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Case study: Championing digital skills across Bury Council

Learning + skills

Bury Council Logo

Like many local authorities across the country, Bury Council are under pressure to do more with less.

As part of their ambitious “Let’s Do It!’ strategy, they explored ways to drive efficiencies, work smarter and build digital skills to deliver better services for the people of Bury.

Bury Council understood that they needed to nurture a workforce who could adopt digital skills at pace if they were to maximise the benefits of current and emerging technologies.

Together, Bury Council and The Inform Team developed a successful Microsoft 365 champions programme, delivered training to all staff groups, and tracked key metrics support their journey towards digital maturity.

The project in numbers

18 months

The programme ran for 18 months

950+ employees

We trained over 950 staff in M365

9.3 rating out of 10

Our training sessions were rated 9.3 out of 10

3 digital maturity assessments

We did 3 digital maturity assessments

71% increase

Digital skills increased by 71%

The starting point:

A post-pandemic tech review

Bury Council had rolled out Microsoft Teams to its employees in 2020 during their emergency Covid response. After the pandemic, Bury continued a hybrid working model and recognised that there was still untapped potential within Microsoft 365 that could transform the way their workforce could communicate and collaborate.

Many Teams users had only used the app for video calls or chats, and shared files were largely stored on individual devices or network drives – with multiple versions circulating via email.

The team at Bury knew that their previous plug and play approach wasn’t enough to create the agile workforce they aspired to as part of their long-term strategy.

2. Andrew
Nick

"I think councils, like any public service at the moment, are facing challenges on the financial front.

And what that transpires into is making sure you've got the best efficiencies in your systems and in your workforce to make sure you're leveraging any technologies that you can to increase productivity without using more resources."

Andrew Carter
Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

1. Tina
Tina Bruce

“I think certainly following the Covid lockdowns, more people were working remotely and almost being thrust into using technology that they weren’t really familiar with.

Things like Teams were brought online really quickly, and they’ve worked brilliantly. But I’m not sure that everybody had the right level of training [in 2020] to be able to use them to the best effect.”

Tina Bruce
M365 Champion

3. Liam
Liam Johnson

“Our ‘Let’s Do It!’ strategy is all about improving the lives of Bury people. It’s about creating change for the better, improving the services that we deliver, and digital is at the forefront of that for us.

We need to constantly improve the way that we deliver services, and part of this programme is about driving that for us.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

Liam Johnson, Head of Organisational Development and Culture, said it was important to acknowledge these historical challenges for technology adoption:

“During Covid, we rapidly delivered lots of new technology and devices across our organisation. However, due to the speed of deployment, we recognised that we’d not provided enough wrap-around digital training or support to really adopt and maximise our technology capabilities,” he said.

Bury set out to find a training partner to support their workforce with digital skills, and started working with The Inform Team in February 2022.

The action plan

Working with key stakeholders in Bury Council, we developed an action plan to upskill staff on the Microsoft 365 suite, while building a framework for sustainable skills development in the future.

Close up of a woman's hand holding a post it note up to a board. The note reads "Strategy"
1

Creating M365 champions

We identified, engaged and upskilled a team of M365 advocates to share hints, tips and enthusiasm for new ways of working across office-based and frontline staff.
2

Training for staff at every level

We developed a bespoke training programme for all members of staff, covering smarter meetings, better collaboration, wellbeing, inclusion and productivity, and M365 basics.
3

Building a digital maturity roadmap

We used our unique digital maturity assessment to establish a baseline of how Bury Council had adopted M365 tools and identified areas to boost efficiency and improve ROI.

“I think there’s a propensity sometimes in the public sector to play very safe and wait for technologies to come to you. And I think if we’re going to make the real changes that we need in the public services that we’re delivering to people, then we need to be on the cutting edge of these things.”

 

Andrew Carter, Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

The M365 champions programme

Cascading confidence throughout the council

The M365 champions are a volunteer group spanning roles across Bury Council, from IT to finance and from social work to the street team. This group participated in extra training on how the various suites work within Microsoft 365, including things like Planner, OneNote and SharePoint.

Over the 18-month programme, the champions have grown in confidence and skill, cascading their knowledge within their immediate teams and more broadly within the council.

