ESA: Revolutionizing how they deliver education with Podio

Educational Services of America (ESA) are the leading provider of alternative and special education schools in the US. Partnering with more than 230 public school districts in 21 states to serve 12,000 students each year.

It all started with ESA’s CIO, Alan Watson, giving his business analyst, Anthony Stefani, two weeks to look into Podio and see if it might be a viable alternative to the online learning management system they were developing on SharePoint. Three days later Anthony return having built 90 percent of what they were hoping to achieve with SharePoint using Podio Apps. Tough decisions ensued (ESA had already spent $200,000 on their SharePoint project) which resulted in SharePoint being dropped in favor of Podio.

The roll-out of Podio to ESA’s 1500 staff began. Such a deployment would normally be a formidable task. A smaller launch of an enterprise social network, Yammer, was a relative failure at ESA with only a handful of employees finding enough value in it to make it part of their everyday work and not just another log-in. The difference with Podio was Podio Apps, giving every ESA employee the ability to structure their workflows and communication exactly how they want to.

The employees from ESA’s Ombudsman division were the first to hear about Podio and were told that they can sign up for themselves and start working there. Within a month, 600 of them did, with Podio Apps being built and used to manage everything from IT ticketing, to CRM, to delivering assignments to students.

Getting help with IT issues was previously handled using HelpStar before ESA employees created the ‘IT Support App’ in Podio, this has changed dramatically the way these issues are dealt with explains Alan: “By moving to Podio we’ve managing to cut down our help tickets by 50 percent. The social aspect of Podio allows users to talk to each other, figure things out on their own, and that has saved untold work hours in the IT department.”

The business development team at ESA built their own CRM Apps on Podio to replace Salesforce. By looking at the features of Salesforce that they were really using, they can create these features with the Podio App Builder and have their staff up and running and using them in days, as opposed to the months it took to get employees to get on Salesforce.

“With Podio there is no downtime, there is no wait. We’ve built out ‘Opportunities,’ we’ve built out ‘Accounts’ … and having ShareFile integrated with Podio gives us another advantage because we can be inside of an ‘Opportunity’ and see that it’s already linked to the contract being store in ShareFile,” says Anthony. The move to Podio has had further benefits. With Salesforce only the business development team were using the system (at a not insubstantial cost of $40’000 a year), but now the executive management team can see all this information, along with the operations staff in schools around the US, helping to create synergy around how accounts are dealt with. Adding these employees to Salesforce would have cost an extra $250,000 to $300,000 per year: “those are hard dollars we will no longer spend,” says Alan.

To me, ESA’s story, and how they demonstrate the power of people creating their own tools, has to be one of my favourite Podio stories so far. As I write, the roll-out of Podio across ESA continues with the aim of having every employee on Podio by the end of the year, and it doesn’t stop there. ESA are already bringing Podio to the classroom, delivering assignments and resources to students and enabling them to communicate easily with their teachers and one another.

Words can’t really do this story justice so I’d urge you to watch the video. I hope it’s as inspirational to you as it is to me.

ESA: Revolutionizing how they deliver education with Podio

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