The Sporting House – Microsoft 365 Cloud

Sporting house

About the client

Founded by Olympians, Sporting House is revolutionising swimming and gymnastics; Inspiring change, building infrastructure & developing talent. As a group, they engage over 30,000 children every week in physical activity, and have delivered over 2,000 teacher and coach qualifications, whilst also develop leisure facilities for local communities. A rapidly growing organisation, with a clear mission, Sporting House comprises: Beth Tweddle Gymnastics, Becky Adlington’s SwimStars, Total Swimming Academies, and swim!, amongst others.

The challenge

Whilst Sporting House had enjoyed rapid growth, their strategy was to significantly accelerate this. They were also acutely aware that their then IT service model was inadequate to support their ambitious plans for a number of reasons:

  • Whilst they had partly adopted Microsoft Cloud technologies, they were still heavily reliant upon a legacy on-premises server infrastructure, creating unnecessary complexity for their geographically dispersed operation.
  • The IT model would not support their plans to open one Leisure Centre per month for the coming years due to its poor ability to scale
    As a geographically dispersed team, they struggled with effective IT collaboration technologies.
  • They were reliant upon two separate incumbent IT support partners, making it difficult for end-users to know who to contact when issues arose.

The decision was made to employ a consultant to search for a suitable strategic IT partner to provide outsourced IT services to support their ambitions. Following a lengthy selection process, String were delighted to be selected to work the Sporting House on their exciting mission.

The solution

String worked with Sporting House to develop a new Microsoft cloud-centric IT strategy, that would leverage Microsoft 365 to support their wider business strategy.  The shared vision covered a number of key areas, including:

  • Microsoft 365 would provide their core IT infrastructure, with all user devices Azure Joined to provide optimal cyber security; users accessing their data and documents securely from any location; Microsoft Teams for seamless collaboration; and Microsoft 365 Business Premium to provide enhanced user security, end-point management, and Microsoft Information Protection to ensure compliance.
  • The principle of ‘Leisure Centre in-a-Box’, which would see all of Sporting House’s locations share a common build to reduce deployment time, support complexity and costs
  • A central, cloud-managed next-generation network infrastructure comprising resilient SD-WAN connectivity, Next-Gen firewalls, and secure Wi-Fi access

The deployment

As with all of our projects, our Project Management methodology was used to ensure that the transition to the new Microsoft environment would be as non-disruptive as possible.  For this reason, the deployment was completed over three phases:

Design Phase

At the outset, a Project Definition Workshop was held to ensure that all parties and stakeholders were able to contribute to the Project Plan.  The resulting project documentation, once agreed by all parties, served as a blueprint for the large-scale deployment across several hundred users, and numerous exiting sites.  Regular all-hands project meeting were held at Sporting House’s Head Office to track progress, pre-handle potential issues, and to ensure that stakeholder engagement remained constant

Build & Testing Phase

Once the new Microsoft 365 cloud environments had been built, a thorough testing phase was conducted, comprising initial Operational Acceptance Testing, and User Acceptance Testing with users representing the various use cases within the Sporting House group.

Migration Phase

Following testing, the migration phase saw all users, and physical server-based data moved to the new Microsoft 365 environment.  All end-user devices where Azure-Joined to provide central cloud-management and security.  String consultants were on hand UK-wide throughout, to ensure that user disruption was kept to an absolute minimum.

The outcomes

Sporting House now enjoy a fully Microsoft Cloud-based IT service.  New leisure centres are onboarded with the minimum of fuss; whilst all of their team enjoy seamless, secure collaboration and document access using the full range of Microsoft 365 Business Premium features.

String now provide 1st to 3rd line support for all team members, responding to any issues, requests, or queries that arise, within a set of strict SLAs that match the importance of IT to the business.  Monthly Service Review meetings present a perfect forum for our joint teams to connect and to review any underlying trends in the service data, and to plan for the next set of new leisure centres to be commissioned.

Looking to the future; String and Sporting House are working together to ensure that they fully leverage the ever-increasing range of automation, analysis, and communication tools available through Microsoft Power Platform, as part of their Microsoft 365 subscription.  At the start of the project, IT was seen as an inhibitor to growth; it is now an essential part of their exciting growth plans for the future.

We selected String because of their clear understanding of our strategic requirements, and were able to articulate how they, and Microsoft technologies could help us to achieve these. Our relationship with String has proven an extremely rewarding one, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them moving forwards.”
Lee Cunliffe
Finance Director - The Sporting House
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