About the Christchurch City Mission
“The City Mission is a social service agency,” explains Systems Manager Rachel Scott, who looks after the City Mission’s IT infrastructure. “We have around 60 full-time staff, a number of part-time casual staff and about 600-700 volunteers. “Our food bank has around 30 other banks accessing it every day. We have a budgeting service. We have a men’s night shelter that houses 30 men a night and is basically full every night. “We have a women’s shelter that holds eight women; a women’s drop-in centre to which around 30-40 women come each day, where there are social worker interventions; and Walsh House for marginalized and socially isolated women. “And we have a very large Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) program where people stay for up to 24 days. Several AOD counsellors do one-on-one counselling with individuals who get referred here. Our AOD service is government funded. In fact, over half of our budget is devoted to fighting substance abuse.”
Working with technology at the Mission
“The way we are moving now, everything is computerised, from crowd-funding to providing reports for the Ministry of Health and District Health Board. It can’t be done manually, and the amount of time to do it manually would be totally ridiculous. “The IT challenges here are huge, because some of our staff find it hard to change. [Also] counsellors, practitioners and social workers prefer sitting down with a person, talking, writing things down.” In a previous project, the City Mission spent three years implementing, adopting and fine-tuning several databases that let staff enter information and create the necessary statistical reports. “The length of time had nothing to do with the software, but everything to do with the users,” Scott says. “It involved finding a system that could work with us, that was easily configurable, and worked with each individual service.”
Funding technology in a Not for Profit
“Money is another huge factor for a not for profit organisation. Trying to talk boards into spending money on technology is challenging. They want to know whether it is absolutely necessary to do the job. Often they ask, ‘Can’t it be done some other way?’ So the money we spend for technology has to be completely justified. “Although funding is one of our biggest challenges, our CEO is very supportive. He knows we need these things. We have a budget that we set every year and it’s quite generous. “Over the last two years, we’ve developed onsite IT infrastructure. We have our own server room and several other Anglican agencies are hooked into our servers, so sharing resources has worked out cheaper for everyone.” Scott adds that their ability to develop all of this has been because of the charity pricing that large IT providers like Microsoft offer. “We’ve saved thousands. If we had to pay full price, there’s no way we could do it.”
The Mission’s intranet requirements are similar to those of many organisations: enable staff to easily connect, communicate, and collaborate. Scott explains, “We needed somewhere we could share documents and other information more easily. Policy and procedure manuals were getting lost on drives on the server. People wouldn’t look at them, and when they did, no one would even look to see when they were modified last. Even leave calendars, when is anyone on leave?” “I looked at a couple of companies, went to a few courses and spoke to a few people, and I found out how intranets work for larger organisations, such as Pegasus Health and City Care. We didn’t need anything at the level those guys are using. We needed something initially that is very user-friendly for staff [and] not too scary. “We wanted to make it very easy for staff to use. Something that shows them they can get their information there, it’s easy to see, and it’s really easy to share everything; something where staff have a space they can put things and do things; something that was more accessible for everybody.”
We needed help
“We looked at a number of companies that offered similar technologies. We looked at pricing, and to be honest, it was all a much of a muchness.” Once the decision was made to go with SharePoint, it was a matter of finding a partner who could help configure the site to the Mission’s scale and needs.
"Stratos came highly recommended by a couple of people we really trust." - Rachel Scott, Systems Manager, The Christchurch City Mission
“Our IT service providers, Essential IT, only had good things to say about Stratos. From my experience, if someone can highly recommend it, and they are using the system, then it can’t get better than that really. “With previous software that we’ve used, we look back with hindsight and I wish we had listened to those people [we trust] instead of being bamboozled by companies that do a hard sell. “With Stratos it was very different. There was no massive hard sell.”
Stratos helped figure out where to begin
“Once we engaged Stratos, the whole process was awesome. “To be honest, we didn’t know too much about where we wanted to go with it. It was all very new to us. I had worked on an intranet while I was overseas but that was quite different to what it is now. “We sat down over a number of meetings with the senior management team and talked through what we wanted out of it. “Stratos had some really good suggestions of things we could start with, and it was going to be cost effective for us. We talked about building it up over time and that was how we started. “Stratos was sensitive to our circumstances, and they kept under budget which was fantastic. That took a lot of pressure off us. In fact it was huge.”
“We sorted out what we wanted and discussed where to start. It’s like an elephant, what part do you bite off first? “From there, Stratos put together a rough draft of what we were going to do, and showed us really good ideas that we didn’t think of. “Basic things like property management registers for things that weren’t happening like, ‘Can you fix my light bulb’ and ‘Yep, yep, we’ll do that.’ But he would go away and it would be lost amongst all the other jobs that come up in a day. “So Stratos set up the property management register, which is just a job tracking system. That has worked so well. Tim, the property manager is so grateful for that and staff have seen how well that has worked. “Even though they are basic ideas, it was Stratos suggesting these things and bringing in simple things that weren't too difficult for staff initially – so we didn’t go too fast too soon – it’s that sort of stuff that was really good.”
On time, under budget
It all took about three months, and Scott was really pleased. “They helped set up our SharePoint infrastructure. They set up the site structure. They helped with the design of the solution, including the look and feel. It had to look pretty. Stratos was able to cover that, too. “They looked at how the solution would fit into our existing organisational processes. “For the data migration, we had an eye on the budget, so we wanted to do as much of that ourselves. That way we could use the money we saved for other things. Stratos showed us how to do that, and we did most of it – updating photos, updating new information; the ongoing publishing process, we do. “As it gets bigger, as more staff use it, the more ideas they will have to develop it. We wanted it for staff, not just another management tool.”
"Stratos was very on to it, and turned things around very quickly. The project flowed really well. Timeframes and objectives were met. It was great." - Rachel Scott, Systems Manager, The Christchurch City Mission
“For the first six months, we just wanted to see how interactive everyone was on the site. Surprisingly the uptake on it was great. “The board and senior staff had their doubts about whether it would be used, but they are using it and using it well. Over 70% of our staff are using it.
“The way Stratos has set it up, it’s just so easy. It takes minimal time and effort to work with. One of my staff is updating it every two days, so every two days new news items are posted. Some staff even use it to find out from other staff ideas for art projects.
“Seeing how people were using it, for us to see that people were actually going there, placing things on there, using it correctly, using the leave calendar... Engagement was our main measure of success, and that’s what we got.”
"I have no doubt it was due to Stratos making it so easy for us; they had some really good ideas about simplifying things, about how to make it better, and making it really user friendly; that’s how it worked for us." - Rachel Scott, Systems Manager, The Christchurch City Mission
Stratos gave great ideas, great advice
“I found Stratos to be excellent, and really easy to work with. It was such an easy process. It really was really good. The whole process was so easy. “Sticking to budgets and sticking to timeliness was big for us. We are probably a relatively small organisation but they treated us how I’d imagine that we would be treated if we were much bigger. “Stratos were very professional, willing to help with anything. Great ideas, great advice. They are honest, and will tell you if something won’t work. I’d strongly recommend Stratos to anyone.”