In the 18 months I’ve been with Catalyst, the organisation and technology have both undergone a huge amount of change. From having 240 hours of downtime on the telephony system in 12 months, to failing SANs four years behind patching cycles and non-redundant networking, we had to devise and deliver a major foundational change programme to address many ills.
In fact, we had to change ‘change management’ itself because this was often the root cause of failed initiatives in the past. Combined with December 2019’s merger with Aldwyck Housing and bringing these two teams together, this has been a year of phenomenal change in our organisation.
In the second week of March, we completed the roll-out of our 8×8 unified communications solution and installed new networks and a co-location facility in which to house the new infrastructure. In addition, we delivered a security operations service and an array of other security-related projects. In short, we have completed 30 projects which grew by 50 per cent in scope and an additional 11 per cent cost.
100 per cent of our contact centre staff have been able to work from home, handling an average of 900 calls a day and completing 98 per cent of them under coronavirus-operating circumstances. The way we work now is unrecognisable from a short few months ago. For example, we’re seeing an average of 750 colleagues active on Teams daily compared to just 40 six months ago (and that was basically just the IT team).
Our chief executive, Ian McDermott, is leading from the top with the new technology by holding crisis and planning meetings with our executive team remotely via Microsoft Teams. He is connecting with colleagues through a regular vlog from his home and he’s bringing the board members on board with the new technologies. We even had our recent in-depth assessment completed remotely.
We’ll soon be holding our first company-wide quarterly interactive colleague briefings through Teams, and we’re looking at how we can use the new technology to remotely bring together our 1,200 colleagues for our annual conference.
For the first time in my career I’ve seen an IT-related statement alongside the core business statements; one of the five pillars of this strategy is to ‘revolutionise our data and technology’.
This is a monumental vision from an executive team who see the benefit of technology as a value creator and the IT function as a thought leader. Whether we return to ‘normal’ next month or in six months, the revolution will continue and will last a few years. It will be a digitally ‘rich’ agenda centred around exploiting the value hidden in our data. The direction of travel will be along the lines of many in the sector, namely around Microsoft Dynamics allied with an uncompromising focus on data and ‘sweating’ its value.
We’re keen to pursue the cool digital stuff such as IoT, process robotics and other exciting developments, and want to do this as part of becoming a ‘knowledge business’. We sit on valuable data but often fail to turn this into information and then knowledge – we could become a ‘wiser’ organisation.
Without our recent technology changes, I really think we would have been paralysed, or at least significantly impaired, in our response to the pandemic. This crisis has showed us what’s possible given the right mix of ICT at the right (or wrong) time. We have become a ‘remote working’ organisation overnight but got lucky with the timing.
We must take advantage of our good fortune and capitalise on the significant cultural change this has had on our organisation. We will not waste this crisis and we’ll do what we can to help our colleagues to provide homes and support to our customers, in as optimal a way as possible.
Gareth Brace is the chief information officer at Catalyst Housing.