Accent Housing Group
Accent Housing Builds For The Future With MS Teams And Gamma Direct Routing
The global Covid pandemic, together with its government-mandated lockdowns and work-at-home directives issued in March 2020, caught many organisations on the back foot as they scrambled to implement systems to support their employees in remote working from their homes.
Some organisations, however, were better prepared and were already in the throes of rolling out flexible working to their staff as part of a broader evolving digital strategy. One example is the forward-looking housing association, Accent Housing, whose ICT team was able to fully deploy remote working for its 435 employees around the country in fewer than 14 days.
That deployment was based around the Microsoft Teams collaboration suite with connectivity courtesy of Teams Direct Routing from the telecoms and networking vendor Gamma. It was the culmination of an IT journey that had begun seven years previously with the adoption of Gamma’s SIP trunks and the Skype For Business platform that replaced a legacy telephony system of on-premises PBX, desk phones and ISDN.
It was a subsequent decision to move to Teams that prepared Accent Housing so well for the unprecedented change in working practices that came with the Covid pandemic, as Accent’s ICT project manager Steve Craison explains.
With Gamma we had a great project manager and a great implementation development consultant to work with - they helped us every step of the way to migrate those services acrossSteve Craison
ICT project manager
Acceleration to Teams
“We’d already started the shift towards Teams. Covid simply brought forward the migration sooner than we’d planned,” he says. “And as for Accent as a business, everyone really stood up and embraced the wholesale move to Teams remarkably well.
“The pandemic led the social housing industry to adopt a variety of solutions from Cisco Webex and GoTo Meeting to Zoom and Teams. For us, adopting Teams also brought about a wider migration to the Microsoft 365 ecosystem with its OneDrive and SharePoint platforms right across the business and away from on-site servers and legacy systems,” says Craison.
“That had to be one of the biggest benefits of adopting Teams. And working with colleagues at Gamma – we had a great project manager and a great implementation development consultant to work with – they helped us every step of the way to migrate those services across.”
We made the switch across to Gamma with zero downtime; it was all done seamlesslySteve Craison
ICT project manager
Housing associations provide homes and support for almost six million people around England. They offer social homes, shared ownership homes, some market homes to rent and buy and essential supported and specialist housing. They also invest in community services and regeneration, provide support to vulnerable people and reinvest all their income into delivering their social purpose.
Accent is one of the country’s larger housing associations, providing more than 20,000 affordable homes to more than 35,000 families in the north, east and south of England.
“During the procurement, Gamma proved to be the most suitable option for the services we wanted,” says Craison. “That led us right back to Gamma for Teams. They were most closely aligned with what we were doing and helped us in moving away from the on-premises model.”
Social housing is a specialist business sector for Gamma and the company already counts more than 50 social landlords among its customers. Gamma is one of just six vendors selected by Procurement for Housing (PfH) under a framework agreement aimed at delivering savings and best value to social landlords and their tenants. It was under that framework (RM3808) that Gamma built its commercial relationship with Accent Housing, starting in 2016.
Staying initially with its Skype-linked contact centre solution, in 2022 Accent moved away from Skype for that part of its business too, whilst at the same time migrating its Teams connectivity away from a legacy provider to Gamma and issuing everyone in the business with new numbers. It was according to Craison, something of a no-brainer.
“We picked Gamma’s Direct Routing solution for Teams as it gave us the best option both financially and managerially. We made the switch across to Gamma with zero downtime; it was all done seamlessly. As a wholly customer-focused business handling thousands of calls we just can’t afford downtime,” he explains.
It was also the chance to move from different geographical telephone numbers to an all-0300 number allocation, Gamma once again delivering seamless and trouble-free migration to the new numbering plan.
Unreservedly. Working with Gamma has given us everything we were looking for. It is easy to configure, we understand how it works and we are now well future-proofed for any further changesSteve Craison
ICT project manager
With the pandemic now hopefully in the rear-view mirror, and in the light of many experiences, would Steve Craison recommend Gamma as a vendor to peer organisations?
“Unreservedly. Working with Gamma has given us everything we were looking for. It is easy to configure, we understand how it works, it reduced our dependency on a platform that was going end-of-life, it allowed us to maximise our use of Microsoft 365 and we are now well future-proofed for any further changes.
“Plus we’ve got much better resilience now and a completely cloud-based telephony platform which we were able to move into live service with zero problems and no come-back from any of our users. It has delivered, and continues to deliver everything Gamma said it would.”
He also reflects on the day-to-day working relationship with Gamma, something which matters every bit as much as project targets, timescales and up-time.
“Another good thing about working with Gamma is they give us a friendly, personable service that isn’t rigid around layers of governance. We set out expectations and requirements and agreed on what was going to be delivered and when. Between all the parties we hit all the milestones and resolved any issues along the way.”
Another good thing about working with Gamma is they give us a friendly, personable service that isn’t rigid around layers of governanceSteve Craison
ICT project manager