Microsoft Case study


Fostering organisation uses Microsoft technology to keep vulnerable children protected

Without modern technology, UK Fostering was struggling to work on the move, easily share information securely and support the many carers who help keep some of the UK’s vulnerable children protected. Now with up-to-date cloud services and powerful devices from Microsoft they face no barriers. The team work effectively from any location, armed with information and tools to be immediately responsive so valuable time savings can be spent supporting the carers who make such a difference.

UK Fostering is a small, independent fostering agency passionate about changing the lives of vulnerable children. When local authorities have more children needing foster homes than they can accommodate, UK Fostering steps in providing fully trained, compassionate and competent foster families for a variety of different placements. Growing fast, the dedicated team of 13 is spread across 3 UK offices, covering the breadth of the country. Relationships are very important so a large part of everyone’s day is spent travelling around to meet with foster carers and carry out assessments. Tim McArdle, Head of Placement & Recruitment, has been a driving force behind updating UK Fostering’s IT tools to help them plan for their next stage of growth.

Challenge – Outdated IT causes time and cost inefficiencies

Information access and security are of paramount importance to UK Fostering. With a large amount of time spent on the road, staff sometimes struggled to get the information they needed and to respond quickly to new case requirements. Guaranteeing communications security with carers and stakeholders around individual cases was also becoming more complex, often resulting in sensitive documents being posted which incurred cost and inevitable delays. Laptops and smartphones were outdated and use of laptops in carer meetings created unnecessary barriers, inhibiting the sensitive conversations required. As a result, staff were taking written notes to then type up and saved digitally once back in the office, wasting valuable time. With a growing team spread across 3 offices, internal communication is vital but being able to meet face-to-face to discuss cases was becoming harder.

“Keeping information secure and confidential is critical, but it was a challenge. I was also conscious that the team was growing fast and our current difficulties around working on the move and keeping close contact across offices was only going to get greater in the future,” says Tim.

The Solution – Modern devices, powered by the cloud

Microsoft, Complete I.T. and O2 decided to help. Complete I.T., a small business technology specialist, recognised that strong relationships lie at the heart of UK Fostering’s success. Spending time with the team to understand the challenges they face every day provided Complete I.T. with the insights to create a new, modern IT blueprint based on the very latest communication and collaboration capabilities coupled with powerful Windows devices to help them to stay connected and work effectively from anywhere.

Complete I.T. worked with O2 to optimise Office 365 accounts, and set-up a newMicrosoft Azure cloud-based server environment, installing software on modern Windows PCs, Surface Pro 3 and Lumia smartphone devices. Historic data and company documents were migrated into the cloud, while training sessions ensured everyone was up and running and excited about the new tools and applications. In a matter of weeks, UK Fostering have a host of new possibilities at their fingertips.

Office 365 and Microsoft Azure provide UK Fostering with cloud-based email, document storage, communications services and the latest suite of Microsoft Office applications in a package that will scale in line with their business. Confidential information can now be sent quickly and securely by encrypted email, even outside of the business, usingMicrosoft Azure Rights Management service. For mobile staff, remote working is effortless with Surface Pro 3 devices and Windows smartphones. The flexible Surface Pro 3 teamed with OneNote, acts as a digital note-taking tablet in meetings and then transforms into a fully-fledged PC once the keyboard is re-attached, while high resolution cameras in both devices allow photos to be taken anywhere to support case notes.

Communication between the UK offices has come to life with high-quality webcams in each conference room and Skype for Business video conferencing which lets the teams meet face-to-face without the need for travel. “The solution takes us right into 2015! Information security is unlike anything we’ve known before and having access to all our documents, and each other, wherever we are makes such a difference,” Tim enthuses.

Benefits & Value

Greater time and cost efficiency

• Without the need to post documents or travel to the UK offices, UK Fostering are saving critical amounts of time and money which can be used to better support vulnerable children
• Flexible Surface Pro 3 devices, coupled with the Surface Pen and OneNote, enable remote workers to capture meeting notes and then easily transfer them from handwriting to electronic text once back in the office, saving hours of wasted time

“I can now enjoy more time with my daughter because if something crops up work-wise I know I have my email and all my documents available on my phone and I can respond immediately.”

Productive everywhere

• Surface tablets and Windows smartphones provide light-weight, portable yet powerful devices to keep the UK Fostering team productive on the move
• Documents stored in the cloud within OneDrive for Business ensure staff have access to up-to-date documents via any device wherever they are
• Equipped with the new technology and services, the staff are able to effectively create more time for their families, knowing that they can respond instantly to case requirements even if they are at home or out with their families

“I can now enjoy more time with my daughter because if something crops up work-wise I know I have my email and all my documents available on my phone and I can respond immediately.”

Stronger relationships with carers

• The unobtrusive nature of the Surface tablet, means that notes can be captured in meetings without a barrier being created between the staff member and the foster carer
• With carers spread all over the country, Skype for Business enables UK Fostering to engage with them over video conferencing where required, building a strong engagement
• With email and documents accessible on Windows smartphones, the UK Fostering team can be immediately responsive to carers, providing them with the highest levels of support

“Skype for Business lets us talk to anyone else in the team at any time of day, whatever their location. That’s really cut back on the amount of time we were spending travelling and speeding up how we share information.”

Safe and secure in the cloud

• Sensitive information is sent by encrypted email using Microsoft Azure Rights Management which guarantees only intended recipients, inside and outside the company, can read it
• Microsoft Azure provides UK Fostering with a robust, secure and scalable environment to host their fostering data, removing the risk of storing it on local servers
• With secure document storage within Office 365, UK Fostering no longer needs to spend time manually managing their own local PC and device back-up

One united team

• High quality webcams in the two main offices enables the team to catch-up regularly over video conference to share information, deliver training and agreeing priority action areas
• With a new office planned in the North East of England, UK Fostering can quickly add new staff to the Office 365 subscription through the central online admin portal and ensure they become operational with the same tools and applications as the rest of the team
• Instant messaging, desktop sharing and ‘white boarding’ features within Skype for Business will help new team members effortlessly work alongside the rest of team even if they are physically located in another regional office

Tim’s Favourite Features

“Being able to encrypt information in emails with Azure Rights Management has made such a difference – it’s as simple as a click a button within Outlook but brings a lot of reassurance. As a small business we have limited resources so this saves us so much time, cost and effort.”

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