Together Housing Group
NCC ITDA Case Study
ITDA helps Together Housing win £430m contract
Attaining the NCC’s IT Department Accreditation (ITDA) standard has already begun to pay dividends for the Together Housing Group – it has helped the Group win a Government house-building contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
As Mo Ali, Together Housing’s Group ICT Governance Manager, explained: “Holding the ITDA accreditation has benefited the organisation greatly already, not least in the Group securing the recent Pendleton PFI bid. Proving that our ICT function is closely aligned with the current business objectives, as well as confirming that the use of current industry and sector best practice is being deployed, was essential to the Pendleton PFI selection criteria.”
The contract covers the Pendleton area of Salford, which is to be transformed through the £430 million ‘Create a New Pendleton’ scheme – one of the UK’s biggest ever regeneration projects which involves a Together Housing-led consortium building 1,600 new homes and modernising a further 1,200 existing properties.
Mo added: “One of the main drivers for having the ITDA was to demonstrate the competence of our ICT service for the Pendleton PFI bid, along with any other future PFI bid, or other business opportunities that might arise. ICT is a vital component of any piece of work that an organisation might undertake these days and so the fact that our organisation has confidence in its ICT service area is of great benefit.”
Gaining the ITDA
|Celebrating Together’s ‘Create a new Pendleton’ regeneration project|
In order to achieve the ITDA accreditation, organisations are required to evidence their ICT department’s capability across more than 100 areas of best practice, including business management, delivery and operations, business direction, business generation and customer relations.
Together Housing’s push for the ITDA standard began in 2010 at Chevin Housing, where Mo Ali was then Group IT Manager. He was also a member of the National Computing Centre, where he first heard about the ITDA and decided to investigate further.
Whilst Chevin was applying for the ITDA, in April 2011 it became one of the six housing associations that joined forces to create the Together Housing Group. Mo saw the opportunity to extend the ITDA bid to the wider organisation as a means of testing and demonstrating the capabilities of the now combined ICT teams.
Fortunately his management team agreed and, after intensive preparation, Together Housing put itself through the ITDA assessment process earlier this year. Mo added: “The assessment was good, it was enjoyable, but it was nerve-wracking because I did not know what the final outcome would be. The whole process itself was testing, which it should be, but in the end it was quite enjoyable because it was fruitful.
“It was very revealing, encouraging, and scary and it gave me, along with the rest of the ICT team who gave valuable input throughout the process, a great deal of personal satisfaction in achieving this very prestigious award for the Group.”
Significantly, whether an ICT department passes first time or not, the ITDA scheme provides an action plan to help it to continue improving. “It taught me that you are never really as good as you think you are, there’s always scope for improvement,” Mo said.
The action plan has since focused Together Housing on its data protection, led by Mo who as ICT Governance Manager is in charge of data protection, anti-bribery, security, audits, disaster recovery, business continuity and accreditation.
“This was one of the main things to come out of the ITDA,” he added. “Data protection is now the responsibility of the ICT department and with the unlimited fines possible for data protection breaches you’ve got to be seen to be trying to comply with the Act. We‘ve already got data protection policies and procedures in place and we are now planning a full data protection audit across the organisation to continue the good work in this area.”
|Together Housing |
The Group was created in April 2011 as Chevin, Green Vale Homes, Harewood Housing Society, Housing Pendle, Pennine Housing 2000 and Twin Valley Homes came ‘Together’. Together is one of the 20 largest housing associations in the UK and covers a large swathe of northern England, reaching across Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, Rossendale, Humberside, Hull, Bridlington, Scarborough, Harrogate, Calderdale and Sheffield, with its headquarters in Halifax.
The Group manages around 38,000 homes and has more than 1,200 staff, with an ICT department of 21, led by Group Head of ICT John Roe. All group office locations and ICT systems are now fully integrated and there is a single disaster recovery strategy for the whole operation. The long-term strategy is to provide ICT services to other, external, organisations in order to generate further business revenue.
As well as the resultant action plan, achieving the ITDA kite mark has brought Together Group’s ICT department added recognition within the business. Mo explained: “It has given assurance to our customers, as well as the management teams and Boards, that our ICT systems and services are operating effectively, and that they are totally secure. Before the ITDA assessment it was just our word, now we’ve got a third-party arbiter confirming that all is well. It’s given the business great confidence in the ICT department and the services that it currently provides.”
He added: “As we are one of the first RSL (Registered Social Landlord) organisations to achieve the accreditation, it’s also helped to raise our profile within our peer group as well.”
The ITDA could not have come at a better time for Together Housing’s ICT department, providing external validation at a key point in its development. Since the Group was created, the six housing associations involved have retained their own branding and identity at street level, but internally ICT led the way in becoming one of the first departments to fully integrate, following which the ITDA helped to validate the success of this departmental merger and the structure that was subsequently implemented.
The ICT team have already set up a single WAN and corporate email system, and are currently working through a project plan which will eventually result in all systems being amalgamated, starting with a new housing management application that will be adopted by all the members of the group.
As ICT takes this lead role within the organisation, it has the ITDA accreditation backing it, whilst also aiding the reputation of the Group in continuing to fulfil its growth strategy. As Mo Ali concluded: “The IT Department Accreditation absolutely provides value. We have got external validation from the NCC, it’s money well spent.”
The NCC (National Computing Centre) is an independent membership organisation for ICT decision makers. Founded in 1966, it provides advice, guidance, best practice and experience sharing to help those responsible for ICT make the right decisions.
NCC’s ITDA accreditation scheme is based on current IT best practice and has been created with the input of the wider NCC membership community. The ITDA assessment approach is evidence based, which means the actual assessment typically takes only one day.
All ITDA applicants, whether they pass first time or not, receive a business improvement ‘action plan’ to ensure that any recommendations are seen through.