In January 2000 the debugging of HIFIS was completed and a senior systems analyst from EDS (one of Canada's largest professional IT service companies) was contracted to assist with the pilot test.
HIFIS was launched in several communities throughout 2000.
The HIFIS Overview Session was designed for delivery to shelter executive directors, senior shelter staff, key municipal and provincial officials and ancillary homeless support organizations, as well as other community organizations, such as the United Way.
The first pilot test of HIFIS was conducted in Calgary, in February, with a three-day program of intensive training, and demonstrations of the HIFIS software for the City of Calgary, its shelters and their key staff.
At this time, however, CMHC provided a demonstration of the software and its uses to the local community, but was forced to delay the launch of HIFIS until a local coordinator could be found.
Based on their experiences in the initial development stages of the software, CMHC found that in order to build a commitment to HIFIS everyone had to participate in the developmental process from the ground up and contribute whatever resources they could to it.
The year long pilot test of HIFIS was instrumental in garnering widespread support for its implementation in the shelter community, as well as among working level municipal and provincial staff across the country.
First and foremost, the most critical lesson learned was the patience, effort and time that was required to do the "people work" involved in getting HIFIS in the field and garnering support for it in what has often been described as a wary and guarded service providing community (Weible et al.
Despite the fact that HIFIS was designed to be user-friendly and to be used in a non-technical environment, the challenge of modifying some shelters' existing administrative systems to work with HIFIS became an overwhelming obstacle that could not be overcome without additional professional IT and financial resources.
In conclusion, in tracing the steps needed to create, develop and implement HIFIS this article has outlined a unique community initiative.
6) The remainder of this article has been directly based on: original tapes of the Vancouver HIFIS press conference, and training sessions delivered in Vancouver, HIFIS training aids, the HIFIS Pilot Testing Phase, Final Recommendations Document, March 2001, the HIFIS Getting Started Installation and Configuration Guide, and also the HIFIS Fact Sheet: The Homeless Individuals and Families Information System.