Focus on: IT infrastructure

When Action Housing & Support upgraded its IT infrastructure recently, it quickly realised that the cost of maintaining the new hardware would prove to be a sticking point.

If the social enterprise and housing support charity had chosen to support the infrastructure internally, it would have needed three or four members of staff to service the organisation's nine sites.

Kate Gillespie, assistant director of housing and support at the charity, says: "We didn't have the income to service our own IT department, so we put it out to tender. We wanted a proactive IT service, something that would monitor our systems all the time and find problems early so we were able to prevent problems rather than simply react.

"We also wanted capacity within that contract so if anything went wrong they would have people who could come and fix our kit."

The organisation invited seven organisations to tender in summer last year, and three of them put in submissions. Each was marked by the charity on quality and price, and eventually the contract was awarded to IT solutions provider ISC.

"They were closest to our budget, and their quality really shone through," says Gillespie. She declines to give the price but says it was about half what it would have cost internally.

So what does Action Housing get for its money? As well as a phone-based helpdesk and, where necessary, visits from specialist engineers, ISC has given the charity a service manager who produces monthly reports showing how its servers are operating.

ISC also provides a contract manager, who analyses the charity's IT needs as it grows and suggests cost-effective solutions.

"Ultimately, Action Housing's aim is to have a fit-for-purpose IT support structure where value for money is the governing principle," says Mark Brookbanks, senior project manager at ISC. "A structure of this nature does require investment, but the savings realised can only serve to benefit the people who rely on the charity."

Client: Action Housing & Support

Supplier: ISC

Project: To provide IT support services for a charity employing approximately 200 people spread across nine sites in Yorkshire and the midlands.

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