“Now we have freed resource within the IT team from managing ageing infrastructure, we have been able to launch HIVE – our platform for ensuring constant innovation and transformation within Irwell Valley. Our board meetings have been reinvigorated – full of excitement about how we can innovate and take these ideas to market to improve the service and experience delivered to our customers.“
Providing services to over 16,000 people across the North West of England, Irwell Valley is a dynamic, innovative and ambitious organisation that continually strives to deliver better services to its customers. In order to do just that, Irwell Valley recognised that it had to firstly empower their employees with always-on access to the business tools, applications and infrastructure in order to work productively and effectively in an increasingly mobile and cloud-first world. In turn, this would then allow the organisation to provide the access to on-demand, self-service portals and applications that their customers are coming to increasingly expect.
Forward-thinking IT leader, Jill Clark, identified the Irwell Valley Housing Association’s IT strategy as the vehicle to empower the organisation in a new era of digital services. It was this very strategy that has set Irwell Valley apart from other Housing Associations in the area. To turn the strategy into a reality, the team at Irwell Valley decided that they needed to invest in best of breed, cutting-edge technologies to create a platform for digital services to be incorporated.
This was to include a complete refresh of their data centre infrastructure with hyper-converged infrastructure with Nutanix and an updated desktop and application delivery of their Citrix environment with a XenDesktop platform.
“At Irwell Valley, we know that the future success of our organisation in achieving our objectives is underpinned by technology. It was clear that now was the time to change IT from a business unit to a business empowerer.“
In May 2016, Irwell Valley Housing Association released an invitation to tender seeking a new strategic partner to work with them to refresh and manage their existing IT infrastructure. After a rigorous tender process, Cetus Solutions were delighted to be chosen as their new partner in July 2016. Working with Cetus, Irwell Valley Housing Association embarked on a transformational project to reinvent their approach to delivering, managing and supporting their IT infrastructure and users within their organisation. This project aimed to propel them into a new age of agility and innovation for its customers. Core to the Irwell Valley IT strategy were five key principles aimed at driving the business outcomes that they required, namely: speed, resilience, mobility, security and flexibility.
To deliver on these key principles, Cetus worked with Jill’s team to articulate what we collectively called ‘The Journey’, allowing us to engage the wider Irwell Valley team in the transformation process. The Journey allowed a staged approach to be taken to the project and comprised of five key stages:
Irwell Valley’s storage and compute platform was replaced with a new hyper-converged Nutanix platform, addressing speed, resilience and flexibility requirements.
Their existing Citrix environment was upgraded to the latest version, allowing them to deliver an exceptional user experience across the Association, further addressing speed and flexibility requirements.
The delivery of next generation security appliances from Trend provided enhanced security and resilience within the data centre for their critical infrastructure. This further complimented VMware’s NSX deeper security and critical infrastructure with micro-segmentation.
Thin-Client PC Replacement
To allow Irwell Valley to maximise the lifetime of their existing PC assets a phased replacement of their PCs with low-power thin-client devices and Chromebooks, which assists home working and mobility, further delivered on Jill’s speed, security and flexibility requirements.
In addition to delivering the above phases, Cetus provide a Managed Service Support solution that has allowed Jill and the team to concentrate on strategic initiatives that focus on improving the service delivered to their residents.
“By nature, colleagues are generally pretty quick to raise it if they can’t access systems on-demand as this impacts their ability to do their job effectively and help customers. At Irwell Valley, the reason we exist is to support our customers, colleagues and corporate initiatives. Working with Cetus as an extended part of our IT department, we are now able to focus on what we do best – enabling customer to live well in our homes, empowering our colleagues to provide great service to our customers, and to build new homes whilst driving cost efficiencies.” “
This has allowed Irwell Valley Housing Association to differentiate the level of service they provide to their tenants, and to introduce self-service applications to enable customers to manage their own accounts online for or all aspects of housing management.
In addition, Irwell Valley have empowered their employees to work from anywhere in a secure and productive manner. Not only improving the ability to support customers around the clock, but also the experience of their staff; and the results really do speak for themselves.
Looking towards the future; Jill and her team are now focusing on leveraging the latest technologies, such as IoT and Big Data Analytics. In keeping with the core ethos at Irwell Valley, they have launched their very own innovation lab – HIVE – that provides us with an environment to scope, test and trial new ideas within the organisations