Enterprise Business Management SystemCase Study
Army Emergency Relief
Streamlined operations and elevated security for AER’s Enterprise Business Management System
Army Emergency Relief (AER) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to relieving undue financial stress on U.S. Army active and retired soldiers and their families. Since 1942, AER has supported nearly 4 million service members with $2 billion in zero-interest loans, grants, and educational scholarships. AER’s mission is to ensure no soldier ever faces financial hardship alone. The organization operates with 30 full-time employees and more than 200 AER Officers (AEROs) worldwide.
The legacy AER Enterprise Business Management System (EBMS) was responsible for managing functions associated with operating the Financial Assistance & Loan Management Program. The system was comprised of multiple software solutions, including NetForum and Microsoft Dynamics GP, that managed financial assistance, loan tracking, documenting donation documentation and collection, scholarship issuance, and accounting. Limited flexibility of the highly customized solution in NetForum and the sun-setting of Dynamics GP drove AER to seek a modern, all-encompassing system that is natively web-enabled, expandable, and scalable.
Looking ahead to the future, AER needed a solution that has the agility to meet emerging requirements such as migration from the social security number to the Department of Defense ID (DODID) number, integration with Integrated Personnel and Pay System–Army (IPPS-A), the potential to interface with other aid society systems, and a higher level of cybersecurity protections.
AER selected Arctic IT to build a modern, streamlined EBMS replacement system appropriately named Army Relief Made Simple (ARMS). The ARMS project was divided into two phases with the goal of implementing the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform to meet security standards required for FedRAMP Level 4, DISA Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIGs), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST-800-53).
For Phase I, Arctic IT began by migrating AER to the Microsoft Azure cloud with Office 365 and Teams. The migration was completed just months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made AER’s transition to remote work nearly seamless. From there, Dynamics 365 Customer Service was implemented in the Government Commercial Cloud (GCC) along with Dynamics 365 Finance to
- Guide and track operations for the assistance and loan management process
- Perform automatic loan consolidations
- Provide better access to reporting and analytics via dashboards and Power BI
- Achieve federal requirements for cybersecurity
Custom dashboards were created by user role, so AER team members have visibility to critical data relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities. The flexibility of the Dynamics 365 cloud platform allowed Arctic IT to easily integrate with key third-party applications for ARMS operations, including Charity Engine and Academic Works.
In addition, a client-facing Power Apps Portal was developed that allows service members to apply for assistance, track the status of their loan, make payments, donate via allotment, and enter service requests securely from a web-enabled device.
“AER can see and measure ourselves better and quicker from all aspects with better security of data,” said Colonel C. Eldon Mullis, Deputy Director & Chief Operating Officer at AER. “Once the Soldier’s Portal is completed using Zelle as a method of disbursing funds, the ARMS solution will bring AER into the 21st Century. This will speed financial assistance to Soldiers who are facing financial hardship, thereby, improving Soldier and Unit Readiness.”
For Phase II, AER’s back-office accounting software was migrated from Dynamics GP to Dynamics 365 Finance. AER was able to leverage the Phase I investment in Finance to completely upgrade their financial system in the cloud. The new functionality includes
- Robust financials
- Procure-to-pay workflows and process automation
- Budget controls and encumbrance tracking
- Fixed assets management
- Powerful and easy to use financial reporting tools
The new ARMS solution modernized the AER Enterprise Business Management System in the Microsoft cloud. ARMS gives AER staff access to better program data and executive reporting, helps streamline the assistance application process, delivers a robust loan management process, and heightens AER’s security posture in the GCC. From an end-user perspective, service members are now empowered to make secure online payments and assistance requests 24/7 through the portal. In addition, ongoing enhancements have expanded the portal to enable incentives for financial literacy training.
The native integration between Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Finance, and Office 365 provides AER the agility they need to continually optimize their business workflows – today and into the future. ARMS supports an extensive global user base and reciprocal agreements with the other military aid societies.
“The Arctic Team has been very professional, responsive, and dedicated to delivering a solution that will meet our needs.”
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