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					                                               Microsoft Office System
                                               Customer Solution Case Study

                                               New Extranet to Empower Global Charity to
                                               Meet Exponential Growth Goals

Overview                                       “By extending and assembling out-of-the-box features
Country or Region: Global
Industry: Nonprofit
                                               to meet the specific requirements of Habitat, we were
                                               able to build a robust extranet—that previously would
Customer Profile
Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is
                                               have taken years—in just four months!”
a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing      Allan Wellenstein, Partner and Chief Information Architect, AW Systems
ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty
housing and homelessness from the world.       Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is a non-profit,
Business Situation                             ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate
For years, Habitat spent extensive hours       poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make
fixing and adding on to PartnerNet to keep
up with the expansive growth of the            decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. For years,
organization and number of affiliates. As a    Habitat spent extensive hours fixing and adding on to its extranet,
result, information became increasingly
difficult to find, access, and manage.         PartnerNet, to keep up with the expansive growth of the
                                               organization. As a result, the information in PartnerNet became
Using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® 2007       increasingly disjointed and difficult to access, navigate, and
as a development platform, AW Systems          manage. Using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 as a
worked with Habitat to rebuild PartnerNet
into an organized collection of global and     development platform, AW Systems worked with Habitat to rebuild
regional program and department                PartnerNet into an organized collection of global and regional
websites, tailored to Habitat’s current and
expanding needs.                               websites, tailored to Habitat’s specific current and expanding
                                               needs. The new PartnerNet is expected to vastly improve
 Expanded use of corporate knowledge
                                               information access, organizational support, and knowledge sharing
 Improved fundraising efforts                 across the enterprise.
 Increased staff and volunteer
 Improved collaboration
Situation                                        and sometimes after work. Her brothers also
Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is a   came and helped with the initial work on the
nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing          house. She comments, “It was fun and
ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty         informative to learn about building and about
housing and homelessness from the world          being a homeowner. I’ll own this house
and to make decent shelter a matter of           because I pay for it, but also through my
conscience and action. Habitat invites people    work.”
of all backgrounds, races, and religions to
build houses together in partnership with        Sylvia and Denetra are just two of more than
families in need.                                1 million people who have benefited from
                                                 partnering with Habitat. Their house is just
Through volunteer labor and the donations of     one of more than 225,000 houses in more
money and materials, Habitat builds and          than 3,000 communities around the world
rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the     that have been built to provide safe, decent,
help of homeowner (partner) families. Habitat    affordable shelter with families in need.
houses are then sold to the partner families
at no profit and financed with affordable        Grassroots and Global
loans. Monthly mortgage payments are then        The global success of Habitat is a result of
used to build more Habitat houses. Habitat is    the work of its more than 2,300 grassroots
not a giveaway program. In addition to the       affiliates around the world, including nearly
down payment and monthly mortgage                90 countries. Each affiliate is an
payments, homeowners invest hundreds of          independent, locally-run, non-profit
hours of their own labor—sweat equity—into       organization that coordinates all aspects of
building their Habitat house and the houses      Habitat home building in its local area. This
of others.                                       includes fund raising, building site selection,
                                                 partner family selection and support, house
Building a New Life in the Wake of a             construction, and mortgage servicing. Similar
Hurricane                                        to any global business with local franchises,
Sylvia Ragan and her daughter, Denetra, lost     the key to the success of Habitat has been its
almost everything they owned when                ability to empower and support each
Hurricane Katrina hit Bay St. Louis,             grassroots affiliate, while maintaining
Mississippi. For several months, they lived in   consistency across the organization, building
a FEMA trailer. However, they were required      its global reputation, and extending its brand
to vacate that trailer in February, 2006.        around the world.
According to Ragan, “It had always been a
dream of mine to own a home; but as a single     PartnerNet: Global Support for
parent, it was an intimidating thought. I        Grassroots Work
thought I might have to go back to Vicksburg     PartnerNet is Habitat’s extranet and is one
where my family is, but my job at the kidney     important way in which Habitat
dialysis clinic and my friends are here.”        communicates with its thousands of
                                                 affiliates, volunteers, and staff. According to
After a thorough selection process, the local    Brett Boatright, Web Communications
Habitat affiliate’s family selection committee   Manager, Habitat for Humanity International,
chose Ragan, based on her level of need,         “Back in 2000, we launched PartnerNet as
willingness to become a partner in the           our extranet document management system.
program, and ability to repay the loan. Ragan    Since then it had grown to over 40,000
did her sweat equity hours on her days off       users, 14,000 documents, a discussion
                                                                                       that had to be fixed. The previous
                                                                                       authentication system was not connected to
                                                                                       any external directory service. Therefore,
                                                                                       affiliates could register and be automatically
                                                                                       granted access, and Habitat had no way of
                                                                                       confirming the legitimacy of those users or
                                                                                       affiliates. They also had no way of connecting
                                                                                       a user’s profile to the official affiliate record
                                                                                       in PIMS, Habitat’s Partner Information
                                                                                       Management System, a .NET/SQL Server
                                                                                       2000 application maintained at global

