Employing 500 staff, Lewisham Homes is an arms length management organization (ALMO) set up to improve social housing in the London Borough of Lewisham – the third largest borough in the capital – working in partnership with the local council.
Today, it manages 18,000 properties and provides other community services to support residents such as back to work clubs, apprenticeships and graduate schemes. Lewisham Homes is investing ?95 million to update the housing stock and is the Council’s development partner to build 500 new council homes – the first constructed in the borough in a generation.
Manni Etsetowaghan, Lewisham Homes' head of IT, says, "New IT infrastructure was required as we consolidated office space to improve collaboration and separate out housing services from the Council’s own IT systems. It meant starting from scratch with a blank sheet of paper so we’ve purchased IT that is flexible, future proof, supports the green agenda and allows us to deliver services efficiently to offer value for money.”
To achieve this, Lewisham Homes has adopted VMware for server virtualization, Citrix’s XenApp for VDI, created a private cloud solution for application and data storage, and then linked everything together using a secure MPLS network. Furthermore, it is using voice over IP for telephony and installed a SIP server so it can run Skype for Business. Staff access a range of applications through Citrix such as a social housing management system from Capita, Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, along with online training tools, financial, asset and resource management software.
Furthermore, this approach to IT management means that Lewisham Homes can be responsive and agile and roll out new IT-based services cost effectively should there be a requirement.
IGEL thin clients are multimedia ready and easy to manage
Around 250 IGEL UD3 terminals were purchased as they are optimized for voice and video and support the use of IP telephony and video-based training over the desktop. IGEL’s Universal Desktop Convertor (UD3) software has also been installed to convert existing x86-based Intel devices into universally deployable IGEL Linux-based thin clients.
Odina Ifeoma, Lewisham Homes' service desk manager, explains, “We’ve been able to recycle and transform about 20 older laptops for use in meeting rooms and reception areas rather than throwing them away. Clearly this saves budget which can be used for front line services.”
Given a desire to install end-to-end solutions, Lewisham Homes worked with IT partner, CloudDNA, to assist. Etsetowaghan explains, “CloudDNA helped with our requirements gathering and analysis, offered consultancy about Citrix and how best to deploy it, advised about the thin client selection, as well as audited our environment at the end. We needed some-one with deep knowledge of Citrix, networking and VDI delivery to get the most out of our investment. That’s exactly what CloudDNA has provided. “
Jo Wright, cloudDNA Co-founder, explained, “Like many organisations, Lewisham Homes are constantly looking for ways to improve IT efficiency and give their end users a better experience. We introduced IGEL to the Lewisham team, highlighting the ease of management which in turn, offered the potential to improve service stability for the growing user base.”
The IGEL terminals start up quickly, are competitively priced and straightforward to install and configure using IGEL’s UMS
endpoint management software. Ifeoma explains, “The ease of rollout is what I’m most proud about. It’s much easier to do compared to traditional PCs and we’ve been able to adjust settings per user, remotely deliver updates and set the devices to power up and down at certain times of the day to reduce electricity consumption.”
Currently each member of staff has desk space allocated with an IGEL terminal but Lewisham Homes is now considering how to capitalize on its IT investment and possibly shift to a ‘hot desk’ model at its headquarters to reduce the amount of floor space required and costs associated. Staff would login using a standard Internet Browser and access systems remotely.
Etsetowaghan says, “This supports our strategy of the three ‘anys’ – access to systems from anywhere, any device and at any time. It’s important as a lot of our staff don’t actually come into the office much as they’re out looking after the needs of residents. It makes sense to go down this route especially as our data and applications are centrally managed and not tied to any device.”
Furthermore, this type of approach means staff can port their profiles and jump from one machine to another if they have to change meeting rooms for example.
Ainsley Brooks, IGEL’s UK & Ireland country manager, says, “Where you have a mix of staff some who are office based and others working in the field, your IT solution has to fit both which is precisely what Lewisham Homes has achieved. VDI with browser-based access combined with centrally controlled thin clients makes so much commercial, IT and operational sense because of the simplicity of management and guaranteed security and business continuity benefits.”