Isledon Partnership LLP (Isledon) is a group of related community interest companies. It delivers a range of predominantly youth-focused public services, primarily in the Islington area of London. It aims to provide services where the users themselves are at the heart of delivering the services they receive.
Isledon focuses on social enterprises where profits and assets are used exclusively for the public good. One example of this is its partnership with Islington Council and the NHS to manage emotional wellbeing and social prescribing services. It also manages public buildings on behalf of the local authority, running youth services and hiring out facilities for use by other businesses, charities and community groups. Since 2011, Isledon has employed 140 young people as well as helping many find work with other local organisations.
- Community Interest Company
- Focus on young people and youth services
- Facilities management of public buildings on behalf of local authority
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns impacted every organisation across the globe. Isledon was no exception. With office-based staff forced to work from home, Isledon used its existing on-premise technologies to continue working. Users were able to connect remotely to their PCs located in the office and although it fundamentally worked, some issues were identified that needed resolving.
Accessing back-office functions could be problematic and Isledon’s VoIP telephony solution was being used to transfer calls to individual phones, which was less than ideal.
“We already had a Microsoft Azure solution in place through our technology partner, Softcat,” said Jonathan Gibbs, Managing Partner of Isledon. “The disruption caused by the pandemic made us think again about how we use both IT and other physical assets, in particular, the office itself. We made the decision to move to fully remote working. It was a reluctant decision, but one we had to make. We knew there was a better way of facilitating access to our systems, so approached Softcat for advice on a suitable solution.”
Critical success factors
- Rationalise on-premise IT equipment and physical assets
- Facilitate remote working
- Ensure seamless access to telephony and back-office functions
“Once we’d had an initial consultation to understand the parameters and configuration Jonathan needed, we had a clear idea of what would be suitable,” said Mischa Penn, Managed Azure Solutions Specialist at Softcat. “Fortunately, Jonathan is technically savvy, and we proposed an innovative solution built on a combination of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and Azure Active Directory (AAD).
“Isledon is a forward-thinking organisation and Jonathan was happy to be an early adopter of this purely remote use of AAD. AAD is a cloud-based identity and access management service that would provide secure access to both productivity solutions like Microsoft 365 and essential back-office functions.”
“Softcat’s preparatory work was a real value add,” said Jonathan. “It ensured we had a clear understanding of what the solution could do and how it could fulfil our particular needs. Softcat took a broader view of how we were using Azure to help identify where we could do more with fewer resources. It suggested significant changes and was able to recommend bespoke configurations that would provide even better value. We were able to formulate a defined schedule of works and quickly get the implementation rolling because of it.
“The implementation itself was carried out remotely over Microsoft Teams and Softcat’s specialist worked closely with us to fine-tune the solution. Making sure we could securely and reliably access our Sage software was particularly critical. We couldn’t afford to miss a payroll date and Softcat was there to make sure the integration went smoothly. Softcat even wrote a bespoke script to turn off the virtual machine when it wasn’t being used to help save money. It was this attention to detail that stood out and showed the level of support we could tap into.”
- Extensive preparatory scoping work
- Bespoke configuration to match the specific business needs
- Innovative solution harnessing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and Azure Active Directory (AAD)
“Moving to fully remote working and closing our office was a difficult decision, but it’s brought multiple benefits,” said Jonathan. “Aside from the cost savings, which we’ve been able to divert to frontline services, our staff are now much closer to the community they serve. We’re able to spend more time in the venues we manage, and finance managers are much more involved in what we do as an organisation.
“The Azure solution is much more robust than our previous on-premise IT estate. No more worrying about updates, better functionality than we had before and with enhanced backup and Disaster Recovery (DR) capabilities, it’s more secure too. Our staff now have access to the full suite of Microsoft 365 productivity and collaboration tools and the very latest Windows 11 operating system.
“Softcat put in a huge amount of work to ensure that all of our back-office systems, in particular our Sage accounting software, were integrated effectively. Its extensive Azure capabilities gave us the confidence that we’d followed best practices throughout the implementation, and it’s resulted in a single source of tech, providing a consistent service suite to every user.
“From a financial perspective, the cloud solution has lower up-front costs than our on-premise tech and will deliver ongoing cost savings. Softcat’s free-of-charge consultancy was also hugely valuable and helped us achieve exactly what we wanted at a very competitive price.”
Benefits at a glance
- Enhanced staff mobility and improved interaction with the local community
- Cost savings diverted to frontline activities
- Access to full Microsoft 365 suite, improved security, and resilience
“One thing that stands out about Softcat is how willing it is to work closely with organisations like ours to right-size solutions for optimal functionality and keep down costs,” said Jonathan. “We’ve worked with other technology providers in the past but have never received an equivalent level of pre-implementation collaboration or ongoing service and support. Despite being a big player in the field, it focuses on giving the customer exactly what they need, regardless of the size of the organisation. We’re a small fish in a big pond, yet Softcat makes us feel valued and important.”