                                                                                       Additionally, Habitat staff had to remember a
                                                                                       separate username and password to log in
                                                                                       PartnerNet, even if they were already
                                                                                       authenticated on the domain through the
                                                                                       intranet. Users also found that if they forgot
                                                                                       their username or password, it was easier to
                                                                                       create a new username and password than
                                                                                       to obtain their already valid login information.
Figure 1 – Different look and feel   forum, and an extensive photo library.”           Because many volunteers accessed
    across original version of       Ultimately, the objective of PartnerNet is to     PartnerNet only on rare occasions, Habitat
    PartnerNet                       provide the time-tested “Habitat Way” of          discovered that many users had multiple
                                     building houses with families in need. The        usernames and passwords; some as many as
                                     content includes extensive best practices,        seven! In addition to limiting the tool’s
                                     lessons-learned, procedures, processes, and       effectiveness for volunteers, this required
                                     ongoing updates. The goal of this content is      ongoing intervention by IT staff.
                                     to empower affiliates to spend more time
                                     working directly with families in need and less   Fractured information: Once in the door of
                                     time figuring out how to do so. In addition,      PartnerNet, volunteers had difficulty finding
                                     this resource helps affiliates avoid potential    the information they needed and in many
                                     problems that could occur throughout the          cases did not even know where to start
                                     complex processes of family selection,            looking. In addition to limited search
                                     construction, and financing.                      capabilities, navigation across the sites was
                                                                                       extremely confusing, causing many to get lost
                                     Renovate or Rebuild?                              in the tool and give up or start over. One
                                     For years, Habitat spent extensive hours          reason for this is that as sites developed over
                                     fixing and adding on to PartnerNet to keep up     the years, they emerged independently, each
                                     with the expansive growth of the organization     with its own look and feel and navigation (see
                                     and number of affiliates. As a result, while      Figure 1).
                                     the extranet housed vital information
                                     affiliates needed, it was difficult to access,    This resulted in concerns from volunteers,
                                     navigate, manage and use.                         many of whom ultimately dropped off and
                                                                                       looked elsewhere or sought to create their
                                     A primitive authentication system: Getting in     own way of getting their work done, not
                                     the door of PartnerNet was one weakness           taking advantage of the shared information
on the site. In addition, the expanding            Integrate applications. (In the previous
number of documents became lost across              version, each application had separate
the sites and often persisted beyond their          authentication systems and its own,
currency. This resulted in the potential for        disjointed navigation.)
misinformation and caused additional strain        Improve collaboration and knowledge
on site managers and IT to manage all the           sharing across the organization.
content.                                           Expand to meet its growing needs and
                                                    objectives. Habitat has instituted a five-
According to Boatright, “Users had a hard           year plan which calls for exponential
time finding any information specific to their      growth. The rebuilt PartnerNet is a critical
need or expertise. Their requests just ended        component to achieving that level of
up drowning in the mire of overpopulated            growth because without the most current,
documents and out-of-date information.”             relevant information at the fingertips of
                                                    volunteers, it will be impossible for
Impact on Habitat and its Affiliates                affiliates to scale up house building.
PartnerNet’s disrepair created inefficiencies
at both HFHI and affiliate levels. At HFHI, IT    Solution
staff and site managers had to spend time         Using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® 2007 as
fixing problems, managing content and sites,      a development platform, AW Systems worked
and responding to issues via email and            with Habitat to rebuild PartnerNet into an
phone calls instead of building, supporting,      organized collection of global and regional
and expanding the solution. At the local level,   program and department websites, tailored
volunteers and affiliates were frustrated,        to meet Habitat’s current and expanding
wasting time and reinventing processes.           needs.

