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Martin King IT Manager, Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo with over 250 permanent staff, is a sizable organisation, with their own dedicated IT department responsible for supporting a huge range of operations throughout the zoo. Up until last year, the zoo was struggling with an out-dated intranet and document management system. The charity last updated the core application nearly seven years ago, and over time no less than seven different IT systems evolved for storing digital media. The content wasn’t tagged or structured, and the system had fallen into disuse.
“It was like an abandoned wasteland” says IT Manager, Martin King, “People would add new content and nobody would know where to find it or how to search for it”. While there was an option to re-license and upgrade the existing Xerox Docushare solution, it didn’t follow the tight integration with the Office path that our organisation needed. Because of this King felt it was time to wipe the slate clean and look at alternatives. Instead of importing the existing media, the zoo decided to take more of a managed migration approach, to re-structure the content and integrate it within a more useful Intranet. This then allowed Chester Zoo to deliver information through an automated approach and save money by replacing it’s paper based forms with digital workflows.
King opted for a new solution based on SharePoint; Microsoft’s market-leading business intelligence, content management and collaboration software. As a charity, there were savings to be made in terms of relicensing, but choosing SharePoint allowed the zoo better integration with Microsoft Office and to capitalise on the zoo’s existing knowledge of the Microsoft suite. However, for a project of this scope, Chester Zoo wanted to bring in experienced hands. They chose Core to bring the project to fruition.
“Core gave us the most confidence they could deliver the right solution” says Martin King. “They offered real value. It also helped that Core is a Microsoft SharePoint Gold Partner. You know that they know what they’re doing” adds King, “and have proven it time and time again.”
Core had several tasks to manage; not just managing and handling the development of the new Intranet, but training the in-house IT team and bringing key stakeholders up to speed. Over a three month period, Core’s Project Team delivered technical training with the in-house IT team and key stakeholders. As well as deploying the SharePoint software and infrastructure, the Core Project Team customised the intranet with the zoo’s branding alongside form development and creation of a new Media Library.
“We received regular highlight reports and had daily contact with the Project Manager assigned to us from Core” says King. “It was very well project managed in the delivery.”
Martin King IT Manager, Chester Zoo
King was consistently impressed with Core’s support and expertise. “In terms of the installation, the support we got from Core was fantastic throughout” he notes. “Core’s consultants were easy to work with and knowledgeable, with the kind of in-depth expertise in SharePoint that only years of work on successful projects provides.” Core also provided solid training, detailed documentation, and helped as King’s team moved procedure and policy documents over, and began work on importing key content in a structured fashion. “They’ve given me confidence right through the process” says King.
With SharePoint now in place, the benefits are apparent as soon as staff log-in in the morning. The first thing they see in the browser is a front-page with the latest information, plus immediate access to policies and forms. Company-wide emails are a thing of the past, replaced by a live noticeboard. “Our staff are at the head of that information” says King. “They see it when they log-in, they know what’s current, and they don’t have to go searching for it in their inbox. Things don’t get missed.” What’s more, the front-page also embeds the latest visitor figures. “All of our targets are driven from visitor income” adds King, “and that’s there on your front-page as soon as you go into it.”
Meanwhile, work continues on taking the most useful content from the old systems, categorising and tagging it, and bringing it under SharePoint’s control. “It’s a slow process” says King, “but at the other end it will all be useful.” King has plans to further expand the Intranet, looking at ways to use SharePoint’s extensive built-in features to integrate and manage a range of zoo tasks, and bring Office 2010 into the system. “That will be a big benefit moving forwards” notes King.
What’s more, Core’s training and documentation have enabled King and his team to extend and maintain the Intranet themselves. “Obviously they’ve done a good job” he explains, “because we’ve not needed to call them since. The training they’ve done has worked; we’ve taken it on board and been able to resolve nearly every issue.”
Most importantly, that old, under-used document management system has gone in favour of a content-rich SharePoint resource that zoo staff use every day. “We’re getting lots of page views, and every computer in the zoo is hitting that page every morning” says King. “They’re spending five to ten minutes on it just to make sure they know what’s happening that day, and then they’re moving on to do their work. That’s what we wanted.”
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