Stone Group - Providing digital transformation solutions to organisations across the UK.

Home Group is a housing association, social enterprise and charity and is one of the UK’s largest housing providers of high quality housing and integrated housing, health and social care. With its origins in the North East, the company has expanded elsewhere in England and Scotland to support over 115,000 customers across 55,000 properties.

The Group prides itself on its innovative approach to building homes and it supports some of the most vulnerable in society, including people with mental and physical health issues and in 2020 it was voted Landlord of the Year in the UK Housing Awards.

The company employs 3,500 colleagues working from three central locations – a head office in Newcastle as well as offices in Edinburgh and London and many regional hubs throughout the country.

Simon Parker is Directors of Information Systems (IS) and has a team of 120 people who support, maintain and deliver a large number of systems that serves both colleagues and customers.

The Challenge

One project for the IS team was to bring older kit up to date. As well as desktops, the Group used Surface Pros which were around three to five years old and in refreshing these the Group was left with almost 700 machines that were not fit for purpose.  The question was what to do with all these old machines – as a Microsoft Partner, one option would be to ‘cash them in’ for recycling, however, as the pandemic progressed, the Group’s CFO John Hudson raised the idea of repurposing them to support colleagues working from home.

“Many of our colleagues had families and so they were home schooling,” said Simon. “While most had one computer at home which under normal circumstances would suffice, when home schooling if you had more than one child, each of whom need to be on line for lessons, then you have a problem.

“In addition, even assuming colleagues could afford to buy a new laptop, many of them work with people in our communities rather than in an office and may not have the expertise to decide which laptop to buy or how to set it up.  In addition, balancing work with home schooling doesn’t leave much time to think about it. John put two and two together -old Surface Pros + colleagues needing IT at home – and recognised the Group could provide a solution.”

Internally, the IS team were managing a change programme and of course, supporting colleague’s in the move to home working and so they did not have the capacity to do this in-house and so sought external support.

Simon adds: “Stone Group had sent me various emails to introduce their services and so having costed how much it would be for us to carry out the project in-house I decided to speak to Stone to see if they could help.”

"Stone was helpful and positive throughout the project and I really enjoyed doing business with them. We were presented with lots of options to help us make the service work better for us and Stone’s bespoke approach was refreshing. The service provided by Stone Group was cost effective and great value for money."

Simon Parker, Director of Information Systems (IS)

Stone Group Experts and In-House Facilities Managed this Major Project with Ease

From the outset, Simon said he was impressed with Stone’s positive, can-do attitude. “My account manager James was easy going, warm and friendly. Stone gave us lots of options on how to manage the project and the service was pretty much bespoke.”

The operation started by Home Group asking its staff to send their old Surface Pros to the Newcastle head office.  Stone arranged to collect the 700 pieces of equipment in one go using its own GPS tracked vehicle which is fitted with CCTV and operated by security cleared drivers. The laptops were then taken to Stone’s award winning in-house WEEE compliant facility.  

Each of the 700 pieces of kit had to have its data erased to ensure there was nothing personal or confidential left.  Stone employ industry-leading data wiping software Blancco which is the prestigious standard used by the MOD and disposes of data securely and in accordance with GDPR regulations. Stone also provided a full audit report to Home Group so they can be confident of compete traceability.

Once the old apps and all data had been removed from each of the machines Stone experts then reimaged each machine with the Windows 10 operating system.

“The challenge for both Groups was in deciding which of the machines could be recycled and which had to be disposed of entirely,” said Simon.  “We asked Stone to send us pictures of any damage, for example was there a cracked screen, were keys sticking or would it just not turn on.  Once we had seen the images and discussed each issue with Stone we would then decide which ones were not repairable.”

Around one quarter of the kit fell into this category and they were returned to Home Group as we requested. The process worked smoothly and as Stone recycled each machine it was then carefully packaged and individually posted out to the happy recipient.

“We had to collate all the information and names and addresses of people receiving the new machines,” said Simon. “We had extended the scheme to include our customers too and so it was a huge piece of work to pull everything together and we are grateful that Stone was able to post them out for us.”

The Feedback was Universally Brilliant

The whole project was completed in weeks which meant that families home schooling their children all of the country were able to benefit from having an additional computer to support their children’s education.

“The feedback was universally brilliant,” said Simon. “Both colleagues and customers were grateful to receive what they saw as a free brand-new laptop. Stone cleaned up the machines to a very high standard and even though people knew they were second hand, when they removed their laptops out of the box, they essentially looked brand new and of course, worked efficiently.

“Our executive members and CEO received lots of pictures showing happy children and grateful parents and it’s a great feeling to know that we have had such a positive and genuine impact on young lives.

‘We were hugely impressed with Stone who played a part in this success story and did their bit at a lower cost than we could have managed in-house. We are now looking at other projects we can do with Stone who exceeded expectations in terms of cost and service.”

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