Eddie Byrd, Director of Communications            Custom Solution Developer Chooses
Support Services, concludes, “If volunteers       SharePoint Server 2007
could not find what they needed quickly, they     AW Systems specializes in custom solution
would often create their own way and that’s       development, aligning information
exactly what we don’t want, for their sake and    architecture to meet the specific needs and
ours. Thousands of hours have gone into           usability requirements of customers.
determining the best way to accomplish each       AW Systems found that previous versions of
process. Those hours and the hours spent          Microsoft SharePoint Products and
reinventing processes are all wasted as long      Technologies did not meet the flexibility
as the information remains unavailable to the     required for such custom development.
affiliates.”                                      However, after extensive examination,
                                                  AW Systems concluded that the
The Decision to Rebuild                           improvements in SharePoint Server 2007
After years of fixing and adding onto the         would empower them to develop exactly what
previous version of PartnerNet, Habitat           its customers needed without compromise,
decided to rebuild it to create a portal that     yet do so more quickly and effectively.
                                                  In addition to all of the out-of-the-box
 Provide the quick, easy access to current,      functionality, a key deciding factor was the
  useful information required by each user.       fact that SharePoint Server 2007 is built on
 Empower each program, department, and           top of the ASP.NET 2.0 framework. This
  region to support affiliates and volunteers.    meant that any SharePoint Server 2007
                                                                                         and navigation all tied together, Habitat
                                                                                         concluded that the 2007 Office system would
                                                                                         not only meet its current needs, but also
                                                                                         provide the flexibility and scalability for
                                                                                         exponential growth.

                                                                                         According to Wellenstein, “SharePoint Server
                                                                                         2007 is built on top of the .NET 2.0
                                                                                         Framework, building on its membership and
                                                                                         sitemap providers as well as master pages,
                                                                                         themes, and skinning. If there was something
                                                                                         that SharePoint Server 2007 couldn’t do for
                                                                                         me out-of-the-box, I knew that I could use
                                                                                         .NET to extend and customize anything I

                                                                                         The Prize
                                                                                         In the midst of development, Wellenstein
                                                                                         learned about the “2007 Microsoft Office
                                                                                         system Develop Without Borders Challenge”
                                                                                         ( and
Figure 2 – Registration for single   functionality that was not exactly what             nominated Habitat. Jay Paulus, director of the
    sign-on to PartnerNet            Habitat needed could be customized.                 Office Platform Marketing team, Microsoft,
                                     According to Allan Wellenstein, AW Systems,         comments, “A lot of charitable organizations
                                     “By taking advantage of out-of-the-box              face the same business, collaboration, and
                                     features and extending and assembling them          document management problems that for-
                                     to meet the specific requirements of Habitat,       profit organizations do, but they typically
                                     we were able to build a robust extranet—that        don’t have the access to technology to solve
                                     previously would have taken years to build—in       the problems.”
                                     just four months.” He adds, “SharePoint
                                     Server 2007 makes it easy for us to                 Since 1983, Microsoft and its employees
                                     customize the experience for the specific           have given more than U.S.$2.5 billion in
                                     needs of each Habitat program or                    cash, services and software to nonprofits
                                     department, while doing it in a manner that         around the world through localized, company-
                                     maintains a consistent user experience              sponsored giving and volunteer campaigns.
                                     across the entire space.”                           The Develop Without Borders Challenge, co-
                                                                                         sponsored by HP, has since added
                                     Habitat Decides to Change Platforms                 U.S.$250,000 in donations to various
                                     Habitat was using another content                   winners, including Habitat, which received
                                     management platform for its extranet,               one of two grand prizes, each valued at
                                     intranet, and public site. Therefore, it needed     $50,000 in hardware, software, and services.
                                     to be convinced that the value of the 2007
                                     Microsoft Office system was worth making            According to Kanwal Sharma, HP Marketing &
                                     the change. However, after seeing the               Business Development Worldwide, “The
                                     features, potential for extensibility, ability to   developer response we received from this
                                     manage multiple sites, along with blogs,            contest was incredible. All the winners
                                     wikis, discussion forums, surveys, templates,       created innovative solution ideas that are
                                                                                     Using the 2007 Office system as a
                                                                                     development platform AW Systems built a
                                                                                     new version of PartnerNet that provides:

