Apricot Software Consulting, 7 Projects Where an Expert Can Help
Social Solutions Apricot™ software is customizable database and reporting software for tracking your nonprofit’s many data sets. While end users often find Apricot easy to use, setting up, managing, and scaling Apricot can feel overwhelming for some Apricot database administrators, especially form and report design. There is a lot to learn as an Apricot administrator, so you might look externally for an expert to support your Apricot vision.
Sidekick Solutions is an independent software consulting firm, specializing in Apricot software. We help new and existing Apricot users set up, streamline, and make the most of Apricot software with a range of professional services for implementation, reporting, consulting, data migration, and database audit/cleanup.
While this post is somewhat self-serving in that regard, it answers a common question we often receive.
How can an Apricot consultant help our organization?
This post will dive into the specific projects you might explore with a consultant. Before we dive in, there a few benefits of working with a consultant that are worth noting.
An Apricot database consultant can:
- Draw on their experience from engagements with other clients, offering expertise on the platform that your internal users may not have
- Proactively address challenges before they become larger issues in your Apricot
- Develop custom solutions to achieve your organization’s goals with Apricot, even if you are starting from a place of “we don’t know what we don’t know”
- Translate Apricot’s features into solutions that match your organization’s workflow, creating better alignment among the database, your users, and your processes
- Take on the responsibility of delivering results for your Apricot database so you can allocate time to other projects
Let’s explore a few Apricot consulting projects and why working with a consultant might be a positive strategy for your Apricot database.
1. Apricot implementation
Every new Apricot database will require design and customization, even if you adopt the Apricot for Funders (AFF), Apricot for Case Management (ACM), Apricot for Victims Support (AVS), or Apricot Essentials platforms.
Implementation will be your first step.
An Apricot consultant’s role is to design and develop a custom Apricot application that matches your organization’s data collection, workflow, and report requirements. An Apricot consultant will implement a custom application in Apricot by modeling your existing programs, services, and use cases within the Apricot toolkit.
Database design is the primary task during Apricot implementation. This includes discovering, blueprinting, and then building the forms and links between forms that will become your custom Apricot application.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of form and link design during Apricot implementation. Form and link design affect nearly every other feature in Apricot including the end user experience, data quality, and reporting.
Invest appropriate levels of time, money, and energy in Apricot implementation. While form design is a priority during initial Apricot implementation, other features are equally important to your success with Apricot.
Don’t forget about the following Apricot features when planning your first steps with Apricot.
- Report design
- User access and permissions
- Data migration
- Workflow, process, and productivity enhancements
2. Redesign an Apricot database structure (forms and links)
As your organization grows and evolves, your Apricot database will need updates that better reflect changing program designs, service changes, reporting requirements, and shifts in organizational structure.
Updating existing fields, editing forms, and adding or modifying links impact data entry workflows, the integrity of your data, and your existing reports. In addition, making changes to the structure of your database will most likely require a data migration from the old structure to the new structure. Because changing the existing data structure of your Apricot database is a complex task, you might consider working with an Apricot expert.
An Apricot consultant can evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a database redesign. A consultant can also define a “vision” system, build demos, and define the steps required to successfully complete a redesign project.
An Apricot database redesign will likely follow these steps:
- Create a blueprint or map of your existing database that defines the current form and link structure, which in turn defines the existing system’s reporting capabilities
- Translate your vision for the redesign into a form, field, and link blueprint, which we call a “vision” blueprint
- Compare the existing system’s blueprint to the vision blueprint and define the differences between the two systems
- Evaluate the viability of a redesign and define the actions that will be required to migrate from the existing to the new structure
- Design a project plan for the transition from your existing structure to a new structure including implementation, data migration, and archival of obsolete components.
A redesign project will then follow an implementation and data migration project plan after completing the above steps.
3. Apricot reporting and dashboards
Experience is key for Apricot reporting. The more reports you build and run, the more proficient you will become with Apricot reporting.
Most Apricot administrators can build simple exports and reports that count activities or demographics. Complex reports with calculations, counting across multiple forms, summaries, custom report expressions, and raw SQL reports may require expertise your internal team does not have. In any case, it may be easier to outsource report design and development to an Apricot consultant.
Dashboards are another Apricot feature to outsource to an Apricot consultant. An Apricot consultant can help you identify where and how to use Apricot dashboards and build dashboards that will be most helpful for your users.
4. Apricot data migration
Note: Apricot data migration will require the Apricot import tool. Review your Apricot Settings to confirm the import tool is active before starting an Apricot data migration project.
