customers to display the locations of their clients (or sub-sets of clients), and the location of relevant community services as well.

Now, with the addition of Census Bureau data by zip code, I&R call operators, elder care specialists, youth services advocates, mental health professionals, disaster relief managers and others can all call up demographic and other Census Bureau data with a click.  It makes for quick, effective, and visually-enhanced decision making.

Admittedly, the current data is past Census Bureau data, but this way we can help our users gain expertise with the tool set, and be all the more ready when the new data, being collected now, is available for release.

If your partnership would like to not only serve clients and manage community or state services resources, but map those relationships and layer over Census Bureau data as well, give us a call.  Our relational technology can improve your work.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Data Exchange White Paper: Benefits

We have a new White Paper on the Thought Leadership section of our main VisionLink Web Site:
Non Profits Sharing Data: Increasing Effectiveness Through Data Exchange 

As we work with a wide variety of social services, homeless management, elder care, 2-1-1s, disaster relief, volunteer, and donation networks, we often find ourselves at the center of data exchange conversations.

To inform and kickstart the conversation in your partnership, check out the White Paper.  We discuss various components of the work, and several key benefits including:

- Saving money and resources
- Better information and better decisions
- Improved data quality
- Improved service delivery
- Access to real time data
- Competitive advantage

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mapping Boundaries Upgrade

Ever wished you could draw a diagram on a map with a few clicks?  Wish that you could show your board members the relationship between needs and assets across your community visually?  Well, part of the much larger upgrade being released this week allows authorized users to create their own mapping boundaries--for nearly any purpose.  Need to outline the boundaries of the school districts in your service area?  Perhaps the police jurisdictions?  The service areas for larger nonprofits? An eligibility boundary for a state or locally funded initiative?  All this and more is now just a couple clicks away.

Integrated with the Resource Directory in CommunityOS, these mapping tools become even more valuable as clients and community resources can be visually presented.  And for those who asked us to include basic US Census Bureau data, now you can, with a click.

To create mapping boundary displays, an authorized user has three choices:  1) import a standards-based mapping data file; 2) import GIS coordinates directly; or, 3 simply point and click across a map to create appropriate boundaries.  Create many boundaries, name them appropriately, link them to web resources (or content inside VisionLink's CommunityOS solution) and more.

The Mapping Boundaries module is also VisionLink Portal compliant, so this means that authorized users can create different sets of mapping boundaries for different portals, deployed for different purposes.  So--across a community or state, we offer single-system integrated GIS solutions, yet deployable in a manner that presents the right map to the appropriate users.

Keeping it simple:  While it is harder to build, we have constructed this solution so that no third party software or browser plug-ins are required.  All this just works inside standard browsers, making it easy to use and deploy.  Next time you have a board or funder presentation, let's use graphically displayed information on Maps!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Epic Upgrade Releasing Next Week

A major (perhaps epic?) upgrade rolls out next week, and this after several weeks on staging so our customers could review and provide input before we move to production.   Indeed, we received helpful comments from many communities and made several refinements to the final version, releasing next week.  Thanks to everyone for their input!

Overall, this upgrade provides a number of modules:  a linguistically aware full text searching module with ranked results; a mapping module which can display client and resource data simultaneously; a real-time situational analysis module with multiple boundaries; integration of US Census Bureau data; and some additional taxonomy tools for Information & Referral specialists.

Over the next week, I'll summarize each module.  Each component can be used right away, and yet each also provides fundamentally new and advanced capacities which can drive, and be driven by, complex community and partnership issues and needs.

Stay Tuned as the Community Operating System (tm) takes another major leap forward.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink

Recommended Conference: NTEN

We just returned from the 10th annual Non-Profit Technology Network Conference, held in Atlanta this week, which was attended by over 1,400 representatives from non-profits from around the world.

Leading up to the Conference, we hosted a Webinar in February, "No Wrong Door" which introduced a large philanthropic audience to CommunityOS.

At the conference, we hosted two Affinity Group discussions, "Data Exchange Specialists" and "Disaster Response Partners". These groups were a big hit, with participants ranging from local non-profits from across the country, to international organizations such as  Habitat for Humanity, Compassion International, Ushaditi, and the American Red Cross.

We also presented a workshop "Data Sharing: The Need for Client & Resource Data Standards" which focused on the need to, and the options for, sharing data across partnering organizations.  We discussed data sharing on common technical platforms, and data sharing across dissimilar systems. Clearly, there is a great deal of energy on this topic and we hope to support an ongoing conversation among participants in these various sessions.  And if that weren't enough, we hosted the NTEN Cyber Cafe and a booth at the "Science Fair".

NTEN is a great resource, check them out at www.nten.org.  You'll find everything from quick tips to solid research and resources useful to nonprofit organizations.  And the best part is that the organization attracts high caliber talent, so the networking and conversations between participants and members is truly engaging and worthwhile.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink, Inc.

Monday, April 12, 2010

International Red Cross Support in Haiti

VisionLink is pleased to announce that we have been (for several weeks already), supporting the work of the American and International Red Cross in Haiti.

We were able to deploy a large scale solution to capture and manage information about the needs of individuals and households in Haiti.   Given that much of this is quietly unfolding, we'll be quiet about the details here on the blog.  I am particularly proud however, that our development team was able to launch a system of this scale in only four days from receipt of the task order.  While the technology launched quickly, the real human needs will continue for years.

A number of Red Cross staff members have just returned from Haiti and I have no doubt they will have enhancements and workflow requests to fine tune the system.  In an area with such need, and where the management and coordination of relief is so critical to long-term success, we are honored to be able to deploy CommunityOS.  Or put another way, the many clients, customers, and users of CommunityOS deserve the thanks--their ideas and insights have built a solution which is both highly flexible and yet specifically useful.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Basic Needs Network in the News

The good folks in Abilene, Texas (and the surrounding counties) have done a great job explaining the benefits of 2-1-1 and their Basic Needs Network.  Clients are served more effectively, and donor resources are used more efficiently.  Particularly in this economy, this is the responsible way to work.

This is exactly what VisionLink's Community Operating System is all about, helping partnerships of agencies work together to make resources and donations go further.   

To view the great news clip, follow this link to KTXS Channel 12 in Texas, or go to http://www.ktxs.com.

Dr. W. Douglas Zimmerman
President & CEO
VisionLink