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Gallions Housing Association

NCC ITDA Case Study

Gallions optimises its IT with flagship NCC scheme

Michael Dean talks to Ali Jaffri, IT manager at Gallions Housing Association, about why it chose to join the National Computing Centre’s business improvement programme, the IT Department Accreditation (ITDA) scheme. Ali discusses the accreditation experience and the value Gallions is getting from the programme.Gallions Housing Association

The organisation 

Gallions Housing Association is a Registered Social Landlord, created in 2000 following the dissolution of Thamesmead Town Ltd. The association inherited Thamesmead’s social housing stock and has grown steadily over the last 11 years. It now manages over 5,600 properties in six London boroughs.

More than just a landlord, Gallions also looks after the communities and the unique needs of its residents. There is a strong and dedicated workforce who bring knowledge and specialist skills to help build the organisation and create and maintain its neighbourhoods.

Gallions work closely with its residents, local people and partner organisations to deliver a service where residents are at the centre of everything it does. It aims to continually improve and develop its service in response to the growing and changing needs of local communities.

Ali Jaffri
Ali Jaffri, IT manager

With major regeneration projects, ground-breaking development sites and award-winning services supporting its growth plans, Gallions continues to work hard for the future of its varied neighbourhoods.

Reasons for joining ITDA programme

As with many organisations currently, Gallions’ biggest challenge is doing more with less. “There is pressure to maintain service levels as our regeneration grant reduces,” said IT manager Ali Jaffri. Ali believes that IT at Gallions is well-placed to weather challenges: “Over the last three years we have invested heavily in IT and deployed a number of enterprise systems including asset management, text messaging and a raft of online services, all designed to make IT more accessible and more efficient. With our IT investment peak now behind us we want to bed down and sweat these assets to improve service levels whilst keeping cost down.”

It was for this reason that Gallions Housing Association chose to apply for accreditation to the National Computing Centre’s business improvement programme, the IT Department Accreditation (ITDA) scheme.

IT Department Accreditation

The ITDA standard is a unique business improvement programme with a certification scheme that recognises excellence and effectiveness. The assessment scheme which underpins the NCC ITDA examines an IT department’s performance against 103 common controls (lines of enquiry), permitting IT departments to compare and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. The standard covers the key aspects of an IT function: business management, business direction, service generation, delivery & operations and customer relationships – all with a focus on their contribution to business goals.

Once assessed, applicants receive a bespoke business improvement plan which prioritises actions for continuous improvement.

The process 

Ali already had plans to improve service management through implementing ITIL and developing change and configuration management skills, but it was the broad scope of the NCC scheme that drew him to accreditation. “We are a team of five serving 120 users so everything we do needs to be effective and add value. I thought the NCC scheme would give us a solid, independent and impartial picture of where we stood across the board in IT and guide our continuous improvement.” said Ali.

“I had to put a business case together for the ITDA to secure board approval, but this was relatively easy as the programme ticks so many of our boxes. There were multiple reasons why we thought it would be the right programme for us. We wanted to compare our IT to the best-performing IT functions to see how we fared. I also wanted to provide reassurance to the board that IT was doing the right things in the right way, and to give our end users confidence in our service. The ITDA would be motivational for the IT team too. Although they are subject to regular technical reviews, going through the ITDA would help them see the business impact of their work. And the business improvement programme and annual review element of the programme will help us stay on the right track,” enthused Ali.

For him, the introductory (orientation) visit was a crucial step in the process and getting buy-in from the IT team to secure accreditation. “After we had looked at the ITDA workbook and discussed the accreditation with the assessor, we soon realised that a lot of what was prescribed was what we did anyway,” Ali said. Nevertheless, complacency is not one of his characteristics and a regular series of meetings was convened to identify any non-compliances and gather evidence. The process was helped by top-down transparency and the good relations IT had already built up with the HR, Service Improvement and Learning and Development functions.

Perhaps unusually for an accreditation day, Ali found the experience enjoyable and not at all stressful. “We covered all of the lines of enquiry and the assessor often used the ITDA framework to lead you into a discussion about a particular point, highlighting best practice used elsewhere. It wasn’t like a formal audit, the assessor was very IT-literate and added a lot of value to his review. We were both aiming for the same goal – service improvement.”

Outcome and benefits realisation 

The result was accreditation to the NCC standard. The NCC programme moderator said: “The result shows a well-structured and managed function that integrates well with the rest of the organisation and is aligned to corporate objectives. The assessor did identify some areas for improvement, but these are largely incremental and will strengthen the best-practice foundations that already exist. Well done!"

Ali also received praise from his CEO who felt reassured that the management changes applied over the past few years have been effective. The IT team too felt good about their achievement, particularly so because the award recognised the broader, business impact of their work.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” said Jaffri, “but the process doesn’t end here. We have received the business improvement plan and will keep referring to it until the plan gets refreshed at the annual Light Touch Review next year.

“The initial benefits of the ITDA programme have been achieved, we know where we are and what we need to do to be better. We are well on the way to improving service performance, safe in the knowledge that we have a framework for continuous improvement and access to expert help in the future when we need it,“ concluded Ali.

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