For example, Ewa, a Systems Manager and M365 champion in the Finance department successfully encouraged a hesitant colleague to embrace OneDrive, SharePoint and OneNote:

“She was reluctant at first,” said Ewa. “But now she absolutely loves it, and she’s a champion showing other people now how to use OneDrive and OneNote for storing stuff. So that’s been really helpful.”

2. Ewa
Nick

“When I saw it was coming up as an opportunity to learn more about M365 apps, I was really pleased because I’ve always been the sort of person who wanted to get more out of them. I was looking forward to learning lots of new shortcuts and all the new developments.

As part of my role, I would be the sort of person people come to about other things. So when we got Teams and OneDrive, they would gravitate to ask me anyway. So I needed to make sure that I knew what I was talking about!”

Ewa Entwistle
M365 Champion

1. Tina
Tina Bruce

“I’m an M365 champion. We don’t go around wearing a big badge or anything – but colleagues know that they can come to us if they need a bit of support or if they want to know how to do anything.

We also share tips and ideas amongst ourselves. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s helped me both personally and professionally.”

Tina Bruce
M365 Champion

4. Ewa
Nick

“We’ve all really enjoyed it. We’ve developed relationships now with people in other teams that we probably would never have done.

We’ve got a Teams channel for the champions where we just pop questions on, and another champion or Geoff from Inform will answer. It’s been a really good experience.”

Ewa Entwistle
M365 Champion

1. Andrew
Nick

“The M365 champions programme is all about getting people to own the skills and upskill members of the staff base so that they can then be points of contact for the rest of their peers.

And that really helps us as a digital department because it takes some of the load off our service desk. It also means that there’s an ownership there, where people feel like they have developed into those roles and they can develop others around them.”

Andrew Carter
Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

2. Liam
Liam Johnson

“For me, it was around creating a core set of staff that were enablers to support transformation and change across the council.

Having a key M365 champions group was essential for us to build that up and be a real focal point for us going forward.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

3. Andrew
Nick

“It makes a huge difference to have people with the ability to understand the tools that they’re using and know how to use them to the best effect.

We’ve all had that moment where we’ve shown someone how to do something and they’ve gone, ‘oh, you’ve changed my life!’ – and I think those are the things we’re trying to do here. People are sharing their knowledge around their peer group and bringing people along on that journey.”

Andrew Carter
Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

4. Liam
Liam Johnson

“We really want to make sure that our workforce feels engaged with the programme, and through our M365 champions, we’re really proud that we’re starting to see that engagement and adoption of technology in Bury Council.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

This team of engaged volunteers also provides a conduit to support other digital initiatives. During the training period, Bury Council brought in a new email retention policy which required action from all staff. The M365 champions group were key players in implementing this policy, supporting their teams with adoption of the new process, and helping the policy land smoothly.

Andrew Carter, Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology is confident that the champions will have a similar part to play in future plans, including the roll-out of AI tools when the time is right:

“We know we’ve got a staff group who can take these technologies forward,” he explained. “We’ve got a structure there that we can use to leverage, and it doesn’t need to be driven solely by the digital team.”

Before and after

Small changes make a big difference

Tina Bruce

“I think the biggest change for me since I started at the council in 2011 is OneNote. I’ve always had a notebook by my side – a notebook and a pen and everything gets written down. But I had the confidence after the training to move over to OneNote and it’s fantastic! I don’t even carry my notebook as a back up anymore.”

Ewa Entwistle

“One of the biggest impacts is getting colleagues to move away from using Outlook for sharing files – huge files that make the Exchange server creak! Getting them to use their OneDrive and SharePoint for sharing documents has been a real value to the service. From the littlest things that just save you a minute to really embracing Teams – it just makes everything more efficient.”

Liam Johnson

“It’s been really nice to see some of our staff grow and engage throughout the whole programme. It’s not just about upskilling, it’s about having the confidence to share with their colleagues as well as the skills that they’ve learned.”

The all-staff training

Building a foundation of digital skills

The all-staff training programme ensured that all users across the council had the opportunity to learn the basics of Microsoft 365 and understand how digital tools could enhance ways of working.

These training courses included: M365 basics, smarter meetings, wellbeing, inclusion and productivity, better collaboration, finding information, and mobile working.

Each session was delivered live via Teams, in small groups led by expert, people-first trainers. People could choose the dates and times that suited them, and were encouraged to ask questions, test out new tools, and apply what they had learned to their role.

