Jamie Trout is a Digital Inclusion Programme Manager at Streetwork, a homelessness charity based in Edinburgh. In the last few months he has managed a project to transition the organisation from a Windows Hosted Desktop environment to using Chromebooks and G suite.
A few months ago, they were using their old Windows Hosted Desktop system:
- The support was inadequate
- The service was unreliable
- The hardware was outdated
- The costs were high
- Staff were frustrated
At the start of the project, they brought in Cobry, Google Cloud Consultants. Cobry have helped many charities transition to Google services.
Almost any device can access G Suite via the browser/ internet connection. So it’s not always necessary to spend money upgrading hardware. However, Streetwork were due to upgrade their hardware anyway. They decided on Chrome devices, which were fully compatible with G Suite and cheaper than many alternatives with equivalent spec. The Chrome devices are extremely secure and low maintenance.
Streetwork also decided to give all staff their own devices – as this helped support their Digital Inclusion Programme – helping staff to learn and improve improving their digital skills. To choose which devices they ran a staff consultation process. They found different teams had different needs: teams working out of the office needed smaller, lighter devices. And office-based staff needed devices with high processing power, larger screens.
The staff consultation process generated lot of interest in the project and got people talking about Google. When their new hardware arrived they had an ‘all hands on deck’ unboxing day. This was a very positive day and generated genuine excitement in the office.
Before the project, Streework had 250GB of data on a shared drive (Approximately 10 years’ worth of data). Some data was duplicated, some was in the wrong location, and there were questions about GDPR compliance. To move the data across to G Suite, they started by setting up a mirrored drive, and getting users to set up the folder structure and permissions they would need – users know best! When this was complete, Cobry did a weekend migration of this data to G Suite.
Moving from Outlook to Gmail was straightforward, with Cobry taking care of all the technical issues: redirecting emails, exporting calendars, setting up resources.
Training and Support
Every staff member attended 2 x 2 hour training sessions with a Google expert from Cobry – one on G Drive, and the other on Emails, Calendars and Contacts. They also ran Q&A sessions and had ‘floor walkers’ fire fighting any issues as they came up. They also arranged team meeting visits and encouraged staff to book in training with Google Garage experts. After a busy few weeks of support, they turned a corner with users settling in and seeing the benefits of the new system.
Streetwork also ensured that there was lots of advance communication ahead of the change, including team meetings, multiple emails and posters in shared areas. They also had informal conversations at coffee machine, and encouraged staff to share their ‘number 1 concern’ – there were usually easy solutions to these.
The migration has thrown up some minor compatibility issues, but most of these have been solved – with help of Cobry. There were printing compatibility issues too, but this has been resolved with new printers.
The migration has offered huge benefits to users – staff digital skills are improving all the time. Features like auto-save and version control make collaboration much easier. And using the Cloud means updates are automatic, and staff don’t need to use USB sticks to transfer documents.
Yes, migration has some upfront costs… But once up and running, Google is FREE! Streetwork’s IT Costs reduced by over £30,000 per year – a significant saving for a homelessness charity. By next summer, cost savings will have paid for the entire project, including hardware, technical support, and consultancy.