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“Cobweb is helping us turn into a more knowledgeable, flexible
and efficient organisation.”

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Northwards Housing is an 'arms length management organisation' – or Almo – that took over the management of around 12,500 City Council homes in North Manchester in December 2005. They are a not-for-profit organisation voted for by tenants and created by the City Council to deliver housing services – like ordering repairs and collecting rent. It's separate and independent of the council, but the council continues to own the housing, and you stay legally as a 'council tenant'.

Northwards Housing are now using Cobweb's Hosted SharePoint to enable employees, on a daily basis, to become more efficient by structuring the storage of documents and management of projects as well as building a knowledgebase to keep staff informed and involved. In addition, agendas and papers for the Northwards board and subcommittees are now distributed online. This has allowed a move towards paperless meetings, all as a result of using Cobwebs Hosted SharePoint.

The Challenge

Due to the current recession Northwards have seen a huge increase in the demand for housing services, putting strain on internal resources and systems. As Northwards nears completion of it UK government funded decent homes programme there is increasing pressure to make efficiencies to allow properties to be kept at this high standard. To help address the issues Northwards Housing decided they needed to improve IT efficiencies, document and project management and
empower staff to securely access documents from any location in the UK.

To solve the problem Northwards Housing approached Cobweb looking for an IT solution to help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and manage their property portfolio. Northwards identified SaaS web hosted solutions as being the most fit for purpose, allowing them to access cutting edge “cloud based” IT solutions via the web, whilst paying a small monthly fee per user and avoiding any increase in capital costs, particularly for non-critical applications.

John Burton, Head of ICT at Northwards says “We have selected Cobweb's Hosted SharePoint Solution to help improve our IT efficiency. With the use of the free templates, the solution was quick and easy to set up and is a low cost solution to help Northwards manage our projects and document control and to create a knowledgbase to empower all of our employees.

We were able to cheaply introduce SharePoint at a simple level and then ramp it up as it became embedded in our
business.”

The Solution

As a not-for-profit limited company Northwards Housing are entitled to use SharePoint within their Microsoft First Policy, a specific not-for-profit pricing policy. As a company they had identified that SharePoint was a product that will help them improve their efficiencies.

John Burton stated that “It was decided to go for a cloud based solution to avoid any initial setup costs and to let us dip our toes in the water with little risk.” Cobweb was chosen based on customer reviews online and also due to the fact that the SharePoint service which they offered would allow Northwards Housing to implement the SharePoint service without significant initial investment. Northwards wanted a service that would be out-of-the box, available both on the internal web and the public web. John Burton also commented that “Cobweb’s SharePoint Service seemed the best balance of cost and functionality that I could find.”

Northwards believed that Cobweb’s Hosted SharePoint service would help them achieve more efficiency through improved structured storage of documents, improved management of projects and knowledgebases and improve internal communications making staff more informed and involved. It also enables cross-functional working between teams, and provides a medium to make formal and ad-hoc project teams more efficient and responsive.

An additional benefit is that SharePoint facilitates home working which they will be using to enable more staff to remotely access documents and tasks, and to improve communications and collaboration with outside bodies, contractors, board members and involved tenants. John Burton believes that generally it will turn Northwards into a more knowledge based organisation.

Finally John Burton states that Cobweb’s Hosted SharePoint Service has enabled the board and subcommittee members to move towards more online distribution of agendas and papers and are now undertaking more paperless meetings. They have also introduced a SharePoint based ICT service desk application which is helping to turn them into a more knowledgeable, flexible and efficient organisation.

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