Database Review: Efforts to Outcomes by Social Solutions

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This month we will review one of the of database solutions that Mockingbird Analytics has identified as suitable for non-profit organizations at varying levels of size and data requirements.

Efforts to Outcomes (ETO), was created in 2000 by Social Solutions, a company founded by professionals working in the social service sector, for the express purpose of helping social service organizations better manage and report on client data. Both Social Solutions and ETO have grown significantly over the years, and ETO is now a leading case management and reporting tool for larger non-profits, government agencies, and community collaboratives.

ETO is robust enough to handle multiple partners and/or programs, allows for tracking client data from intake through outcomes (as well as data for internal staff and third party affiliates), and includes a powerful and dynamic reporting tool built on the SAP Business Objects Web Intelligence platform. ETO is a software as a service (SaaS), cloud-based solution run on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which allows for fast and reliable performance and security. ETO has numerous advanced add-on features as well as preconfigured programs templates available to integrate into any site, including a fully compatible HMIS option. Finally, ETO is HIPPA, FERPA, HUD, Fedramp, and NIST compliant. License pricing is per organization and includes unlimited users and a high amount of data storage; actual license fees are based on contract term and the organization’s size and budget.

Social Solutions provides initial customization and training on all new database implementations as part of the licensing agreement. However, given the amount of customization and administration required for ongoing maintenance, it is recommended that organizations planning to implement ETO also plan for a dedicated ETO administrator, either as an in-house staff member or as an experienced consultant. It needs to be stated that implementations can take several months or even years, depending on the number of sites and/or programs that need to be built out.

Aside from that, all ETO data entry forms and reports are fully customizable and can be created and/or edited by the ETO administrator at any time. Many aspects of the site can have custom security settings applied, making certain features available to record specific types of data and/or to be used by specific ETO users based on their roles within the organization.

Touchpoints, the main type of data entry tool (form) in ETO, can be created to track demographics, intake information, internal processes, referrals, services provided, event attendance, and client outcomes (just to name a few) – and many of these types of data can be captured within the same form, which can help save time and effort for staff doing the actual data entry. Touchpoints include calculations and conditional rules, which can be built into specific questions, making the forms much more dynamic.

ETO Results, the database’s report writing tool, allows users the ability to create complex reports that can pull data from multiple sources within ETO. The database comes with hundreds of standard reports right out of the box, but once an organization sets up their own custom programs and data entry tools, creating custom reports will be the only the way to get the data back out of ETO (this is particularly true for data captured in Touchpoints). As good as ETO Results is, however, it can be difficult to work with for the non-technologically savvy, and even for those with technical expertise it requires extensive training and practice to master.

With all its advantages, ETO does have some drawbacks. It can be cost prohibitive for smaller organizations, especially when taking into account the purchase of add-on features that may be required in order for ETO to do what the organization needs it to do. Social Solutions also offers licensing agreements spread out over multi-year contracts, which may somewhat help to reduce the annual cost, but will lock organizations into using ETO for several years.

ETO provides basic 8am-6pm support service to all customers, and offers upgraded support packages which can even include being assigned a dedicated support technician. However, troubleshooting issues via ETO Support can take excessive amounts of time to resolve. Working with ETO Support can be confusing for staff that are not technically adept and because ETO support techs don’t have the intimate knowledge of an organization’s customized ETO site. More advanced issues may required paying an additional support fee in order to resolve them, and this too can get costly.

Despite ongoing improvements and updates to the system, ETO’s interface feels somewhat outdated and cluttered. In addition, ETO was built optimized for use with Internet Explorer and is still not fully supported in other browsers. Finally, ETO does not have a mobile component so can’t be used on smartphones or tablets by staff out working in the field.

Overall, ETO is best suited for mid-size to larger organizations that are ready and able to purchase and maintain a database solution of this caliber. ETO can be a very useful tool for organizations that have the staff and data needed to take advantage of all the features the database offers.

If you are interested in learning more about how ETO might be a good fit your organization, Mockingbird Analytics provides consulting services by a Gold-Certified ETO Administrator with over 6 years of experience working with ETO. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a complementary 30-minute remote consultation today!