Trust Housing Association are a market leading provider of housing, care and support services. They provide homes to over 3,600 customers across Scotland, from the Highlands and Islands all the way down to the Borders.
Trust and TORCH
When Trust approached TORCH, their IT & Digital team already had approval on plans to upgrade their existing core data infrastructure from a legacy model to a modern, cloud-based platform (Microsoft Azure).
This upgrade, whilst extremely positive as a stand-alone project, is part of a wider digital strategy and also presented the opportunity to take a step back and review how data is used across the organisation. It would allow them to examine how data access and data use could be transformed by the modern architecture.
Trust’s Director of Business Development and Digital Neil Ferguson told us,
“Our strategy is to refocus and reposition the IT & Digital team from keeping the lights on, to one that’s very much about business outcomes and solutions.”
The Trust team wanted a short engagement with experienced Solution Architects to validate and challenge existing plans around their data strategy and assets.
Reaching out to TDL allowed us to get a second set of eyes on what we’re trying to achieve …
With a new data platform plan already firmly in place, TORCH’s main brief was to review Trust’s existing plans around database migration and help shape how that might be used to improve business intelligence and analytics.
It was established that our Data Lab team would work with Trust to build a roadmap for developing their data platform: a recommended implementation approach, high-level plan, and indicative costs.
Leading an ambitious team of data specialists, Trust’s BI and Systems Lead Thomas McShane told us,
“Reaching out to TDL allowed us to get a second set of eyes on what we’re trying to achieve and make sure that, not only are we going in the right direction, but we’re not missing things, because we are a small team with an aim to work with like-minded partners. We needed the extra support and knowledge to make sure we’re driving in the right direction.”
People, Process, Data & Technology
Working alongside the Trust team, TORCH Senior Solutions Architect Iain Henderson, identified the required skills and capabilities for Trust, incorporating options for securing those skills.
Together, they constructed a high-level roadmap for the development of the Trust Data Platform (TADP) across a period of 36 months. This roadmap divided key activities into the primary domains of People, Process, Data, and Technology. Product and funding considerations were also introduced.
Our actions included the following support recommendations:
- Introductions to Microsoft development partners in the TORCH community if required. We suggested initial conversations be set up with recommended Suppliers, highlighting those most evolved in their capabilities around Power BI and Azure.
- Introductions to skilled data talent via Data Lab MSc programme
- Introductions to one or more organisations with data platform developments who are further on in their journey
- Introductions between Trust and colleagues in The Data Lab focused on
a) Collaborative innovation b) Funding for innovation activity
- Introduce Trust to other housing sector related clients or contacts in the Data Lab network where appropriate and where useful collaboration might emerge
Reviewing the process, Neil explained,
“Working with TDL, we didn’t deviate much from our existing plan. It was more about fine-tuning and confirming the right data platform to take us forward, and validating that our data strategy will deliver the right outcomes to support our bold new overarching three-year business strategy. Now we have a clear roadmap for the direction of travel over the next three years.”
MSc Placements: Businesses and Universities working together
Perhaps the most tangible deliverable from the partnership with TDL is their plan to on-board two MSc students through May/ June/ July 21. This will allow them to make good progress relatively quickly whilst building out the data platform and the business intelligence outputs.
“I’ve spent the last 15 years working with outside companies, building relationships and examining research and development. I see why they should be harnessing relationships with universities. They have the access to new technology that we don’t, they’re investing in it more than what many businesses are able to. They also have students that are learning skills that can complement our team, they have fresh ideas”, clarified Thomas.
“We want to harness the students … have projects ready for them, so we know that when we get to next summer in the back of our mind we’re thinking, what projects could we experiment with for the students? That’s something that we built in the roadmap.”
Future focus for Trust
For Trust, the next 3-6 months will focus around their database migration and testing the new capabilities of their Azure-based data infrastructure. Training will be a regular and recurring feature as new tools, processes and reports emerge from the platform.
Summarising their experience with TORCH, Trust told us,
“What TORCH does is reinforce our confidence that we’re choosing the right platform. It has also opened up networks that we may have not come across, or that it might have taken us longer to connect with. We’ve got a great network ourselves, and following discussions with Iain, it’s allowed us to take more detail to other partners we’ve been working with and highlight a clear path when seeking partners.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with Iain and the Data Lab. We’re looking to build a long-term relationship with TDL and open doors to other like-minded partners.
If your business already has an existing data strategy, a short engagement with our TORCH team can be used to assess your plans and objectives, ensuring you’ve thought of every potential requirement, opportunity, and risk.
To discuss your project without commitment, contact one of our friendly team for a quick, impartial discussion.