1. Liam
Liam Johnson

“The beauty of working with Inform is how adaptive they’ve been. So when we’ve asked for different things throughout the programme, they’ve managed to create new ways of training delivery.

Some of that is around introducing slower paced sessions for staff who felt they needed more time to embed the training. We’ve also done some work with our elected members as well.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

2. Tina
Tina Bruce

“I thought it was really good. I think previously a lot of training has been delivered very formally – when I’ve done online training things before you sort of plod through the modules. But this has been really interactive.

It’s been really interesting, things are presented graphically and [Inform trainer] Geoff has been great. He’s always willing to take questions and explain things a bit further as well.”

Tina Bruce
M365 Champion

Examples of training slides illustrated by Inform's creative agency

To maximise participation and return on investment, Inform’s communications specialists and in-house creative agency worked alongside Bury’s internal communications team to develop six campaigns to raise awareness and drive engagement.

“Having an engaged workforce on this is essential,” said Liam. “It’s been really nice to be working with Inform who’ve really supported our communications and engagement materials. We wanted people to attend the sessions and to learn new skills to drive innovation going forward.”

By the end of the training programme, the average session was rated by participants as 9.3 out of 10. 87% of users were able to apply their learning directly to their job role, with a 71% increase in skills and knowledge.

The digital maturity assessment

A data-driven approach to technology adoption

It’s often difficult to measure the success of a technology adoption programme, especially across a large workforce like Bury Council’s. To respond to this challenge, Inform has developed a framework for measuring digital maturity – how far an organisation has adopted digital tools, highlighting successes and areas of untapped potential.

We applied this framework to the data behind Bury Council’s Microsoft 365 tenant to benchmark their journey throughout the programme. We assessed digital maturity three times: once at the start of the programme to establish a baseline, once after six months to measure progress, and again at the end of the programme to identify next steps.

2. Liam
Liam Johnson

“The digital maturity assessment has been really key in understanding our baseline of where our skill gaps are, where we need to focus our efforts, and also to recognise where we’ve grown over the last 18 months.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

1. Andrew
Andrew Carter

“We live in a world where we need to show that return on investment. We need to show the benefits that come with these types of initiatives – and there are huge benefits, especially laying the platform for further workings.

We’ve got technologies that are on the cusp of being released into the wild that if you don’t do this core work, if you don’t do this baseline work, you won’t be able to adopt them further down the line.”

Andrew Carter
Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

Our digital maturity model includes four key phases: adopt, optimise, empower and exploit.

“The maturity assessments have been really useful,” said Liam. “It’s highlighted areas that we need to focus on and start to shape additional support. When we started, we had a low uptake on some of our M365 platforms. We’re now seeing that grow month by month.”

Bury Council’s digital maturity has grown throughout the programme, from an initial baseline in phase one of technology adoption, right through to phase two (optimise) and phase three (empower). Each report provides a list of actionable recommendations and metrics to inform future strategy and demonstrate ROI.

“It’s been a success. We’re now an organisation that’s got people with the level of skill to complement their passion for digital and working in new ways. And who are supporting that change within their services.”

 

Sam McVaigh, Director of People and Inclusion, Bury Council

The future

Next steps for a sustainable digital future at Bury Council

Throughout this project, we’ve seen a real acceleration in digital skill, confidence and ambition. Bury Council have laid the foundations for a digitally mature organisation and have nurtured a workforce who understand the benefits that digital tools can bring.

Right now, Bury are working to further embed M365, including introducing a SharePoint powered intranet site, and are exploring the potential of process automation and AI powered tools such as Microsoft Copilot for future implementation.

While they face the same challenges and pressures that many local government organisations experience, Bury Council have a clear vision for what they want to achieve and have mapped out a route to get there.

3. Liam
Liam Johnson

“We’re really excited about the future at Bury. We want to make sure that we build on the skills that we’ve developed so far and tap into some exciting new technology going forward as well.”

Liam Johnson
Head of Organisational Development and Culture

2. Andrew
Nick

“We can talk about things like Copilot and things that are further in the advanced skill set without too much fear that we’ve not got those first few steps to go through with people.”

Andrew Carter
Assistant Director of Digital, Data and Technology

1. Tina
Tina Bruce

“I think we’re at a really exciting point now where people are taking up technology more. And we’re moving towards more digital solutions for local residents, well supported by people in the council who’ve had the proper training for that.”

Tina Bruce
M365 Champion

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