                                                                                        An easier, more secure registration and
                                                                                         login process.
                                                                                        Customized, role-based homepages and
                                                                                        More effective search and navigation.
                                                                                        Improved site and content creation and
                                                                                        Better integration across applications.
                                                                                        Rich collaboration features.
                                                                                        Features to expand the use and usefulness
                                                                                         of the site globally.
                                                                                        Flexibility and scalability to meet
                                                                                         exponential growth goals of the

                                                                                     Easier, More Secure Registration and
Figure 3 – Subscription page (top)   impressive from both a technological and        Login
    and customized homepage          organizational perspective.” The contest        Getting in the door of PartnerNet is now both
    (bottom)                         reaffirms how developers in general are         easier and more secure. Because SharePoint
                                     finding ways to connect their technical         is built on the membership provider and the
                                     abilities with their desire to help others.     .NET 2 Framework, Habitat was able to
                                                                                     implement the ideal authentication: Single
                                     Thanks to the prize, Habitat was able to        sign-on for Habitat users on the domain and
                                     implement several features, previously slated   username and password authentication for
                                     for later phases. This acceleration will        external users. When new affiliate users
                                     empower Habitat to more quickly and             register, Habitat uses a web service to
                                     effectively meet its goals to respond to more   authenticate the request against PIMS and
                                     families like Sylvia and Denetra.               then tie that user’s record to their official
                                                                                     affiliate record (see Figure 2, previous page).
                                     Preparing to Build
                                     AW Systems began this effort with a formal      Customized, Role-Based Homepages and
                                     and thorough needs assessment. Habitat          Newsletters
                                     faced a challenge common to many large,         AW Systems built a subscription system
                                     geographically distributed organizations: How   within the new PartnerNet that allows users
                                     do you build a portal that can effectively      to specify their regional and subject matter
                                     communicate your entire "institutional          interest and thereby customize their user
                                     knowledge" while at the same time making it     experience (see Figure 3). During registration,
                                     easy for each unique individual user to         users select the sites specific to their role,
                                     access the small slice of information he        region, and interests. These subscriptions
                                     needs and contribute from his experience to     then automatically create a custom
                                     that corporate knowledge for the benefit of     homepage for each user that contains the
                                     others and the organization?                    latest news, discussions, and upcoming
events for all sites to which the user has        manner and users can consistently find what
subscribed.                                       they’re looking for.”

