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A discussion with CHS Group

We recently spoke with Laurie Frankland, Project Lead
to talk about the ambitions at CHS, and working with Azuronaut.

Founded in 1927, CHS Group is a Cambridgeshire-based Housing Association with 400 staff.

Connecting the organisation has been a key aim of the business in recent years.
They approached Azuronaut to ensure the foundations were in place to expand and grow, as one team.

Planning a SharePoint transformation

What were the challenges that led to CHS Group approaching Azuronaut to transform their digital landscape? We asked Laurie to tell us how the project began.

A few years ago, we launched the Doing Things Better project, to improve our service, save money and ensure we could expand in a sustainable way. I was put forward to lead this, and it quickly became a conversation around digital transformation. As this dialogue emerged, we found the focus evolved and I then led our Digital Strategy group.

What we wanted was a single system for company collaboration which would make life easier for our staff. It needed to be accessible when they were out and about, and it needed to work in such a way that you could just go in, find what you needed and get on with your day.

We knew we had SharePoint sitting there, and we had our priorities but didn’t have the expertise to turn this into what we needed. So I started asking around, and that is when I found Azuronaut because of the similar work you had done for Plan International.

As a group we got really excited as Azuronaut showed us what was capable on SharePoint and how it would connect with Workplace from Facebook, our platform for company communication.

Empowering their people with Synergy

Having spent time planning out One Digital Workspace for CHS Group, Laurie expands on how they began the work.

What Synergy means for CHS is that from the moment you sit down in the morning and it pops up on your screen, you can see right across the business the information you need. You know you’ll be using the most up-to-date, trusted versions of documents and policies.

You’ll find the latest company news, whether someone is on maternity leave, or when someone in your team has had a new baby. If you’re a new starter, you can understand the company and it’s values in onboarding that is quick, not two months long.

We are empowering people to take ownership of the new pages in Synergy, taking across the information they need, and leaving what they don’t, as the old intranet closes a month after launch.

This sounds simple, but talking to people here it is going to be a huge change to how they work.

We began by running a workshop with people across CHS, flagging key pain points from the main platforms we use. It became very obvious what they were, very quickly.

We’ve got 400 staff and we are quite spread out through Cambridgeshire, but we weren’t very connected. Workplace from Facebook started to connect us but we needed our documents together in one place, in a way which was trusted and instilled a sense of openness. This was big for us – people didn’t trust our current intranet, with everyone saving to their own drives, version control was a nightmare. We also wanted a really good search engine because of people trying to find documents in so many different ways.

We wanted to have one version of everything and it needed to be accessible for everyone. You would just need to point them in the right direction and they should know what they’re looking for.

This led us to mapping out our version of the One Digital Workspace, which we’ve called Synergy. We actually held a competition to name it, and we had submissions from across the company.

During the current climate with many staff working from home, the ability to connect and collaborate has become imperative not only to the job in hand but the preservation of CHS culture and values. The ability to share stories helps ensure that we feel connected, therefore we hope that linking of our digital workspace with Workplace by Facebook will encourage continued sharing and involvement whilst we are apart.

- Laurie Frankland, CHS Group

Change at a 100 year old organisation

With One Digital Workspace ready for launch, what was the feeling like amongst the team at CHS? And how has it changed the day-to-day for the team?

CHS is nearly 100 years old, and we have people who have worked here for 20-30 years. Change is very hard, but because of the lockdown, with people being forced to work remotely means they are suddenly a lot more open to change.

Once we launch Synergy, I think people are going to be excited about using it. I’ve talked through Synergy and what we want to do with it for a whole month, going everywhere and talking to everyone at CHS. I tried to get them to be critical but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For the first time, I sense anticipation ahead of launch.

Alongside Azuronaut’s mock-ups, I have been making short walkthrough videos and gradually populating a stream of content. I’ve been posting them on Workplace and our CEO has been getting involved too.

Working with Azuronaut, you understood very quickly what we wanted. I’ve felt spoiled working with you, going through our needs in a logical way and we always knew what the next step was. It’s been wonderful they way it has been orhganissed – and I found it really easy and comforting knowing that our requests were taken on board and explored and solved.

CHS Group set out to create a branded look and feel intranet which holds and presents all the corporate documentation with intelligent indexing, version control, permissions and review reminders. It was important that we continued to promote strong collaboration and connection through sharing important announcements from Workplace as well as SharePoint team pages.

Our new digital workspace created in collaboration with Azuronaut has enabled us to provide our staff with a mobile anywhere way of working, through easy access to documentation as well as collaboration tools, all in one place.

During the current climate with many staff working from home, the ability to connect and collaborate has become imperative not only to the job in hand but the preservation of CHS culture and values. The ability to share stories helps ensure that we feel connected, therefore we hope that linking of our digital workspace with Workplace by Facebook will encourage continued sharing and involvement whilst we are apart.

With all of our content now available within the knowledge hub, staff already have improved access to up to date corporate documentation including all of our policies and procedures, staff support information, training guides and emergency information. It is early days, however staff response has been positive and its easy to see the potential behind what we have created.

Meaningful experiences, empowered employees.

Provide your people with experiences that matter and bring your digital landscape together with One,
the Microsoft 365 SharePoint intranet and digital workspace developed for you by Azuronaut.

Find out more about One



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