A message from the Chair of Trustees

CRM Database news

Dear Colleagues,

I am extremely pleased to advise you that our Board of trustees has just approved the appointment of a preferred IT provider to develop and deliver our new database. It will replace our existing, aged and frustratingly unreliable system, where we capture and record Carer’s data and manage activity reporting to our principal funder.

The chosen supplier for the new system is Cloud9 Insight, based in Brighton. It is an award winning, top tier Microsoft Gold partner supporting IT requirements of SMEs.

They will begin their Definition and Scoping tasks on 17 September. During the first week they will work alongside us at our sites to verify our present processes in coding terms, and validate our specified needs. With past significant input from very many staff, we have so far comprehensively defined this in narrative, and that work was collated into a Request for Proposal (RFP), against which we sought tenders.

The staged project is expected to span some six months from start to delivery, although the precise dates are yet to be determined until Cloud9 Insight begins work.

During the build, development, test and data migration stages, we will refer to the new system as the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. Once delivered, in due course this whole suite of IT tools may become known as the ‘Carer relationship management’ system. But we’ll stick to the former expression for now, so as not to confuse the developer and ourselves!

The preparatory work has taken us several months of concerted effort, and those involved carried an additional workload beyond their normal functions, This extra dedication is recognised and is much appreciated. A comment from two prospective providers is that this was the most comprehensive RFP they’d received!

I wish to pass to you all the gratitude of our whole Board for this incredibly thorough preparation and for your continued tolerance with the existing system. The entire process so far has required much analysis and debate, working through the necessary due diligence that finally resulted in vendor selection. And working alongside staff teams to eventually obtain our trustee’s approval for the huge financial outlay that will be necessary from our own limited reserve funds.

I make particular mention of Vanessa Hasted and Rachael Swann, who between them coerced the ‘user stories’ from you and gradually pulled the detail together to be ‘fit’ for the submission. And thanks also go to Suzette Downes who, in the latter stages of preparation, so diligently worked through an enormous spreadsheet to bring all the estimated costs together to help me explain to my fellow trustees the very significant outlay required, and to which we will now commit. Our decision is probably the most important that trustees have taken since the merger that formed our present charity!

The Board is also very appreciative of the guidance freely given during the early stages of database specification by Yvette Elkana, a former trustee with IT expertise, and from Narendhra Morar, trustee, who has long served voluntarily on the Task & Finish Group that was driving this work. I must also give our gratitude to Jon Casey, who freely gave us an enormous amount of IT consultancy advice throughout.

Our newly contracted Project Manager, Roger Bateman, will be working closely with us. Representing our interests he will liaise with Cloud9 Insight developers, and his primary task is to keep this key and critical project on schedule for us all.

In due course, as modules are developed to meet our specification, ’User acceptance testing’ (UAT) will be assigned to several of you in the course of your work, and staff ‘Super-users’ will be trained among you to train others in-turn, so that we may become as familiar as possible with new system use across our whole charity.

This major investment of our skills and necessary capital outlay will, we anticipate, eliminate double entry, simplify our reporting to WSCC, lead to improved efficiency, add value to our work, enhance overall satisfaction with our services supplied to Carers, and ultimately reduce our operational and support costs. It will, we judge, have been worth the wait!

For those among you who are technically interested, the new database operating system is based on Microsoft Dynamics 365. This is a well-tried and tested application, available in modular form, and applied in a variety of uses by corporate businesses and charities around the world. It just needs tailoring to our needs!

Robert Adams

Chair of the Trustee Board