The Foundation of Light is one of the largest football charities in the UK. It aims to use the power of football to change the lives of children, young people and their families within communities living in South Tyneside to South Durham.
Since its establishment in 2001 by Sir Bob Murray CBE, the Foundation has become widely recognised as a pioneer for the way in which it has engaged communities. It works with 40,000 people every year and raises an annual total of £4m in order to run their life changing programmes, which are all aimed at giving people the opportunities to fundamentally improve their lives.
For example, the Foundation’s ‘Pitstop' program uses a flexible and bespoke approach to learning (delivered by behaviour specialists) to help those who have been excluded back into the education system.
Another program, ‘Little Dribblers’, helps youngsters develop the physical and social skills from as young as 18 months, and whilst this is a great way to develop young footballers, it also helps combat child obesity, improve youngsters’ social skills, and helps with their education too. The ‘Back on Track’ programme helps those who are hoping to gain direction, qualifications and some focus towards the world of work.
There are many more examples of how the Foundation of Light is supporting communities, and what is particularly important to them is the numerous outreach centres across the region, which allows a level of drop-in support.
James Burman, Head of Communications at the Foundation of Light, says the outreach centres have had a fundamental influence on the growth and success of the business, as it enables the Foundation to develop and nurture partnerships within communities:
“We partner with many extraordinary organisations whose support, experience and expertise enables us to make such a positive difference to thousands of children, adults and families across the North East every year.
“We work with housing associations, local authorities, police, private companies, schools and individuals to address key social issues in our region such as unemployment, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, educational attainment and health issues."
“Through our outreach centres we are able to work much closer with our communities and partners, being located close to those our work benefits.”
Identifying the IT Needs
Having the right technology environment is crucial in order for these partnerships to be cultivated, as well as allowing the employees of the Foundation to communicate effectively across the region.
James says, “Before we engaged with TSG, our outreach offices had no access to file shares, and the staff at these offices weren’t on the same domain as the Stadium of Light staff (where most of our people are based). This meant they could not share information by any other means than email.”
“Our systems were very much in need of modernisation, and we wanted to make the outreach centres much more collaborative and better equipped for our employees. We put our IT requirements out to tender and it was clear from TSG’s demonstrable technical expertise, their vast knowledge of technology, and their consultative approach, that they were the best partner for us.”
Moving to the Cloud
A move to the Cloud was key to the Foundation’s modernisation plans. The Foundation is financially independent from Sunderland Football Club, but the organisation remained reliant on their on premise infrastructure at the Stadium of Light. Moving all their applications to a datacentre would allow them to become much more agile.
This would help collaboration and mobile working enormously, but it would also underpin the Foundation’s growth plans, as they had just been granted planning permission for their new home, the Beacon of Light.
“The Beacon of Light will be the first of its kind in the UK,” says James. “It will be an all-embracing community hub, and a motivating facility providing opportunities for young people and their families. The Beacon will have four unique zones: Education; ‘Health and Wellbeing’; ‘Sport and Play’; and ‘World of Work’. It will welcome over 6000 people through its doors every week.
It will house sports halls, football pitches, flexible informal learning spaces and education suites, so what TSG has helped us do is make sure our technology is ready for such an expansion. We needed to get the infrastructure right at the start.”
Another factor behind the decision to move to the Cloud is the fact that the Foundation’s employee count had risen from 3 to 160, and is still growing.
A new structure was needed to streamline mobile working and ensure collaboration was effective.
Microsoft Office 365
After thoroughly reviewing the Foundation of Light’s requirements, TSG recommended Microsoft Office 365 as the platform on which to move the Foundation of Light’s infrastructure to the Cloud.
Microsoft Office 365 is much more than simply email and online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. A wide variety of options, or plans, will accommodate the requirements of businesses of all sizes. But those who tap into Microsoft Office 365’s potential to integrate across all areas of IT – from data and communications to collaboration and storage – will make the most of this powerful platform. That’s what the Foundation chose to do.
James says, “Thanks to TSG’s in depth knowledge of Microsoft Office 365, we really saw the benefits of what it would allow us to do as an organisation, and how we could improve our levels of productivity.”
James continued, “From a user’s point of view, SharePoint Online (which comes as standard with Office 365) has transformed the way we work.
For example, I write a lot of press releases as part of my role, and I need to engage with others across the company to make sure they’re happy and, if required, contribute to the content.”
“Before SharePoint, I composed all my press releases on Word and then emailed it to the people who needed to see it. That often tied us up in knots as some people would forget to copy other people back in when they made amends, and some people were amending content that had already been cut.”
