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Aspire improve their operations through a strong relationship with Orchard

Stoke-on-Trent based housing association Aspire, who manage over 9000 properties, have signed up with Orchard for five years after the two companies formed a strong working relationship.

Looking to improve operations, Aspire wanted to introduce a more agile workforce company-wide. This required creating an agile IT infrastructure, including physical systems, devices, applications and working space.

As part of this process Aspire conducted a comprehensive review of their IT landscape to understand the current status and potential improvements. As part of this review, it became clear that issues were arising due to many of the company’s processes relying on functionality from a range of different software providers. This led to a lack of centralised information, as systems from multiple providers were unable to calibrate, and meant that teams were forced to duplicate data entry tasks, leading to an increased risk of inaccuracies across systems.

Aspire needed a simplified solution to their online processing systems and applications, as well as the information and infrastructure to introduce agility into their operations, but were wary of signing with a provider whose values were not aligned with their current and future needs.

In April 2018, Aspire began a journey with Orchard to understand how their products and company trajectory could meet Aspire’s needs as they worked towards their company goals and objectives. Over a period of 6 months, a strong relationship was built between the two companies, as Orchard’s plans were being adapted to meet customer needs.

“Orchard gave us confidence that their plans were a good fit for what Aspire would need now, and that it would be going in the right direction in future, to allow simplification of our application landscape and solve frustrations for our users.” – Grant Sharman, Group Head of IT at Aspire Housing.

In particular, Aspire noted that the way Orchard’s technology and product offering had developed even over the 6 months of the review period demonstrated shared goals and values between the two organisations.

As part of the relationship building process, Aspire and Orchard conducted joint workshops to understand what the future would look like with Orchard as the main software provider, compared against competitors and their offerings. Aspire ended this process confident that Orchard’s current position and their future path was the perfect fit for the organisation, and that their products and services would solve their current and potential frustrations.

“We built a strong relationship between Aspire’s executive and Orchard’s executive, and created a new partnership way of working – this was crucial, otherwise we’d have gone out for a full procurement exercise.” – Grant Sharman, Group Head of IT at Aspire Housing.

This strong relationship and the services launched to date have already provided benefits for Aspire’s team, even at a relatively early stage in the planned roadmap. In particular, the introduction of Managed Service Provision by Orchard has meant that Aspire’s internal teams can step back from day-to-day management and infrastructural concerns, and can focus their energies elsewhere within the business.

As well as this reallocation of resource, the team at Aspire have found that despite the short timescales, a number of measurable benefits have already come to light, including improved efficiency and cost benefits across the teams using the application.

Aspire’s plan for the future is to simplify their IT infrastructure across the business by consolidating as many business processes as possible into the Orchard suite. In doing so, they expect to significantly improve the value of data throughout the business, through control and governance around data entry, consolidation to a single source of data, and a clearly defined data dictionary, which will help Aspire to turn data into a valuable business asset.

We deal with a lot of organisations and a lot of salespeople, and it gets to the point where you stop believing what everybody tells you as it’s just sales patter. With Orchard, it’s not sales patter. They could reference everything they were saying and prove this via what was being delivered as the end product. It’s not a customer-supplier relationship anymore - it’s a partnership.

Grant Sharman, Group Head of IT at Aspire Housing

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