NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit acts as a partner for commissioners and providers to support the delivery of efficient, effective healthcare services throughout England. The organization provides business intelligence, data management, procurement, strategic advice and operational support (IT, HR, finance), and other services to more than 50 Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England, local authorities and care providers.
Chris Reynolds, Head of Innovation and Product Development for Arden & GEM’s IT organization, had a challenge. The organization had invested in Office 365 and SharePoint Online for its productivity tools and internal communication. Twelve hundred users spanned 25 bases with IT staff embedded in several locations. The geographically distributed workforce drove the need for a cloud-based central repository of information, tools, and communication channels.
Arden & GEM wanted to deploy SharePoint Online to refresh its intranet, presenting a whole new look and feel. The IT team got top-down engagement from executives quickly because of the incredible transition that occurred.
They had previously used SharePoint’s on-premises solution, but “the experience was clunky for those users” Reynolds acknowledged. Once the new version was deployed, Reynolds’ team wanted to get a gauge on how well employees were “getting on” with the systems and tools available, so they surveyed internal customers.
Unfortunately, the response his team received from users was utter frustration. Lengthy learning cycles and disconnected methods of self-training caused Office 365 and SharePoint adoption to stagnate at an unanticipated low level. On top of that, previous SharePoint on-prem users “brought a lot of baggage from their experiences.”
He needed to increase adoption – and quickly.
Search for a Solution
Challenge accepted, thought Reynolds. He started natively creating training materials such as quick reference cards to support users. To him, it is always of upmost importance that he makes sure users have the tools they need to use applications – in this case, Office 365 and SharePoint.
“I love to create training material,” said Reynolds. But with limited time, he couldn’t produce the volume he desired. He looked at third-party vendors to scale his efforts, but their systems seemed outdated. The printed material he created “went straight into a drawer.” Though they had some early adopters and a few champions, SharePoint Online adoption was still not widespread.
So, he continued to explore options. He would present a statement of requirements – must have, could have, should have, and so on – to various plugin vendors. But nothing fit.
He came across the VisualSP Help System while searching for an intranet training solution on behalf of an external customer. “Then I looked closer,” he said, “and found that this tool could work for us!”
“We needed (a learning solution) that provided real impact at the point of use.” He found the tremendous library of training content already built into the VisualSP system to be a huge advantage in terms of scaling his efforts. “Now the answer was clear. From day one, I can say ‘here is the information you need.’ For us, that was a major win.”
By implementing VisualSP, former SharePoint users could “leave the baggage at the door”.
They have since expanded the Help System’s role in Arden’s communication strategy. After they launched VisualSP, more team leaders joined in, requesting further customization to train and support their teams. His staff ran a pilot with several internal customers and quickly uncovered several ways to build on the VisualSP system.
“It saves so much time,” Reynolds noted, referring to users taking on a learning journey through in-context, walkthrough-style content. He’s also excited because the self-learning approach is “repeatable time and time again”. They started with SharePoint launch and have been leveraging VisualSP for other uses.
Return on Investment
Reynolds and his staff looked at support calls following the implementation. And, although the number of calls didn’t change immediately, the calls were more complex and articulate, allowing the organization to leverage Office 365 and SharePoint even further.
“For me, it’s taking a barrier away and making people feel empowered.” He was thrilled because he understood the value of Office 365 and SharePoint, and saw that once adoption improved, they would get more from the platform.
His staff sent a routine user engagement survey to find out how users were responding to the new self-learning environment. Overall, results improved. Morale improved. Experiences improved.
“This is a game changer” for adoption of Office 365.
His team received accolades from the company’s CEO, further motivating the team to do more with VisualSP Help System. He has even shared the capabilities of the solution with external customers looking to migrate from desktop Office to Office 365.
Reynolds envisions a long-term partnership with VisualSP. They are looking at applying the Help System to other Office365 tools as well as bespoke applications, enhancing the value the system brings to Arden.
“We all want to get the most from our tools. We all benefit. Plus, we want to make sure VisualSP grows with us and our user base,” he said.
He noted that the level of transparency from VisualSP about the system’s future is another key reason for going with the company. By sharing in the vision for the solution, he is excited to discover new areas where they can optimize the VisualSP system. In fact, they are now collecting data from the user search box to develop new training materials.
“Any organization, when looking at contextual support,” said Reynolds, “look at the vendors and understand where they fit. For us it was VisualSP – at the right time in the right place.” To learn more about Arden & GEM CSU, visit www.ardengemcsu.nhs.uk