Croydon Council standardises on Huddle for secure file sharing and collaboration
With a workforce of over 3,500 staff, Croydon Council is one of the largest employers in the London Borough. It is responsible for a wide range of local services, including housing, social services, planning, environmental and education, as well as the borough’s cultural and leisure facilities.
The organisation frequently needs to work closely with third party suppliers, contractors and developers, particularly on major construction projects. It also works with other councils on joint initiatives. To do this effectively, Croydon Council needs to be able to share confidential documents and collaborate on joint projects - something that often proved challenging to the borough’s ICT team.
Emma Brett, one of the Council’s ICT Business Partner managers, explained the challenge the team faced: “Despite the degree of collaboration we undertake every day with third party suppliers and partners, we lacked a tool that would allow us to safely share, manage, and work on documents externally. While we use Microsoft SharePoint internally for document management, it isn’t enabled for external sharing. Also, in the interests of protecting our network and the sensitive data within it, we block most users’ access to file sharing services such as Google Drive and Dropbox.”
Faced with requests both from contractors and staff, the ICT team knew it needed to come up with an acceptable solution or run the risk that people would simply find a workaround that broke the rules and endangered the network.
“Huddle has solved my problem. Now I have an answer."
“It’s my job to figure out how our users can do their work without obstacles,” Brett stated. “But the solution couldn’t be to accept every third party solution that was requested. That’s not workable – not least because testing every different tool for compliance with our data protection rules, and for compatibility with our network equipment and operating system, simply takes too long and diverts valuable resource.”
A catalyst for change
The catalyst for change was an Ofsted inspection. When Ofsted calls, the Council has to respond, and there’s often very little warning in terms of the data that needs to be shared.
“We were preparing for an Ofsted inspection and knew we’d have to provide secure access to sensitive network files. At the time, the ICT team had just been invited to join Huddle by our IT partner, Capita,” Emma explained. “Having started using it [Huddle], we quickly realised that it could provide us with the solution for Ofsted, and our other requirements.”
After passing internal governance and compliance approval, Croydon Council was ready to roll-out Huddle.
“Ofsted were very happy to work with us using Huddle. We were able to respond to their requests quickly and ensure that our data remained protected,” said Emma. “Its ease of use meant that other partners and contractors were equally happy to use the technology. We knew we’d found a solution to our collaboration challenge!”
The use of Huddle at Croydon has quickly spread and more than 300 staff now regularly collaborate on projects both internally and externally. Huddle is helping vital units such as the Housing Repairs team to manage workloads and share information with outside contractors to ensure work is carried out quickly and efficiently.
Collaboration with other local authorities in the area has also been made much easier using Huddle.
“We are working with Kingston, Sutton and Merton Councils on a major environmental procurement project called the South London Waste Partnership. Huddle has made that collaboration so much easier to manage,” said Brett.
The key benefits of using Huddle are speed and assurance. Having passed the initial compliance hurdles, the Council’s ICT team can now respond to requests and set up a new Huddle workspace in less than a day. The team also has full confidence that the data remains protected, and the ease of use means fewer complaints or requests for IT support.
“Huddle has solved my problem,” Brett concluded. “Now I have an answer. I don’t need to just say, ‘no’ to requests. Instead, I can say, ‘try this, it’s better’ – a far more productive solution!”