One Housing is a London-based housing group and not-for-profit organisation driven by a strong social purpose. A housing association, housebuilder and care provider, the company’s mission is to support people to live well and build lasting homes and communities. One Housing owns and manages over 17,000 homes in London and the South East and is the landlord to over 35,000 residents.
Microsoft Teams has enabled organisations like One Housing to provide its people with the ability to effectively communicate, collaborate and meet, despite unprecedented challenges to the working environment. Silversands is proud to share this success story.
In 2017, One Housing’s Management Team set out its ‘One Future’ vision. It’s an ambitious three-year programme of modernisation and digital transformation designed to address a broad range of improvements that would enhance both customer service/satisfaction and the employee experience.
Areas of focus included data quality and access to information, leveraging the cloud to support a well-equipped agile workforce and, critically, offering cost-effective digital channels to increase customer contact and service responsiveness, which needed to be effectively integrated with their back office systems.
“Giving our people the flexibility to work from anywhere, while reducing reliance on our datacentre and thin-client technologies was a key element of the programme,” said Tony Blows, CIO, One Housing.
“However, when you unpack this ambition it plays out in a range of different projects, from the physical devices people need to work remotely, the software they are going to use and how it’s hosted, to ensuring that education, adoption and execution of new ways of working are implemented seamlessly.”
As 2020 dawned, the ‘One Future’ programme team was making excellent progress. The company was at a point where it could implement widespread remote working across the organisation. Then the pandemic hit.
“When Covid broke, we were in a position to move to remote working for all of our staff. However, our existing video conferencing solution wasn’t efficient or reliable enough to orchestrate the day-to-day collaboration necessary to deliver our services during the crisis. We needed to move to
Teams, and we had to do it quickly,” said Tony.
The integration of Microsoft Teams into the corporate infrastructure needed to be quick and efficient. One Housing would be moving from Skype to Teams in one bold move and it was essential that people felt comfortable and confident making it. Silversands had demonstrated its technical capability and built a strong track record during earlier phases of the One Future programme. The company’s response to the Teams brief, its sector track record and specialist Microsoft experience gave One Housing the confidence to assign Silversands to the
“We were up against the clock and the deployment into and across the business needed to be completed as quick as was humanly possible. Silversands absorbed the brief, developed a specification, engaged with technical teams to ensure the implementation would connect the various systems needed and brought the whole thing to life swiftly. There was an urgency that we really appreciated,” said Tony.
The implementation of Teams went smoothly and One Housing was ready to make the transition within four weeks of the project starting. This included ensuring Teams was enabled and integrated into calendars, SharePoint and OneDrive for One Housing’s people to both communicate and collaborate effectively.
However, implementing a solution is just one element. Getting people to adopt it, enabling them to make use of all the relevant functionality and ensuring they feel confident doing so, is just as vital.
One Housing has 1,500 employees who were all at home due to the lockdown. It was felt that an online Q&A could help to facilitate the transition from Skype to Teams. This could be delivered through a Microsoft Teams Live Event, which enables a one-to-many style conference. It was not something that One Housing had any experience of using and so Silversands provided a team of experts to assist in the smooth running of the conference.
“Consultancy and training are areas where Silversands really shine. They explained how Live Events worked, what was necessary to support it and set it up. That was on the Wednesday afternoon. By Friday we had an Exec Q&A with around 500 of our people, with zero technical issues. Their consultants were flexible and keen to assist. I’d get positive feedback from my colleagues daily.”
Live Events has since been used many times to engage with large groups of staff. Those that can’t make these meetings are offered the video recording thereof to stream when convenient.
Silversands’ implementation of Teams and its support in driving adoption have led to several noteworthy results for the One Housing business that have supported the achievement of the ‘One Future’ vision.
- The company has continued to deliver services as usual and fulfil their commitment to customers who are also facing a difficult situation.
- It has brought the wider company together and ensured it feels cohesive and working as one.
- In a recent survey that explored whether employees felt supported the answer was a resounding yes.
- Teams has facilitated corporate governance (e.g. board meetings) and staff engagements as if it were pre-Covid.
- It has been effortlessly adopted by the Management Team.
- Attendance on conferences is high.
- It has ensured that Resident Panels have continued unabated and customer needs have been heard and responded to.
- Without fail and without resistance, all stakeholders have moved to Teams and got on with the business of engaging with One Housing.
In addition to ensuring the effective functioning of the core business, the One
Future programme has not dropped a beat. One Housing has managed to
roll out Microsoft Dynamics CRM to 200 users during Covid. Since March 2020,
all the project work, all the UAT meetings, all the training, all the technical
planning, all the engagement with stakeholders has been done over Teams.
“To deploy Microsoft Dynamics, I have a diverse and disparate team. Some
based in India, some in France and others spread all over the UK. It’s a
vast cast of players. To come together for something as complex as a CRM
deployment and to succeed is a remarkable achievement, which could not
have happened without Teams. I’m still slightly amazed myself,” said Tony.
“The results are testament to the product and the fact it’s been implemented
in a stable, reliable, effective way. Confidence is high. People focus on
the meeting and not whether the technology will work. When you’ve got a
reliable partner like Silversands working with you, you adapt more quickly,
and you maximise the benefit of the investment more quickly.”
Covid-19 has proven to One Housing that it can work in an agile way across just about all parts of the business. This, in turn, has opened up new opportunities and new thinking on how it can run the business that are driving new ROI opportunities.
The company is starting to rethink the nature of its workspace, how it offers the best experience for its employees and ensure they get the most out of their time in the office.
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