Create a reliable document repository, improve organisational knowledge, and foster more efficient, engaging and collaborative internal communications
annecto is a not for profit (NFP) community inclusion organisation, with a focus on connecting people to the right individuals or communities, so they can be better placed to pursue what is important to them. annecto’s main client base include people with disability, older people, families and carers. Based in Melbourne, it has offices throughout Victoria and recently expanded into New South Wales with the opening of offices in Sydney and Broken Hill.
Like a great many other not-for-profits, the organisation has spent much of the last year preparing for the 2016 roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the arrival of consumer-directed care. This new model of service provision will replace the current practice of government agencies awarding block funding for projects. For the first time consumers will have the power to choose where, how and from whom they access support services. The ramifications for providers are significant as organisations will no longer have the surety of a specified amount of funding over a given period of time. Instead, funding will be dependent on attracting and retaining clients. To succeed in this new market, not-for-profits will need to cultivate a more business-like approach, still delivering a wide variety of services while seeking new ways to become more efficient.
It’s a situation that annecto has already seen play out in the aged care market, where consumer-directed care has resulted in an influx of large private organisations competing with not-for-profits for the services dollar.
Graeme Henderson, IST Manager at annecto says, “annecto is committed to retaining social purpose at the core of its work. While some people grapple with the idea that you can run a business and retain a focus on human rights, the two actually complement each other being competitive and providing best practice service is part of running a good business and ensuring your clients are put first.”
“annecto has spent a lot of time considering how we can do this well.” he continues. “By the time the NDIS has fully kicked in, the whole disability services sector will have changed completely. We still need to provide a premium service but suddenly the focus for many organisations is what is the actual cost of hourly support
to your organisation?”
When Henderson joined annecto in 2012, the NDIS and the concept of consumer-directed care had already been announced, although the finer details of both were still up for discussion. Management had a fair idea of the likely disruption coming their way and were keen to take steps to prepare.
annecto realised one of the most important tools for the organisation was going to be its intranet. The technology could help foster consistency by providing easy access to policies and procedures, facilitate collaboration between regional offices, and improve efficiency by providing automation and work flows to streamline processes. But back then, annecto’s intranet left much to be desired.
The platform – SharePoint 2010 – had been acquired inexpensively thanks to Microsoft’s Not for Profit program. However, there were issues with development costs, let alone the total cost of ownership for the platform and its various proposed uses.
In addition to supporting internal communications and providing a central repository for essential documentation, Henderson notes, “Lots of people had had a go at doing all sorts of things with it. There was even talk about using it for a client management system. But when we got down to it, people still couldn’t find the policy and procedures documents they needed to access. So our SharePoint installation was an inefficient solution.”
In early 2015, to help understand the size of the problem, Henderson engaged two university interns to review annecto’s use of SharePoint.
“They researched the ten main reasons for SharePoint project failure and found annecto had fallen for eight of them,” he says.
Henderson decided it was time to bring in external expertise. The interns helped prepare a list of requirements for an intranet platform and a tender was issued. Shortly thereafter, Professional Advantage was awarded the contract to deliver a new intranet based on SharePoint 2013.
“Professional Advantage had two main things going for them. They had a significant Melbourne presence with significant SharePoint expertise here. I’m not a fan of remotely run projects. I like it when people can come on site and we can deal with issues here,” Henderson asserts.
“One other factor was they had just completed a similar project in a related not-for-profit sector. That was important for us, because we understand that dealing with NFPs can be challenging from an IT perspective.”
To avoid the problems of the past, the role of the new intranet was clearly spelled out. “It was all about providing a great search capability with regard to quality, procedures, processes and forms. That was our main measure for success. There were others but if we didn’t succeed in the accessibility of corporate documents then the others wouldn’t have mattered! If people could find a policy procedure or form when they needed it, that would be a major step forward for the organisation,” Henderson asserts.
It sounds simple, but management knew this kind of centralised knowledge capture was going to be essential for ensuring service consistency across all locations and it would help the organisation make the transition to a new, more competitive market.
Henderson was determined to avoid any association with the old intranet due to it’s poor reputation among employees. A competition for employees helped to come up with a new name and a new identify for the platform: Intranecto.
Today, Henderson says, annecto’s intranet provides employees with a good-looking home page, and good content including user and client stories. “It’s neat. It works. People can find what they are looking for. At the end of the day, for me, that’s what the first phase was all about,” he smiles.
Now management at annecto are looking at ways to broaden their use of the SharePoint platform. Professional Advantage alongside the organisation’s quality-control staff have begun work on a project to build a sophisticated complaints and feedback channel. The project will establish work flows so complaints, compliments and improvement requests are properly noted, managed and where appropriate, acted upon. This will help to ensure compliance and provides the organisation with a process to support continuous improvement.
There are also plans to roll Intranecto out to the organisation’s support workers – the casuals and part time employees who don’t spend much time in annecto’s offices. Historically this group has found it difficult to access policies, procedures and forms. Intranecto solves this problem and will allow management to more easily share news and provide updates on issues such as workplace health and safety.
Henderson believes working alongside the organisational Internal Communications team is crucial to the success of any project.
“We’re on the cusp of rolling this functionality out to support workers. SharePoint 2013 has made this possible and that’s huge. It will keep part timer’s and casuals part of the family. They are our front line, which is why we were so keen to do it. It’s been difficult to achieve technically, but Professional Advantage helped get us over the hurdles.” Henderson admits.
Looking back on the past few months, Henderson says: “We’re a medium-to-large organisation with big ideas operating in a sector that’s undergoing immense change. I think we are definitely getting an ROI [return on investment] on the project. Bringing in an organisation like Professional Advantage is not inexpensive but for us, in terms of quality, it’s been crucial.
“Of course there’s a cost involved, but every activity has been undertaken knowing it must ultimately contribute to the bottom line. Without this, we might prove we have big hearts but we won’t be in business for long.”