The Wise Group is a social enterprise dedicated to helping unemployed people into work. To increase focus on core activities and reduce costs, it decided to replace its existing IT systems, which were unsupported, unconnected, and expensive to maintain. Working with trusted partner Ashton Court Group, the Wise Group deployed Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, outsourcing e-mail and achieving a 30 per cent administrative saving. It also deployed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which enhance every aspect of service delivery and help clients achieve sustainable employment. Situation
The Wise Group and its partners help unemployed people into work, assisting them in gaining the skills and confidence they need. In doing so, the organisation is contributing to the regeneration of entire communities, and helping to create a fairer society. Alan Lee-Bourke, Chief Information Officer at the Wise Group, says: “As a social enterprise, we operate in the open market and generate revenue like any other business. The difference is that we plough our profits back into skills training programmes that get people to work.”
In 2008, the Wise Group generated £27 million and helped 3,105 people find jobs. Based on its impressive performance, the
||We no longer spend time or resources managing and storing e-mail in-house. This frees critical resources for our core activities and ensures our clients get all the attention and training they need.
||Alan Lee-Bourke, Chief Information Officer,
The Wise Group
organisation was awarded a major contract to run the government’s Flexible New Deal employment programme in south Scotland. The initiative will help tens of thousands of people into sustainable employment over the next five years.
When the Department of Work and Pensions awarded the Flexible New Deal contract to the Wise Group, the organisation was working with a number of unconnected IT systems that were unreliable and expensive to run. “We have to operate in the most efficient way possible to deliver the best service to our clients, but IT was becoming increasingly expensive and we were worried that our systems could no longer handle our growing client base,” says Lee-Bourke. “Our e-mail, payroll, human resources (HR), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems were also coming to the end of their life cycles and were expensive to maintain—and lack of integration between systems made it impossible to get a single view of our clients and their educational needs.”
To provide greater business insight and help thousands of people get back to work through the Flexible New Deal contract, the Wise Group decided to replace its systems with a standardised, fully integrated software environment. “We wanted to outsource as much of our IT function as possible and concentrate on technologies that reduce running costs, give us a single view of client needs and help us deliver the best possible service. Critically, we also wanted to be able to support a large number of clients—providing a centralised view of their needs and progress over the five years and reporting accurately on performance to the Department of Work and Pensions,” says Lee-Bourke.Solution
Working with trusted technology partner Ashton Court Group, the Wise Group designed an IT infrastructure based entirely on Microsoft technologies. “We are all used to working with Microsoft productivity tools on the desktop and we knew that our people would be able to work with the latest Microsoft tools with minimal training,” says Lee-Bourke. “We also knew that Microsoft could offer us integration from the database to desktop—supporting better workflows, automation of routine tasks, and a more comprehensive view of our clients and their needs.”
During the first phase of the project, Ashton Court Group helped the Wise Group migrate its unsupported IBM Lotus Notes e-mail system to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007—an integrated component of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. “The migration happened over a weekend, with no disruption,” says Lee-Bourke. “Straight away employees began accessing their e-mails through Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 from the office, from home, and on the move.”
E-mail inboxes are hosted at the Microsoft data centre in Dublin, Ireland, and employees at the Wise Group access e-mail as a fully managed service. “We no longer spend time or resources managing and storing e-mail in-house. This frees critical resources for our core activities and ensures our clients get all the attention and training they need,” says Lee-Bourke.
To provide a better picture of clients and their educational requirements, Ashton Court Group helped the Wise Group deploy Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. This technology provides intranet sites for each department across the organisation, giving employees tools to share information on clients and projects. Critically, it also stores documents from a range of other systems—providing a centralised view of training materials, and client progress and performance.
“We use Office SharePoint Server 2007 to access all the information and resources we need—from action plans and letters to information on how many people have gained employment this week,” says Lee-Bourke. “The system is at the centre of everything we do—making it possible to report on performance and deliver effective support for the Flexible New Deal programme.”
As a key element of the technology refresh, the Wise Group de-commissioned its unsupported CRM system and rolled out Microsoft Dynamics CRM with fully integrated text messaging functionality for contacting clients. This system feeds data into Office SharePoint Server 2007, making it available to 100 Wise Group and sub-contractor employees in real time. “Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we can manage the customer journey effectively, reminding clients about upcoming training sessions and interviews by text message, searching for jobs locally, reporting on clients’ progress once they find work, and informing the government about our performance.”
The Wise Group is currently migrating its unsupported enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to Microsoft Dynamics AX. “ERP is the last piece in the puzzle,” says Lee-Bourke. “Once we’ve migrated our HR, payroll, and finance systems to Microsoft Dynamics AX, we will have an environment based entirely on Microsoft technologies. This will deliver seamless data integration across our organisation, a single view of performance, and lower IT costs.”Benefits
With help from Microsoft, the Wise Group is getting more people into sustainable employment. As well as working on joint employment initiatives, such as the Britain Works programme, the organisation is making IT savings that directly increase funds available for client training. “The Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite has helped us to outsource our entire e-mail environment and
||The Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite has helped us to outsource our entire e-mail environment and we plan to do the same with Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics AX in the future.
Chief Information Officer,
The Wise Group
we plan to do the same with Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics AX in the future,” says Lee-Bourke. “The more we can outsource to Microsoft and its partners, the more we can cut administration costs, which helps us commit greater resources to helping people into work.”
Success Through IT Innovation
Because of its decision to deploy the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, the Wise Group is now seen as an industry innovator for its use of technology. Interest from the press and industry partners will help the organisation ensure success in future bids and projects. “Our Microsoft deployment has delivered demonstrable efficiencies,” says Lee-Bourke. “As a result, we’ve attracted a lot of attention from industry magazines and journals, and spoken at a number of high-profile events. The savings we’ve achieved with Microsoft technologies make positive reading for anyone planning to work with us, and references from the project will help us win new, high-profile tenders in the future.”
E-mail Costs Reduced by 30 Per Cent
By migrating to Microsoft infrastructure, the Wise Group has been able to decommission its expensive mainframe systems. “Microsoft technology has delivered significant savings. We estimate that it’s been far more cost effective than the open-source alternatives available,” says Lee-Bourke. “Specifically, outsourcing our e-mail with Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite has saved us 30 per cent compared to what we used to spend on servers, software, and support for Lotus Notes.”
Office SharePoint Server 2007 Brings Enhanced Business Performance
With Office SharePoint Server 2007, employees at the Wise Group can access all information relating to clients from a single, intuitive interface. “Before the deployment, we didn’t have timely, accurate data about clients and processes,” says Lee-Bourke. “Without Microsoft technology, we wouldn’t have been able to integrate data from multiple systems so quickly or support the large number of people who come through the Flexible New Deal. Because everything is now stored in Office SharePoint Server, we can easily see when clients have meetings and training sessions and remind them through a fully integrated text-messaging function. We can also report effectively on the numbers of people who have found sustainable employment.”
For More Information
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For more information about The Wise Group products and services, call or visit the Web site at: www.thewisegroup.co.uk
For more information about Ashton Court Group products and services, call or visit the Web site at: www.ashtoncourt.com
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