“We have benefited greatly from Business Cloud Integration’s Continual Development Service. It has allowed us far better flexibility in our project delivery & enabled us to run various projects simultaneously. This has improved our delivery time & reduced the overheads for internal project management.”
— Richard Brunton, IT Operations Manager
Downing College in the University of Cambridge was founded in 1800 by the bequest of Sir George Downing. Set amidst 20 acres of magnificent grounds in the heart of the city, Downing College is a community of committed scholars and students, current and future leaders in their fields. It is a place of welcome, diversity, and of inclusion.
Downing College were already committed to using Microsoft 365 and wanted to harness the full potential of what they already had. They have a small, generalised IT team of three, so needed to bring in specialized knowledge within the Office 365 environment, especially with regards to SharePoint and Power Platforms.
Downing College needed to digitalise their exiting paper forms, ensuring that they created a central hub that held accessible forms for students to adopt and use. The key challenges were creating a solution for students, so they could find what they were looking for easily and self-serve, whilst also meeting the Tutorial Administrative Office needs to stop chasing paper trails and to have a full audit trail of requests. The Tutorial Administration Office, IT, and the Bursary department all needed access to this data, so it was important to satisfy this element through SharePoint lists.
Downing College needed a partner that were experienced working with educational establishments as the college and university structure is quite complicated. This experience coupled with their knowledge and expertise in Office 365, SharePoint, and Power Platforms meant that Business Cloud Integration were a great fit to deliver this project.
Downing College worked with Business Cloud Integration, who fully managed the project and kept it on track with clear scope and clear timings. To help tie in with budgets the work was split into four different Continual Development phases, satisfied using SharePoint, PowerApps, and Bookings. Business Cloud Integration built Downing College a new Intranet homepage using their Casper365™ Office 365 and SharePoint automation platform.
- PowerApps – The team developed PowerApps for book reimbursements, holiday, student accommodation requests, financial support, travel requests, reimbursement and other requests. These replaced the paper version of 27 forms, providing full governance through full visibility of the audit trail. The functionality was developed by finding the data analysis and using the bespoke SPFX web part and Power BI.
- Microsoft Flow – They deployed approval and workflows into the PowerApps solution comprising of bespoke notifications, satisfying internal approval processes in Microsoft Flow.
- User Interface – Building on Phase 1 by creating a more friendly UI, providing further useful features and functionalities.
- PowerApps – The ability to add attachments for finance, book expenses, and travel were added to the PowerApps, as was the ability for students to book out room resources.
- Personal and Financial Details, Self-Serve – Bank details held in a secure vault on the Downing Tenancy, which only they have access to, this information is sent via a secure API using a custom flow director. Students can update their bank details via the PowerApp but not view previously entered details for added security.
Phase 3 (In Progress)
- Architecture and design – Business Cloud Integration designed the intranet using modern hub sites. This is currently in User Acceptance Testing with a view to going live when the new term begins in October.
- Resource Booking – Utilising Microsoft Booking, giving students the ability to book on-site resources such as the Tennis Courts, Piano room. This is currently in POC but will be used when the new term begins in October.
Phase 4 (To come)
- SharePoint Online – SharePoint Modern sites will provide simple to use and user-friendly pages. These will be created with Downing College to make sure they are relevant for specific departmental areas, both for Tutors and the Tutorial Administration office. These SharePoint Site Collections will be deployed using the Casper365 automation service and used for any future branch deployment of sites, assets, and styling.
The College is one of 31 colleges within the University of Cambridge, which is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world.
- SharePoint Online
- Microsoft Office 365
- SharePoint Consulting
- SharePoint Infrastructure Planning
- SharePoint Intranet
- Document Management
- Collaboration Solution
- SharePoint Support
- Office 365 Support
Downing College has achieved the student’s goal of being able to digitalise their requests via online forms, this in turn has sped up the process for the tutorial team and helped save them time and work smarter. In addition to this, they have also reduced their administration overheads as they no longer need to employ temporary workers to process the paper documents when onboarding new students.
As it is all digital the tutorial team no longer chase paper trails, providing governance through full visibility of the audit trail, and removing the need for paper. This not only helps them work smarter but makes the process more environmentally friendly and helps protect data. There is now no need to keep banking records as these are stored in a secure vault, helping them comply with GDPR and with the ability to select how long they archive records for, in line with their data retention policy.
Having Business Cloud Integrations knowledge and support on this SharePoint and Power Platform project has helped strengthen Downing College’s IT team, giving their team time to concentrate on other areas, safe in the knowledge that their project was in expert hands and being delivered on time.
They are seeing greater adoption of the new systems and as students return for the Autumn term this will only grow. Continuing to work with Business Cloud Integration on Phase 4 to refine their Intranet to better use the collaboration toolset and to provide the best experience to their students, Tutors, and Tutorial Administration teams.