Case Study

Innovative Use of Shifts App Helps a Chemical Equipment Manufacturing Company as Employees Return to Hybrid Working

The Challenge

The organisation is a specialist chemical dosing solutions provider, based in Basingstoke. The organisation designs, manufactures and installs innovative chemical dosing solutions for the UK water industry and industrial manufacturing. 

In response to bringing staff back from the COVID-19 lockdown and furlough, this client was attempting to enable their workforce to return via a method of hybrid-working – some in the office, some at home. They needed to be able to track which employees were working in the office on which days, but also to give employees the ability to say “I want a desk on this day”. Therefore they required a mechanism for input and management of these requests.

The organisation was looking for the ability to break down by department the number of staff onsite, so for example sales would have a certain quota of people in and the engineering team would have the same, plus the head office, and so on. The client needed to be able to track personnel by department, and to be able to manage this centrally, so that they could assign specific people on particular days. They also needed to give people the ability to self-manage, so that if someone needed to change a day, they could sort that out themselves.

We utilised technology that was already available to the organisation through Microsoft Teams.  We used Shifts, which is actually for shift management rather than office-space management, but the mechanisms available meant that we were able to create a schedule, communicate that schedule to users, make it available for all the users to interact with, and also make it available on mobile devices.  

The Solution

This solution gives them the ability to plan each week in terms of what staff they have on-site and they are able to specify those people that they need in on particular days. It also gives them visibility to see who they have in and how many spaces are available, so that they can make sure that they are fully compliant with their COVID risk assessment.

Our approach meant that we utilised what they already had, but in a unique way. The client didn’t realise that the software they owned could perform this task, and what all the capabilities were. We educated them in respect of what Microsoft Shifts does and how it can be used, but then applied the software to this challenge – which was outside of what it was generally intended to be used for it. In addition we provided training, set-up and we continue to provide ongoing support to help them use it on a day-to-day basis.

The Result

The client is delighted as they now know exactly who is going to be in the office on which days! This means they can manage who is in, and also gives them peace of mind that they are maintaining social distancing while returning to this new way of hybrid working. In terms of improving productivity this solution means they’re not trying to manually manage all of this anymore. They now have a system where they can do it all automatically and so, rather than having to communicate out to everybody, the users that are effected can just go in and check on their office-space requirements. It has reduced the reliance on the emails, spreadsheets or even pieces of paper that were being used before.

Thoughtful Use of SharePoint and Power Automation Simplifies Processes, Saves Time and Meets Legal Obligations for a Chemical Equipment Manufacturing Company

The Challenge

The organisation is a specialist chemical dosing solutions provider, based in Basingstoke. The organisation designs, manufactures and installs innovative chemical dosing solutions for the UK water industry and industrial manufacturing. 

As part of the solutions they are putting in for their customers, this organisation provides equipment. This equipment could be used onsite, or it could be in the workshop. In addition, the organisation has their own equipment in the factory where staff work on a daily basis. Obviously, they have a responsibility to keep up-to-date with the maintenance of all of this equipment. The organisation needed to track when each piece of equipment was last maintained, any certificates that come back from that maintenance, and when it’s next due. The organisation is bound by ISO standards to make sure that they adhere to these rules and they are regularly audited as well.

Furthermore, the way that they had been tracking records in the past, wasn’t particularly efficient. They just about made it through their last audit but needed to improve their systems for next time. So, to summarise, they needed to improve their record keeping around maintenance ready for the next order.

Overall, they were looking for the ability to track all of the equipment in one place, plus, based on the type of test, to be able to automatically figure out when the next testing cycle is due. Following a conversation with us, they realised that they also wanted to be able to automate sending out alerts for those tests with an accompanying escalation process. So, for instance, if the organisation is within three months of a piece of equipment needing a particular retest, then an alert would be sent to just the named responsible person, but the closer the organisation got to the testing date (without the record being updated), then the alerts would started to escalate, first to the line manager, then to the area manager and then finally based around end date.