“With SharePoint Online, I can still engage with other people to work on the document with me, but there is always ‘one true version’. We all know we are working on the latest edition, and we very much now work with a ‘co-author’ approach which has vastly cut down on unnecessary emails.”
“That functionality alone has saved us a massive amount of time and increased our levels of productivity, and I know many users across the business use the same functionality to serve the needs of their own departments.”
The key to getting the most out of Microsoft Office 365 is understanding that as well as communicating and collaborating with colleagues and customers, it can tackle individual requirements. It’s at its best when adopted as an integrated platform to support your teams perform their essential daily tasks.
The Foundation of Light also uses SharePoint for intelligent document storage. Documents such as health and safety procedures, guidelines, training documents and data on the Foundation’s programs all pre-existed on an old file share. Because staff were on different domains, the only way to share information was through email.
The business wanted all employees to have easy access to the documents they needed, all of which were the most up to date version, whilst maintaining tight controls and security around the data.
James says, “We’d accumulated so much data over the years, which was really important to the business, but finding the information you needed at a certain moment in time was sometimes a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. “
TSG built a solid document management application for us within SharePoint, which meant that we could access the documents from anywhere.”
"They helped us to tag the information into categories so that we can search the documents based on the metadata. Finding the right information is now a much simpler process, and our employees based in the outreach centres can have the same access to information as everyone in the business now.”
James continued, “To move our business from an on premise environment to the Cloud was a very large scale project. We also gave TSG a tight deadline on the document management application in particular, but I was really pleased with the way they handled everything and helped our teams get to grips with the new system.”
Protection of their business is paramount to The Foundation of Light, as it should be for any organisation in this era of escalating cyber-crime.
The Foundation of Light chose TSG’s IT Support service TSG SystemCare to look after their entire technology estate.
TSG SystemCare is an intelligent, proactive tool which combines reporting, network monitoring, automated fixing and live-connect technology, all addressing issues before they become a problem or have an impact on business performance. It is run by a dedicated expert team of highly accredited hardware and software professionals who pick up on SystemCare generated alerts, and work with the customer to find a solution to any problem.
The Foundation of Light also ‘top up’ their IT Support from TSG with regular half day site visits from a familiar face who understands their business and their IT environment. This is our SystemCare Proactive Service, which is all about helping businesses to get the most from your investment in IT, carrying out essential housekeeping and working with organisations like the Foundation of Light to build a roadmap for the maintenance and development of technology.
Alongside TSG SystemCare is Sophos’ UTM (Unified Threat Management) tool, which provides the Foundation of Light with complete security from the network to the endpoint within a single appliance.
This includes firewall, VPN, IPS, Wi-Fi, web filtering and application control.
James says, “With a highly mobile workforce accessing multiple documents on the go, we needed to make sure our systems were as safe and secure as they possibly can be. The combination of TSG SystemCare and Sophos UTM gives us the reassurance to work in a manner that suits us, whilst knowing that our systems are being looked after by people who know our business, and are industry experts.”
Speaking of TSG’s people, James continued, “The staff at TSG are very friendly, helpful, and above all knowledgeable.“
“Whenever they are on site and are asked questions by our users, they always take their time to ask about the background to what that user is trying to achieve, so they can give the most accurate solution. The TSG staff are a credit to their organisation.”
The Foundation of Light’s modernisation project continues, and at the time of writing we are working with them to set up Skype for Business accounts (also included in Office 365) which will allow the Foundation’s staff to see ‘presence’ information (i.e. when someone is available or offline).
It also includes functionality for modern meetings using video conferencing, and is fully integrated with other Microsoft applications such as Office, Outlook, and, crucially for the Foundation of Light, SharePoint.
In addition to Skype for Business we are also installing leased lines into the Foundation of Light’s outreach centres.
We work in partnership with Zen on our leased lines, and our circuits are capable of delivering multi-service communications such as voice, video and data between connected locations.
This will mean excellent connectivity levels on which to run Skype for Business, as well as the Foundation’s Cloud based operations.
TSG’s leased lines are also fully scalable, highly secure and fast. In the event of a disaster, the leased lines will fail over to a secondary location, which means that there will be minimal downtime for the Foundation of Light.
James concluded, “TSG have proven themselves to be an invaluable partner when it comes to modernising our business and making it fit for purpose for our exciting growth plans."
“I’m looking forward to continually tapping into TSG’s expertise as we shape the future for the Foundation.”