Transforming IT with a service desk in the cloud

Against a backdrop of growing demands and static or reducing budgets, Matthew Holloway, Senior Corporate Finance Manager at Community Health Partnerships takes a look at how a cloud-based transformation project can support a company’s strategic growth.

Owned by the Department of Health, Community Health Partnerships (CHP) works with partners to transform the NHS estate, offering a unique blend of investment, property management and strategic estate planning expertise.

We provide a high quality and valued service to commissioners, CCGs, NHS England, GPs and Local Authorities across England, with the aim of delivering savings, increasing service integration and driving optimal use of the primary and community health estate. 

In recent years we have experienced major change. Due to our expanding role and becoming the Head Tenant for the £2.5bn NHS LIFT estate, we went from a company with a geographically dispersed workforce of around 30 people, responsible for providing investment oversight only, to a company responsible for the overall management of 305 primary and community healthcare buildings across England and has grown over the last three years to a workforce of 150.

CHP now provides professional strategic asset management services to effectively manage our estate through improved utilisation and contract management, driving value to contribute to wider system savings. Through our Property Portfolio, CHP today provides a home to over 1400 tenants including libraries, pharmacies, fitness centres and a wide range of community and social care providers. 

With our significant growth, it was apparent that our existing IT provider did not have the scalability and flexibility to support the organisation and were concerned that they couldn’t handle a substantial increase in contact volume, and support would be compromised as a consequence. It was time to transform our IT infrastructure.

CHP needed a strategic IT partner. With no internal IT department, it was important we could rely on a new Managed IT Services provider for both rock solid support, and for strategic guidance and future planning and execution.  Furthermore, CHP occupies serviced offices and we did not want any on-premise infrastructure. Everything needed to be in the cloud, and so we needed a partner that could propose a solution, and then implement, support and provide ongoing strategic guidance. 

Following a rigorous tender process on the Technology Services Framework (RM1058), CHP signed a three-year agreement with Littlefish for IT transformation and ongoing management and support of our IT systems, including Service Desk services, Infrastructure Support & Management, Microsoft Azure hosted servers, Microsoft Office365, and selective on-site support.

Achieving business goals

Littlefish offered the best value as well as the best fit for our needs.   The pricing structure was really clear and we could easily see how the platform could be scaled.  It was priced very competitively per user and the cost of future support was very easy to calculate.

We went to Littlefish with a “blank slate” with few specifications beyond that there should be no on-premise infrastructure and everything must sit in the cloud. Littlefish recreated the entire estate from scratch by setting up new back office infrastructure, servers and user accounts. CHP benefited from a brand new, self-contained environment. 

Littlefish implemented Microsoft Azure for file serving and service hosting, and Microsoft Office365 for user productivity, which provided an immediate cost-saving for CHP and improvement in user functionality. In addition, Littlefish suggested we retire our video-conferencing platform, and begin using Skype for Business, which again led to cost-savings and improvement in functionality and accessibility. 

Our Service Desk function now has a dedicated and personalised ‘pod’ thanks to Littlefish, combining service ownership and a tailored approach with the ability to handle any peaks in demand.  The ‘Pod’ is a single point of contact delivering consistent support. During periods of peak volume, the wider Littlefish Service Desk is also available to CHP to ensure that immediate, capable, and consistent support is always available. 

In terms of educating CHP’s users on the transition, a meeting was held at Littlefish’s Nottingham offices to determine the best and most suitable ways to communicate the changes through the wider company. Prior to service commencement, CHP’s users were given an introductory presentation as well as flyers with information and contact methods. Once installed, users were educated by Littlefish about the new system, including through some personalised onboarding – enabling everyone to feel comfortable with the platform and how to use it.

CHP has undertaken a large and complex transformation project and acknowledges the flexibility, expertise and strategic support that has allowed a smooth and timely transition to Littlefish. As a result, Littlefish is an integral part of CHP, supporting the company’s strategic growth and roll-out of new services. 

We wanted to commit to a company that could grow with us. We needed a 24/7 Service Desk.  However, we didn’t want to be a little cog in a big wheel, which could have happened had we chosen a bigger provider. We wanted to be able to create a relationship and rapport with our service provider, to ring our provider and say: “we’ve got an idea, what do you think?”

One learning point, which I would pass on, is that although it’s most definitely helpful to pick a partner that understands you, you must also know your own environment. If you are ingrained in the project and the process - you’ll always get the most from the transformation journey.

We are in a much better place now and by modernising our IT, we have a new IT architecture with a more robust and scalable solution that has transformed our business operations and will help us achieve our business goals.

Matthew Holloway, Senior Corporate Finance Manager, Community Health Partnerships
Image source: Shutterstock/bluebay