The Solution

As the organisation is very used to SharePoint, we created a solution in that, so they can log all of the equipment tests that are required in a SharePoint list. Off the back of that we’ve used Power Automate to create automations, so the organisation has a series of flows running, and those flows are designed to meeting their requirements exactly. When a new item is input to the system, it will generate a unique number for that piece of equipment, so that equipment gets ‘stamped’.

In addition, the system will also figure out based on the type of test that’s actually required, what the next test date is. And then on a daily basis the system is checking to find out if there are any pieces of equipment that are due testing within various timeframes. The system will look 90 days in the future, 30 days, 14 days and seven days, and then it will just keep bombarding with alerts if it doesn’t get done after the actual test date.

Moreover, this helps the organisation by giving them that one central location where they can track all of their equipment maintenance schedules. Rather than having some information in disparate systems, it’s all now in one location. The automation ensures that they don’t miss any equipment that needs to go through the maintenance schedule. That is the big risk and the key factor that would leave them wide open legally. As well as simplifying processes, saving time (and man hours), and making this procedure more efficient, our solution meets all of their legal obligations.

Uniquely, our solution was completely tailored to what they needed, because we are working within the framework of Microsoft 365 (which is extremely flexible), so we could look at different approaches. This meant we could build the rule sets out around what needed to be done for the testing to meet their exact requirements – everything was based entirely around what their legal obligations are for each different type of equipment.

In terms of added value, one of the first suggestions we made was that they could have the escalation process. The organisation was expecting to start off with somewhere that they could go and manually check on a daily basis to see what equipment they needed to test within the next few months.

However, our in-depth knowledge of the workflow processes and how they can be implemented meant that we could automate all of that, even to the point that we have automated where the certificates get stored. So now, when a new test is completed and input to the system, the organisation just need to attach the certificate and it will be saved in the appropriate place – providing the organisation with a full history of the testing regime.

The Result

The client is only just going live with this, right now they are in the process of feeding all this information in. Immediately, as they can now auto-generate the equipment ID number, this is providing them with a unique and consistent approach to labelling all of their equipment, which is almost a bonus benefit. It’s also helping them to track the responsible people for each piece of equipment, where equipment is located and, obviously, it’s ensuring that straight away they don’t miss any tests due on that equipment.

The key result for the organisation is that our solution ensures they meet their audit requirements. As they could be audited at any point, our solution makes sure that their equipment is always correctly maintained. Furthermore, they will have the full testing history for the equipment, so when they do face an audit in the future, all the information will be their hands. They don’t need worry about trying to pull the information together for the auditor, they can just display the information directly in the solution.

Our solution is supporting the organisation with a process that they are legally required to do. It is removing a worry from team members – they just need to wait until they receive a notification that they need to do something. It is also removing an additional chore of having to do those manual checks every single day.

Skilled Use of Microsoft 365 and Power Apps Increases Efficiency and Saves Time for a Chemical Equipment Manufacturing Company

The Challenge

The organisation is a specialist chemical dosing solutions provider, based in Basingstoke. The organisation designs, manufactures and installs innovative chemical dosing solutions for the UK water industry and industrial manufacturing. 

The organisation didn’t have anything to manage skills for employees – they had no way of being able to track what certifications staff had, or when they expired. So, it made it quite difficult when they were on a client’s site, as the client could turn around and say “show me your certificate to prove you are certified to put in this piece of equipment”. In addition, there could be quite a lead time to get that information back from head office to the client.

Consequently, the organisation required the ability to produce reports on what certificates members of staff have and also where they lack certifications. Also, the organisation needed information where there was someone who was in a role and maybe didn’t have all the certifications that were required for that role. Therefore, the client needed this information to be made available to both the site supervisor and the personnel at a client’s site, so that they can quickly and easily pull that information up via a Mobile App.

Matt of Vantage 365 was already working with the client as a Microsoft 365 consultant when the client approached Matt and asked him if there was a suitable solution available using Microsoft 365. Matt was happy to answer ‘yes’. The client was already paying for Microsoft 365, they just wanted to leverage it more to meet these new needs, and this is exactly where Matt’s expertise lies.

