Black Country Housing Group is a social business providing social housing and residential care in the Birmingham and Black Country area. Since its founding in 1974, the organisation has grown to have 2,100 homes and two care homes, as well as services to support the communities in which it operates.
The organisation had grown over time, and the volume of data with it. Finding the information people needed for their day to day jobs was becoming more difficult, and balancing this with the imperative to protect sensitive personal information required by industry specific regulations and GDPR made the task even harder. In a regulated industry which deals with sensitive information controlling access to information is not an optional afterthought, but at the same time for an organisation to provide excellent service to it’s service users, timely access to the right information is critical.
Additionally, distributing news to a large dispersed organisation by printed newsletters and email was either expensive and slow, or contributed to the email overload faced by users.
In conjunction with Blacklight, BCHG identified that a SharePoint intranet would allow access to relevant information users needed; specifically, organisational news, and the documents and information needed to perform tasks. By using Blacklight’s knowledge of best practices in SharePoint, a beautiful and mobile-friendly intranet was constructed to put the information users needed front and centre, whilst still ensuring that sensitive information was only available to those who needed it.
By using “out of the box” SharePoint features, an intranet could be built quickly and cost-effectively. A further advantage of the use of standard SharePoint features is that the customer could easily perform routine modifications and adapt the intranet themselves in future without requiring change requests from a supplier. Just because the solution uses SharePoint doesn’t that it needs to look bland or out of alignment with corporate branding – especially with the skilful use of SharePoint’s latest features.
The intranet brought multiple benefits. Firstly, a saving in running expenses of legacy systems, and secondly in providing better access to the documents the organisation depends on to function.
When the solution went into production, the organisation was able to retire an expensive legacy system and associated hardware and software resources used by the legacy housing document management system, as well as allowing the retirement of the file servers on which other general-purpose documents resided. A move to the cloud also reduced support and administration costs compared to legacy on-premises solutions in everything from out-of-hours support to VPN access licenses, so the organisation was able to see cost savings in multiple places.
The intranet had multiple benefits for the end users. By having an easy-to-find and use “single version of the truth” the organisation was able to provide the information staff needed to perform their duties wherever and whenever they needed it. Instead of looking for information in multiple different systems each with distinct credentials and permissions, the user journey was far more simple with only one single place to look.
Even before the 2020 pandemic, this was a useful outcome, but when lockdowns forced offices to close, this greatly reduced the impact on staff productivity as staff could access the information they needed from anywhere.
"Migration to the SharePoint infrastructure was instrumental in enabling BCHG to deliver its corporate objective of facilitating colleagues working in an agile and flexible manner, assisting their access to documentation from any location on any device. Utilising SharePoint has enabled BCHG to derive many benefits from workflow processes, significantly reducing the amount of paper traffic within the Organisation whilst ensuring access to data is both secure and controlled."
- Steve Kesterton, ICT Project Manager @ BCHG