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Penelope – Solution Designed To Be The Beating Heart Of A Human Services Agency

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Athena Software was founded by a group of people with backgrounds in social services, psychology and outcomes evaluation, and accounting. Since 2001 Athena Software provides a comprehensive web-based case management software for social services organizations. Below is our interview with Neil McDonald from Athena Software:


Q: Tell us something more about the company and your core competence?

A: At Athena, we make Penelope case management software, a web-based client management solution for mid-size to large organizations in the nonprofit, health and social service fields.

Athena also provides SaaS hosting services for our clients around the world, as well as our Penelope Excellence Pathways deployment services, and a suite of professional and technical services.

Like our founders, we are driven by a collective passion to help improve the lives of people around the world by helping the agencies who serve them provide better, smarter, and more efficient and effective services.

We’re based in Waterloo, Ontario in Canada, though our client base is global – the majority of our clients are based in the U.S., though we also have a sizeable presence in Canada, Australia, the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand, as well as customers in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Greece and Turkey.

As our client base has grown, so has our company – our three-person startup is now a group of over 50 people!

Most of our staff are based at our head office in Waterloo, but we have employees in our business development, deployment and support departments based in California, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland in order to better serve our customers around the world.

We’re passionate about empowering innovation in social services, and we want to provide innovative, modern, easy-to-use software that helps improve outcomes, reduce administrative burden, and create operational efficiencies for multi-service human services organizations.

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Q: Could you explain the most prominent advantages of your Penelope case management software solution?

A: One of the main advantages is that Penelope is an integrated solution, and designed to really be the beating heart of a human services agency – we have a very powerful and unique set of features that provide the essential drivers for all aspects of the enterprise’s clinical and administrative operations.

These include: intakes, scheduling, billing, automated workflows and notifications, internal and external communications tools, smart forms, outcomes management, referrals and wait lists, service delivery and clinical data, electronic signatures, and reporting, to name a few.

As well, Penelope is mobile and web-based, meaning it can be accessed outside of the office at any time, and on any device, including smartphones and tablets.

This gives our clients the flexibility to access their case loads and data when and where they need it.

Many of our customers routinely perform services outside of the office – home visits, for example – and the ability to fill out a form with a client on a tablet (and have them sign it) electronically, eliminates the need for tedious re-typing of information and saves untold effort and expense.

As well, we recently launched a new mobile feature named Engage, which gives organizations the chance to send assessments or documentation directly to clients, or for their service providers to conduct clinical discussions with clients online.

Reporting is another major advantage for Penelope clients – our system comes with over 130 built-in reports, but we have also designed our system to be flexible when it comes to exporting the data for the purposes of creating custom reports. Whether exporting into Excel or to a business intelligence and data visualization tool like Tableau, our clients are able to access and analyze their data any way they wish, meaning they are able to provide the reports that their management and third-party stakeholders require.

Q: Can you give us more insights into your software solutions?

A: Aside from Penelope, we also provide world-class SaaS data hosting, implementation and deployment services, and a wide variety of professional and technical services, such as data migration, document building, report building, system configuration, business analysis, and much more.

Our SaaS offering is a popular one, because it allows organizations to save money, time and worry – we take care of data security, security maintenance, backups, hardware, capital costs, updates, and so on, and they can rest easy knowing that we have a comprehensive set of privacy and security measures intact, as well as a 99.99% uptime guarantee with generous credits for any unplanned downtime.

With Penelope SaaS, nothing needs to be installed and nothing is saved on staff workstations – choosing the cloud route means the confidential data our clients are entrusted with is safe, and that they essentially just need a recent web browser to access their Penelope system – nice and easy!

Our deployment team consists of industry experts who provide Penelope Excellence Pathways, a range of implementation options of varying intensity and scope designed to meet the specific project management, configuration and change management requirements of any organization. As well, our professional services team can do just about anything an organization needs with respect to adding extra value to their investment in Penelope, from data migration to building smart forms and creating custom reports.

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Q: What have been some major milestones over the last 12 months?

A: The last year has been an exciting one for Athena Software.

One major milestone was the release of our new Engage feature, which allows service providers and their clients to communicate and stay connected on a deeper level than ever before. With Engage, clients can now use their smartphone or mobile device to complete custom Penelope smart forms, surveys, or outcomes assessments; it can also be used to review service plans, or chat directly with their clinician or service provider.

This amazing new technology will help organizations improve quality assurance and accountability, while improving client responsiveness and even no-show rates. Here’s a video about how it works:

Another big item for us this year was our ISO / IEC 27001:2013 certification, which we achieved in June. This certification means that Athena’s business operations were audited, assessed and approved by an independent third party to meet international standards on maintaining confidentiality, integrity and availability of information. It also means that our clients and prospects can know with certainty that Athena Software is committed to the very highest standards of privacy and security.

Other high-profile milestones include: adding former Canadian Member of Parliament Peter Braid to our business development team, hiring experienced sales executive Scott Collins as our Manager of Business Development in the U.S., the rollout of our NDIS module for disability services providers in Australia, as well as the deployment of Penelope at Parents as Teachers, an international nonprofit based in St. Louis that provides early childhood educational support to over 200,000 children around the world.

Q: What are your plans for next six months?

A: While we can’t get into specific plans, our goal is essentially always the same – to continue to develop and refine Penelope as a best-in-class software package for human service organizations around the world, to continue to expand our presence and reputation worldwide as providers of a modern and innovative case management software solution, and to provide our clients with world-class deployment and support, while also providing them with the tools they need to drive social impact in their communities in a simple, smart and connected way.

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