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IT upgrade to cloud solution enables a more productive workforce

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Impact Initiatives is a charity that sets up and manages services to support people of all ages in Brighton and Hove and West Sussex where there is a gap in existing services.

With more than 2,500 service users and a mobile workforce in many locations, the organisation needed to find a way for staff to more easily collaborate.

“Despite being a charity we operate like a complex business, with many income and expenditure streams”, says Chief Executive Caroline Ridley. However, Impact Initiative’s IT did not live up to those ‘complex business’ needs. “We needed a system to better manage all of our data and to be able to communicate with each other and share documents – that was one of the biggest drivers for change”.

The way it was

An out-of-date IT infrastructure was detrimental to organisational efficiency. The charity’s 80 employees and 150 volunteers shared sensitive data over the phone, via email and using cloud sharing software such as Dropbox. Several operating systems were in use and the main server’s hard drive had insufficient storage space to accommodate Impact Initiatives’ needs. What’s more, remote access to the Central office by their highly mobile workforce was not possible.

The way it is now

Newman examined the organisation’s aims and requirements carefully and in partnership with Impact Initiatives made the following improvements:

  • Easy collaboration — Newman installed a more powerful server and deployed Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based suite of desktop applications and services. The move has brought “noticeable time savings and the reassurance that everything that needs to be accessed remotely is in one place”, says Caroline. ”Now, staff and volunteers can store and retrieve files from any computer at Impact Initiatives’ seven sites or from their smartphone. Downtime is no longer a concern: if broadband connection fails, staff log on elsewhere and continue working”.
     
  • Increased productivity — With a mostly remote workforce spread over a large area, clear communication is crucial. Thanks to the cloud-based operating system, staff can access email and share diaries from a smartphone or computer, no matter where they are. “Being able to log in from anywhere is a huge advantage”, says Caroline. “I put my meeting appointments on my phone and it synchronises with colleagues’ diaries. It’s far more efficient. Before, we had no way of sharing appointments”.
     
  • Better services — At Impact Initiatives, the creation of reports is essential to monitor service success and to use in funding bids. However, reporting for the Advocacy service – which helps adults with learning difficulty or disability to make their voice heard– was very time consuming. Case notes were recounted over the phone and stored in several places by staff who are part-time and mobile and therefore not always easy to contact. Newman installed a bespoke server to power a dedicated database so staff simply log in to access, input or edit up-to-date records at any time.
     
  • Waste reduction — Impact Initiatives’ busy Young People’s Centre was using an old, inefficient printer to produce posters, leaflets and fact sheets. With a powerful multifunctional machine that scans, copies and prints to replace it, teams are saving time and paper. The handy scan-to-email function has proven particularly popular. A service agreement eliminates hassle too – the equipment is automatically remotely monitored to collect readings and alerts Newman to any problems. If there is a fault, Newman carries out the repair promptly at no additional charge.
     

‘Better in the long run’

The IT that Newman has implemented enables Impact Initiatives to work a better way because teams can instantly open and edit files ‘on the road’.

Caroline concluded: “To be able to access files such as policy documents, leaflets and appraisals from anywhere is a huge advantage. The fact that information is held centrally is saving so much time and means data is much more accurate and version control is far simpler. This has freed up managers to look at service development so we can be better in the long run.

Challenges

  • Disparate teams spread over large area
  • The need to access confidential information remotely
  • Inefficient printers slowing down staff
  • Inadequate means to produce reports from service data

Success factors

  • Time savings from the ability to access files from any location
  • More accurate, up-to-date case notes
  • Reassurance that important documents are 'in one place'
  • Better quality, less wasteful, lower-cost printing
  • Automated report creation based on current data

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