The Solution

The organisation wanted somewhere to store the certificate information, so we provided this using Microsoft 365. Also, they wanted these details easily accessible by any appropriate member of staff, in any location. So we produced a Power App, which meant that we could surface all of the information that they needed through a mobile device. We created two versions of the App; one for the desktop (which is for the backend), where all the administration can be performed. And a mobile version which sits on mobile phones, so that when team members are out and about with clients, they can retrieve all of the information that they need.

Furthermore, using Microsoft 365 technology meant this solution didn’t cost the client anything. They were already paying for their regular subscriptions, we simply helped them to utilise this more effectively. Through taking a Power Apps approach we were able to access and provide information in a more flexible way, which was tailored specifically to their needs.

Matt’s in-depth knowledge of what Microsoft 365 is truly capable of – ‘the art of the possible’ – was crucial to this solution, as well as making sure that everything is completely secure.

The Result

The organisation is now seeing a very quick turnaround in terms of how they can respond to requests for certificates. They are also improving their way of tracking skills, for example they are able to make sure that if a particular employee becomes sick within three months of a certificate expiring, then steps can be taken to make sure that it doesn’t expire. Overall, they can keep every employees’ certifications current, all of the time.

Moreover, the big time-saver for the organisation is the that they don’t need to keep going back to the back office to process these types of requests. Information can be accessed immediately, in front of the client, to give them the details that they want. It’s a dramatic reduction in time as the process is not reliant on an additional person trying to manually find the relevant certificates – everything is within the palm of your hand.

We are pleased to support what the organisation does and they’re delighted as this solution has made them more responsive to client questions.

Using Microsoft 365 and Adobe Sign to Create a Cost-Effective, Time-Saving Employee Onboarding Solution

The Challenge

Vantage 365 is a Microsoft 365 consultancy based in the West Midlands. The organisation needed to implement systems to manage the onboarding of new employees. As a small company, the administration involved in staff recruitment was taking a great deal of time. The organisation was looking to minimise human input, maximum use of technology to automate as much as possible, and to make the process faster and more efficient.

The organisation needed this to commence with sending out the job offer letter and generation of the contract based on the parameters set for the new employee. In addition, they required automatic utilisation of an e-signature on the contract. Finally, when the signed contract is received back, it is to be stored in the profile for the employee.

The Solution

Utilising the technology stack which Vantage use most of all, which is Microsoft 365, an area was created for basic new employee information such as name, contact email address, telephone numbers, etc. Based on that, there is a button which is pressed to say “start the onboarding process”.

The system will then build the offer letter which is a word document that is automatically generated from a template and populated with the key information including job, role, hours, salary, holiday entitlement, etc. The system will PDF the letter and send it to the new employee.

Upon acceptance, by pressing another button the onboarding process is commenced and the new employee is sent a form to fill in, to ensure that the details are correct and to collect any additional information required. On receipt of that form all of that extra data is transferred to the employee’s profile.

Next the contract is constructed automatically, converted to a PDF, uploaded into Adobe Sign and then sent across to the new employee for signature. Upon return of the signed contract it is countersigned by the organisation and finally stored in the person’s profile.

Consequently, the need for the organisation to manually create all these different types of documents, has been significantly reduced. There is added confidence that no essential onboarding step will be missed, as the automated process will definitely be followed. The possibility of errors is diminished, as every document is going to be based on the original, consistent template. The language is always going to be the same, certain fields will just be tailored to each employee’s specification. The whole process is professional, streamlined, efficient and saves the organisation time.

Matt is delighted to be ‘drinking his own champagne’ because he has come up with the perfect solution just by utilising everything he already has available in Office 365. Furthermore this is a time-saving, cost-effective HR solution he can replicate for other clients.

The Result

The organisation has only employed one person so far, but the system has been fantastic!

Utilisation of SharePoint, Power Apps and Azure Automation Together With Training and Guidance Improves Adoption of Microsoft Teams for a Property Assurance Provider

The Challenge

The organisation, based in Castle Donnington, is a property assurance provider offering a range of specialist outsources services for the UK insurance claims sector.