Data migrations may require a number of skills not readily available on your internal team. First, you must understand the design of your Apricot database. This includes knowledge of the forms and links between forms, as well as the fields on those forms. The forms, links, and fields are the target of your data migration.
Second, it helps to have a deep understanding of how to manipulate large data files in Excel. You will build import files in Excel, so confidence with Excel is a must-have skill. Even if you understand the design of your database and are solid with Excel, data migrations are still a heavy lift. In addition, a data migration can easily corrupt your Apricot database or turn into never-ending cleanup and mitigation projects.
These skills may be difficult to find on your internal team, so you may consider partnering with an Apricot expert to lead and execute data migration projects.
There are a handful of situations that prompt a Social Solutions Apricot data migration.
- Move from a legacy database system to Apricot software
- Redesign forms, or fields on forms, in your Apricot database
- Import data from an external database software into Apricot
- Re-implement Apricot software for a new form and link structure
5. Apricot software training
Apricot requires proficient and capable users to operate effectively. Apricot needs users for data entry, reporting and analytics, setup, management, and administration. In order to build proficiency with Apricot, your users need training. Training introduces new users to Apricot and keeps existing users and administrators up to date.
Social Solutions offers a variety of Apricot training solutions, some are free and some are paid. If you are looking for additional Apricot training beyond the Social Solutions curriculum, we recommend supplementing with support from an Apricot consultant.
A consultant can provide customized, 1-on-1 Apricot training focused exclusively on your organization. Apricot consulting will offer hands-on learning that is perfect for users that like to “try” tasks in Apricot in order to learn them.
6. Apricot workflow design
Improve the user experience with Apricot workflow design (at Sidekick Solutions, we call this user-based design). Partner with an Apricot consultant to streamline Apricot navigation and simplify data entry.
Workflow design is a priority if Apricot feels like a collection of disparate forms rather than a productivity tool that drives the user experience through a set of steps.
Workflow design occurs in two areas: internal processes and software features.
Internal processes are developed in parallel with Apricot’s technical features. Internal processes define the way users interact with the software.
Improving internal workflows adjusts “people-based” processes to match Apricot data entry requirements.
- Can Apricot be the point of entry for client intake rather than paper forms?
- Can case managers quickly take notes in Apricot using a dashboard of their active caseload?
- Can we accept referrals from external sources via secure web forms and process queued referrals after they are submitted?
- Can we reinforce data quality standards and ensure clients flow from intake to program enrollment with dynamic data quality reports?
Defining these procedures and eliminating waste in the system can make Apricot more manageable for end users.
Software features are the Apricot settings and preferences that streamline data entry and reporting. Processes are “people” based and the software features are “technology” based.
Apricot’s back-end allows you to customize the technical workflow and user experience.
- Add form logic and requirements to forms and links
- Implement linking and link requirements to forms
- Turn standard links into Wizard links that keep users on a single data entry screen
- Set up task lists and next step queues using reports
- Add email triggers for approvals, notifications, and communication with external parties
- Build standard reports for data quality reviews
- Streamline attendance tracking with registration grid, batch data entry, or imports
- Add ease of use bulletins and dashboards to the My Apricot home screen
- Create dynamic navigation tools with reports, bulletins, and custom report expressions
7. Apricot technical assistance
You may find that it is less expensive and more flexible to contract with an outsourced Apricot administrator for monthly database administration than to staff that same role in-house.
An Apricot expert acting as your Apricot system administrator can build reports, lead data migrations or run imports, restructure your database, redesign forms, implement new systems, complete data quality reviews, answer your most pressing questions, lead training programs, and proactively make sure you are getting the most from Apricot.
In many cases, calculating the total annual cost for an outsourced Apricot administrator is less than the total cost (including all benefits, taxes, management time, etc.) of a full-time employee.
At Sidekick Solutions, the majority of our clients retain us with a monthly plan for Apricot technical assistance. Technical assistance in this format keeps an Apricot database relevant and up to date as your organization evolves. Our clients have made the decision to tap a broader set of expertise on the Sidekick Solutions team than try to hire, train, and retain the same level of skills internally.
If you’re curious about our monthly plans or want to learn more about why they are so popular with our clients, let’s start with a conversation.
Get the most from Apricot database software
Social Solutions Apricot software can feel overwhelming for some. Partnering with an Apricot expert is a great way to alleviate the anxiety of managing your Apricot database.
Looking for support from a consultant? We are Apricot consultants and can help. Let’s start with a conversation and see if your project is a fit.