More Effective Search and Navigation              Better Integration Across Applications
To make this massive amount of global and         The integration between the various
local content easily digestible, AW Systems       collaboration features of SharePoint Server
extended the solution using ASP.NET. “The         2007 and Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
logical way to make the information well          communication and collaboration client will
organized and consumable was to create            improve the experience of those users who
individual sites for each program and             access PartnerNet on a regular basis.
department that needed one (currently over
130),” says Wellenstein. “We then created a       Rich Collaboration Features
mechanism that tied all these sites together      Recognizing the value of each volunteer’s
into a holistic navigation system and created     knowledge and experience, Habitat wanted a
tools to allow an individual to surface the       way to encourage and enable the sharing of
small subset of this massive universe of          ideas across PartnerNet. Thanks to the
information that they needed to do their          various collaboration features of SharePoint
jobs.”                                            Server 2007, PartnerNet is no longer a one-
                                                  way channel of communication from global to
By taking advantage of various 2007 Office        grassroots, but a powerful knowledge-sharing
system components, the new PartnerNet             portal, including:
provides a powerful search interface, allowing
users to quickly find exactly what they need.      Wikis: Habitat for Humanity International’s
                                                    PartnerNet is a valuable resource to
To improve navigation, every site is built on a     affiliates looking for best practices and
common template (see Figure 4, next page).          resources on a wide range of
Also, while all the sites are SharePoint sites,     organizational functions. A robust Wiki will
they have been highly customized by                 allow Habitat affiliates and
AW Systems to appear and function like most         program/department staff to easily find,
public websites. This consistency between           contribute to, and update this important
sites and more intuitive navigation will ensure     material in an efficient manner.
that once users understand how one site            Blogs: Blogs will be used to manage the
works, they’ll immediately be familiar with the     news and announcements on each
others.                                             program/department site, allowing user
                                                    comments to serve as the mechanism for
Improved Site and Content Creation and              all users to add insight.
Management                                         Team Sites: There are countless examples
By developing templates for site                    of teams within Habitat that need to work
development, each program and department            collaboratively, many with individuals
can now easily build out its own site and           disbursed around the country or world.
empower a small team of editors to manage           PartnerNet provides a mechanism for
the news blogs, wikis, FAQs, event calendars,       these teams to easily create team sites,
document libraries, and discussion forums.          creating a consistent, reliable environment
According to Brett Boatright, Web                   for team collaboration.
Communications Manager, Habitat for
Humanity International, “Content can now be
uploaded and maintained in an efficient
                                                                                       labor-intensive, time-consuming, and
                                                                                       fraught with the potential for missing and
                                                                                       inaccurate information, as spreadsheets
                                                                                       are emailed back and forth or custom
                                                                                       ASP.NET applications are developed to
                                                                                       collect data. A combination of Microsoft
                                                                                       Office InfoPath 2007 information gathering
                                                                                       program, InfoPath Forms Services, and
                                                                                       Excel Services will provide rich, user input
                                                                                       forms, exposed as “web forms” and allow
                                                                                       users to view and interact with
                                                                                       spreadsheets directly within PartnerNet
                                                                                       where a single version of the Excel
                                                                                       workbook will be maintained. According to
                                                                                       Steve Baker, Information Systems
                                                                                       Manager, "We need a way for the national
                                                                                       organizations to directly interact with
                                                                                       Habitat rather than passing spreadsheets
                                                                                       to the area offices, which roll them up into
                                                                                       bigger spreadsheets until they finally make
                                                                                       their way to headquarters. Being able to
Figure 4 – Consistent look and   Phase Two: Building a More Global Site                manage that online will provide true value
    feel across new PartnerNet   Habitat for Humanity is a global organization,        to the extranet.”
                                 with area offices and national organizations
                                 in Europe and Central Asia, Africa and the        Benefits
                                 Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean      A beta version of PartnerNet was launched in
                                 and Asia Pacific. Habitat identified access to    early 2007 and has already vastly improved
                                 area-specific content in multiple languages       information access, site navigation,
                                 as a key deliverable for a planned Phase Two      organizational support, collaboration, and
                                 of the rebuilt PartnerNet.                        knowledge sharing across the organization.

