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Working together to build a cloud solution for the future


“We are now on track to take full advantage of the power and scalability of the Microsoft Dynamics cloud platform.”

Pirra Elford, Head of ICT, retailTRUST

Established in 1832, retailTRUST is a forward-thinking not-for-profit organisation supporting the 4.5 million people working in retail and the connected service industries in the UK.

The organisation changes lives by improving people’s emotional, physical, vocational and financial wellbeing.

Significant social value is delivered to employees and the community through retailHUB for core wellbeing services, retailRIGHT for vocational and career development programmes, and cottageHOMES for supported living across five estates throughout the UK.

The lack of a stable Microsoft Dynamics partner

Strategic discussions among the business executives and board of trustees of retailTRUST had revealed digital technology could bring benefits to all areas of the 21st century organisation and enhance the modern behaviours of a social enterprise. This is significant in the current climate where a historic benevolent charity model is largely unsustainable.

As part of the organisation’s ongoing digital evolution, retailTRUST wanted to streamline, improve and scale up their operations. retailTRUST was operating an on-premises version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 and using a bespoke web portal to manage their grants service. These systems had been developed by multiple partners and suppliers over several years. The implementation of the Trust’s legacy CRM solution hadn’t been without its difficulties – the main supplier was acquired mid-implementation resulting in the project team changing and the project losing momentum and focus. The lack of a stable Dynamics partner resulted in a solution that was haphazard and missed the mark. It did not make best use of the out-of-the-box features of Microsoft Dynamics and it failed to properly accommodate the actual business processes. The Trust concluded that the solution was no longer fit for purpose and changes were needed.

Pirra Elford, Head of ICT at retailTRUST said “Making use of digital technologies and the cloud is critical to our success as a modern not-for-profit business.” retailTRUST therefore wanted to:

  • Optimise the services offered to their beneficiaries across all business areas.
  • Make best use of the current resources. By improving system functionality the organisation would be able to enable departments to improve efficiency and increase output.
  • Enhance its digital evolution by centralising data onto one core platform and reducing the amount of information stored on paper. This would in turn also help to ensure compliance with the GDPR legislation.

The organisation was struggling to continue to build on its current solution. It was difficult for staff to enter data into the forms due to several unnecessary mandatory fields, staff were having to enter dummy data to complete forms. In addition, managing multiple suppliers meant that retailTRUST was finding it difficult to drive improvements due to the complexities of coordinating stakeholders. This resulted in low user adoption and time consuming processes across the Trust.

As with many not for profits, retailTRUST did not want to continue spending money building on a system which was not fit for purpose, however, it also did not want to throw away the investment in a renowned global platform.

"Making use of digital technologies and the cloud is critical to our success as a modern not-for-profit business."

Working together to keep project costs to a minimum

Central to the Trust’s digital evolution was having a solution in place which would enable growth and continuous improvements. retailTRUST therefore decided to retain the Microsoft Dynamics platform due to its flexibility and take advantage of the latest cloud-offering by migrating to Dynamics 365 Online. To ensure the bespoke web portal for grant services would continue to work, and to make it mobile friendly, retailTRUST also reached out to their existing portal supplier. However, it became clear that maintaining it would be costly and inflexible, and so other solutions needed to be considered.

The Trust put forward a request for proposal to a number of leading suppliers in the Microsoft Dynamics space. Incremental Group came through as the best partner for delivering the much-needed changes and for ongoing support of the platform. Incremental Group was experienced in Dynamics 365 Online, and further proposed that it would be logical to consolidate the primary and web portal systems within Dynamics rather than retain a separate bespoke portal solution.

As a not for profit, retailTRUST was restricted in their budget and staff availability, so to keep costs down the work was divided between Incremental Group and in-house resources over a longer period of time. Central to the project success was the flexibility of both parties in terms of timescales and resourcing. The project was split up into six key sprints to be completed over the course of the financial year. The longer than usual timescale enabled the Trust to complete more work in-house with their own resources, allowing project costs to be kept to a minimum.

“We selected a partner who was both agile and experienced in order to deliver fit-for-purpose solutions. Central to the project success was the flexibility of both parties in terms of timescales and resourcing” said Pirra Elford, Head of ICT at retailTRUST.

The outcomes of the project included improvements to the cottageHOMES solution which needed to accommodate the organisation’s residential services, with supported living for individuals delivered across five locations throughout the UK. The new solution allows for better management and reporting of maintenance requests, and capturing of residents’ support plans and related contact details. With Dynamics 365, repair jobs are now categorised into various sub-categories, enabling a faster and more accurate response along with better communication with suppliers.

retailTRUST can now more effectively manage the grants it provides to improve people’s wellbeing. Rather than pulling data from a different platform, via a connector, all the data captured now sits in the cloud as part of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.

In terms of the organisation’s counselling service, this has had a complete refresh in Dynamics 365. Inbound calls and face-to-face counselling sessions are now logged within the system. A dashboard provides the organisation with full visibility of any calls that are concerning, as well as the oversubscribed services and high-risk areas. Data entry post-calls has been reduced from 10-15 minutes per call to less than five minutes due to the improved solution.

“We selected a partner who was both agile and experienced in order to deliver fit-for-purpose solutions.”

A solution which is now core to the organisation

  • A central source of data – data from the three main functions of the organisation is now centralised in one core platform.
  • Improved visibility – the use of dashboards and Excel templates have improved visibility and reporting.
  • A future-proof cloud solution – retailTRUST is now positioned to leverage the extensibility of Microsoft Dynamics 365.
  • Secure, safe and highly available – the organisation is protected by Microsoft’s Trusted Cloud principles of security, privacy, compliance and transparency and the Dynamics platform is securely accessible from anywhere, and at any time.
  • Call capture reduction time – data entry for helpline calls has been reduced from 10-15 minutes per call to less than five minutes.
  • Better user adoption – a familiar and easy-to-use system is driving better adoption across the organisation.
  • Continuous digital improvement – the organisation is now on an ongoing journey of digital transformation with further improvements planned each year.
  • Improved social value – the Trust can now better demonstrate its social value through improved data capture and reporting.
  • Reduction of costs by moving to the cloud – retailTRUST has seen a reduction in infrastructure costs and staff have more time to improve systems and focus on the organisation’s mission.

"We are now on track to take full advantage of the power and scalability of the Microsoft Dynamics cloud platform.”

A concrete roadmap for digital transformation

retailTRUST now has a concrete roadmap for its digital transformation with continuous improvements being made. The organisation is equipped for the future with a cloud solution which can be easily extended into all aspects of the business.

The organisation’s next digital transformation phase is to look at optimising its finance operations. Incremental Group has completed the discovery phase of this project with retailTRUST and looks forward to an ongoing collaboration that delivers great value to beneficiaries.

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