They were in the process of rolling out Microsoft Teams, but they were very wary of ‘Teams Sprawl’ (seldom-used or dead Teams, empty channels and scattered data) that can arise when people start to start to use it.

Furthermore, the organisation wanted to control the Teams creation process by tracking who was creating what, whilst also installing analytics for those Teams.

While still allowing users to request the creation of new teams, the organisation wanted an approval process in the IT department. They wanted someone to say “yes we approve this to be created”, but rather than an IT administrator then creating the team (which was the current situation) they wanted the Team to be automatically created for the user.

Vantage 365 was introduced to the organisation through a personal recommendation by another local company called The Circle Bar. Based on this recommendation and the initial phone calls during which we discussed what they wanted to do, combined with proof of our expertise and experience, the organisation chose us to implement the solution.

The Solution

As the organisation was familiar with Office 365, we used as many of the Office 365 features as possible to meet their requirements. We started off with a very basic SharePoint list, which is going to store the information regarding the Teams requests. The list tracks information such as what the justification was for creating the Team and has the ability to put a review date in if required. This is for housekeeping purposes and so they can initiate clear-up operations. This further reduced the potential for lots of stagnant Teams in the environment.

Moreover, the organisation required a user-friendly interface. To provide this we simply employed a Power App. The user doesn’t need to see the SharePoint site, they can just access the front entry of the App, where they request a new Team and they can also see all of the Teams that they have previously requested.

To make things even smoother, we leveraged the App directly within Microsoft Teams, so that the user doesn’t have to go somewhere else to request a Team.

In addition, we attached a provision to the Team using Azure Automation. We have PowerShell scripts sitting out in the Azure Cloud (this is the administrators/developers Cloud, as opposed to the productivity area) and much of the code was set up there. We then used Power Automate to bridge the gap between SharePoint and Azure Automation.

We implemented processes so that when a request is made, it would start the approval process, ie find the Approvers’ List and send a notification to all those people who could approve it. Upon approval, the Team is automatically created and the end users are notified that this has happened.

Consequently, staff can no longer use the out-of-the-box experience – every new Team now has to be created using this governed process. Our solution is helping the organisation to maintain control and visibility of what is being created within Microsoft Teams. The IT department can stop any unnecessary Teams being created and can implement clean-up operations as well, because they have all of the information to hand.

Matt’s in-depth knowledge of what Office 365 is truly capable of – ‘the art of the possible’ – was vital to the success of this solution. We weren’t just looking at Office 365 this time, we were looking at all of the supporting technologies that are available from Microsoft Azure to meet the organisation’s requirements. We leveraged what they already had, helping to shape their business process, and actually implement it in an automated way, without any real user interaction.

Furthermore, we provided education and guidance to the organisation around how they can use these services within Azure, for example around facilities such as hosting scripts. We also improved their knowledge in respect of licencing, as they needed an upgraded licence to be able to fully exploit Azure. Before implementing the premium licensing, we explained what features could be added and what the additional benefits would be, so they understood exactly how it could be useful going forward.

The Result

Straight away the organisation has seen a decrease in the number of Teams that are been being created. As the requests are being pushed through the controlled mechanism and they are not having to go through IT anymore (so the processes is ‘driving itself’), they are also seeing a drop in the number of service desk requests.

This has improved efficiency and saved time for the organisation, as they no longer have to have an administrator sat on the service desk manually creating Teams for people. End users get their Teams created faster, using the new, much-reduced automated approval process (with numerous people able to rapidly approve or reject requests). The IT administrators are able to concentrate on IT support and manage the entire environment much more effectively, because they’ve got all the information in one place.

This has had a significant impact on the organisation’s adoption of Microsoft Teams. It’s still controlled, so from an IT point of view it’s a good storage solution, but it hasn’t taken away the ability for users to go and request a new Team if required. It has kept user flexibility and empowerment, but offers that freedom within organisational boundaries – the governance rules that have been put in place by implementing this process.