                                 Flexibility and Scalability to Meet Exponential   Once deployed across the entire organization,
                                 Growth Needs                                      Habitat expects that the new version of
                                 The 2007 Office system was also chosen due        PartnerNet will contribute to:
                                 to its capabilities to provide additional
                                 features in future phases of PartnerNet            Exponential Construction Growth: With fast,
                                 development, including:                             easy access to accurate, up-to-date,
                                                                                     information, each affiliate will be able to
                                  Workflow: Workflow will be developed for a        work more efficiently, leverage best
                                   variety of processes, including the               practices, avoid costly delays, eliminate
                                   monitoring of content developments within         wasted resources, recruit more volunteers,
                                   each site to ensure quality, relevance, and       limit liability and hopefully - build more
                                   currency.                                         houses.
                                  Reporting: Like any large organization,          Greater Use of Corporate Knowledge: By
                                   Habitat needs to regularly collect, analyze,      transforming PartnerNet from a one-way
                                   and report on information provided by             channel of communication to a rich,
                                   multiple individuals. The current process is      collaborative environment, Habitat will be
                                             able to leverage more of the valuable
                                             knowledge, skills, experience, and ideas of
                                             its thousands of volunteers.
                                            Increased Income: Every affiliate raises
                                             funds for its efforts. Some affiliates, in fact,
                                             primarily raise funds for work done in other
                                             parts of the world. By providing better
                                             access to fundraising best-practices and
                                             improving the opportunity to easily share
                                             successful fundraising ideas and efforts
                                             between affiliates, Habitat hopes the new
                                             PartnerNet will have a direct impact on
                                             fundraising across the organization.
                                            Reduced Expenses: By streamlining
                                             processes at both the HFHI and local levels
                                             and enabling volunteers to participate
                                             more actively in content contribution and
"Ultimately, the new                         management, Habitat expects to reduce
                                             overhead costs.
PartnerNet will be vital                    More Productive IT Staff: As IT staff spend
to accomplishing our                         less time responding to issues and fixing
                                             problems, they will be able to invest more
house building goals                         time and energy expanding the capabilities
over the next five years."                   of the new PartnerNet.
                                            A Stronger Habitat Brand: By improving
Eddie Byrd, Director of Communications       access to resources, guidelines, news and
Support Services, Habitat                    information available to affiliates, the new
                                             PartnerNet will improve consistency in
                                             branding and messaging across the
                                             organization, building a stronger Habitat for
                                             Humanity brand.

                                         Eddie Byrd, Director of Communications
                                         Support Services, concludes, “Ultimately, the
                                         new PartnerNet will be vital to accomplishing
                                         our house building goals over the next five
                                         years. To meet the exponential growth we
                                         have planned, each affiliate will need to
                                         incorporate the full value of the knowledge
                                         that is there and is now at their fingertips.
                                         And, thanks in part to the Develop Without
                                         Borders prize; we have been able to make
                                         this possible sooner.”
For More Information                                                Microsoft Office System
For more information about Microsoft                                The Microsoft Office system is the business
products and services, call the Microsoft                           world’s chosen environment for information
Sales Information Center at (800) 426-                              work, providing the programs, servers, and
9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft                                 services that help you succeed by
Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-                             transforming information into impact.
2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-
hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone                          For more information about the Microsoft
(TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in                             Office system, go to:
the United States or (905) 568-9641 in                    
Canada. Outside the 50 United States and
Canada, please contact your local
Microsoft subsidiary. To access information
using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about AW Systems
products and services, call 212-246-9700
or visit the Web site at:

For more information about Habitat for
Humanity International and how to get
involved, call 800-422-4828 or visit the
Web site at:

                                                                     Software and Services                          − Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal
                                                                        Products                                     Server 2003
                                                                         − Microsoft Office Excel 2003             Technologies
                                                                         − Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003           − Microsoft ASP.NET
                                                                         − Microsoft Office Outlook 2003
© 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. This case
study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO
Microsoft, Excel, Groove, InfoPath, the Office logo, Outlook, and
SharePoint are either registered trademarks or trademarks of
Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other
countries. All other trademarks are property of their respective

Document published October 2007

Description: Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. For years, Habitat spent extensive hours fixing and adding on to its extranet, PartnerNet, to keep up with the expansive growth of the organization. As a result, the information in PartnerNet became increasingly disjointed and difficult to access, navigate, and manage. Using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 as a development platform, AW Systems worked with Habitat to rebuild PartnerNet into an organized collection of global and regional websites, tailored to Habitat’s specific current and expanding needs. The new PartnerNet is expected to vastly improve information access, organizational support, and knowledge sharing across the enterprise.