How Ashdown are currently helping a nationally recognised charity with their IT Realignment Strategy. Before reading on, please feel free to visit our IT Recruitment Agency page to find about out award winning service offered to employers.

For over 100 years this renowned charity has helped provide welfare services to over 3 million. They aim to provide care for all of those that need their services. Operating across 3 sites they care for over 7,000 dependants each year, regardless of any mental or medical issues.

They employ over 450 full-time staff and are supported by a network of 1,000 volunteers, who between them dedicate almost 100,000 hours to the charity each year.

The goals

Following the appointment of a new Financial Director and an external review of the estate, the organisation recognised that years of under investment in IT was causing business critical impediments, low departmental morale and internal reputation issues. With the small support team struggling to cope with daily user requests and having been deprived of the freedom to act, the limited forward planning they had done in the past few years significantly restricted their ability to improve any systems. Obvious flaws included no patch management, no documentation and no helpdesk software (for 450 users).

The team from Ashdown highlighted a number of benefits, pitfalls and risks

The review called for a two-tier solution. Firstly, fix the immediate issues quickly and effectively with manpower and expert knowledge. Then develop a long term plan that will modernise the IT department well into the next decade.

The approach

Ashdown had previously assisted the organisation in 2007 and 2008, and again in 2015 before being asked to consult on this specific project.

The external IT audit and review determined that whilst individuals excelled in a number of areas in difficult circumstances, there was significant cause for concern surrounding critical workflows. At the initial meeting between Ashdown and the organisation a number of options were discussed. There was an existing IT Manager with a number of years' service and a team of 6. The first decision taken was to bring on-board a senior IT leader who could bridge the gap between the business and fill the IT knowledge gap regarding how things could, and should, be done.

The individual needed to be project and change focused with the ability to review, realign and modernise, ultimately producing a formal and organised IT department, fit for service. Our Service Delivery Manager recognised that there was a discrepancy between the abilities (and therefore expense) of this type of candidate and the right person to take an improved environment into the future, once the key issues had been resolved.

It was agreed that the best approach would be to split the realignment into two phases. A high quality contractor with a number of previous experiences of turning around struggling departments, who in a consultancy role could make possibly tough decisions in the best interest of the organisation, without the constraint of their own career development. This would be followed by either promotion of the current IT Manager with pre-emptive training, an externally hired Head of IT with a long term outlook or outsourcing of some or all of the IT operations.

The entire process was completed in 12 working days

The team from Ashdown who attended the initial discussion delivered a consultative conversation about the realistic goals and timeframes of these solutions, highlighting a number of benefits, pitfalls and risks.

This consultancy included a 4 page tailored salary report and cost review that looked at the current prices of people in similar roles, in similar postcodes, specifically researched for this position, compared against the 1st draft job description and applying with our existing knowledge of the organisation.

The results

From 700 profiles collated as possibly suitable for the contract role, Ashdown provided an initial shortlist of just 3 very relevant candidates, and then a further 2 candidates, a few days later. Candidates were met face-to-face twice, with the 2nd interview requiring an extensive presentation detailing past turnarounds and what the contractor would look to achieve in the first 3, 6 then 9 months.

The top candidate was selected, and started. The entire process was completed in 12 working days.

Three months after the contract Head of IT started, further temporary contractors have been added by Ashdown IT to fill the identified skills gaps and allow some resources to be made available for project work.

Feedback from the business is already positive, with users seeing tangible changes in responsiveness, quality of resolution and system uptime.

Praise must be offered to the members of the IT team who have stepped up and willingly embraced the change and to the Financial Director who recognised the importance of IT systems to the charity's activities.