First established under a unique contractor model as Country Home Advocacy Project Inc. (CHAP) in 1989, Country Home Services (CHS) is a non-government, not-for-profit organisation providing services to communities in regional South Australia. CHS manages a range of programs and initiatives from three offices in Clare, Kadina and Nuriootpa across an area covering 26,000 square kilometres, which takes in Gawler and surrounding districts, the Barossa Valley, Wakefield Plains, Mid North, Lower North and Yorke Peninsula. CHS receives Commonwealth support for its funded Commonwealth Home Support program and Home Care Package services. CHS also offers private services.
By 2009, CHS had “become completely dependent on IT,” said Craig Stanbridge, CEO, Country Home Services, but the organisation was struggling with underperforming regional ADSL links between its sites, an out-of date and expensive telephony system, and unmanaged, on-site server hardware. Managing a diverse set of services, clients and contractors was becoming increasingly difficult for the CHS team, 75% of whom were working from home.
An ‘evolution not a revolution’ for IT modernisation
and efficiency program
Ageing, in-house server hardware and software, inadequate network connections, no consolidated IT support or maintenance, and high telecommunications costs for an organisation operating in an extensive regional area of South Australia.
Consolidation, virtualisation and hosting of server infrastructure, upgrade to unified communications and migration to Microsoft Office 365.
Ten-year relationship with Calibre One delivering ongoing operational and productivity improvements for aged care and home services provider
CHS first engaged Calibre One in 2009 to provide ongoing IT support and begin a program of technology modernisation. The first step was to establish a dedicated Help Desk and structured maintenance, so that CHS’s IT infrastructure was routinely patched and updated, and support issues were tracked through to resolution. One of the first upgrade projects completed was to improve overall performance and responsiveness for users by introducing virtualisation with the implementation of Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Windows Small Business Server (SBS). That removed the immediate risk to the business posed by its ageing server hardware and software.
With the significant growth of the organisation, increased performance and storage requirements necessitated a further server infrastructure upgrade, introducing high levels of redundancy via the use of Hyper-V clustered servers and SAN storage arrays.
“Over the years, we’ve had occasional issues with servers going down, but the support we have had from Calibre One has always been really good. The help desk team has been keen to help and very responsive,” said Barb Carlin, Service Support Manager, Country Home Services.
Calibre One also took over the management of the organisation’s Telstra services and account. “We had a number of long-term outstanding issues that were quickly resolved by Calibre One. Now, we just don’t have those issues any more,” said Barb.
As a result of being the one point of support for CHS in managing its Telstra account, telephony and IT, Calibre One has improved overall telecommunications services, saved CHS $3900 per month on its VoIP services and provided the platform for further telco cost savings.
However, CHS continued to be hampered by its network connectivity, which limited its ability to take advantage of cloud-based services and move its core legacy applications into a managed data centre environment. Also, a move to a new voice over IP (VoIP) service was proving to be more costly than expected and wasn’t delivering the quality of service the organisation needed. “Our advisors spend 90% of their time on the phone speaking to our clients and contractors, so telephony is vital for us,” said Barb.
In 2018, Calibre One orchestrated the migration from ADSL connections to a Telstra Connect IP® Network, which is providing a more cost effective connection between sites and a greater capacity for carrying voice and data traffic. That’s allowed CHS to move its legacy CIM aged care and accounting system onto a hosted server in Calibre One’s own data centre, ensuring better monitoring and management of the environment to keep critical services fully operational.
Calibre One also upgraded CHS’s telephony environment to ShoreTel (now Mitel) unified communications (UC), removing the cost per call model of its earlier VoIP solution. This also extended its corporate telephony with a mix of fixed and mobile extensions to reduce call costs and increase productivity, with staff being able to easily connect to the corporate phone system from home. A move to cloud with the Microsoft Office 365 suite has further enhanced the capabilities of CHS’s remote and home-based workforce.
“Combined with the rollout of new laptops, our cloud and UC environment is allowing all staff to login from anywhere and for calls to be easily routed to them, no matter where they are,” said Craig.
Greater mobility has also been implemented for CHS contractors, with the deployment of a mobile app that interfaces with the backend client database, aged care and accounting system, managing all of the client bookings and service delivery information that had previously been managed with paper-based forms and Excel spreadsheets.
“With more than 2200 clients and over 200 contractors delivering services, we are processing a lot of client records and transactions daily, so there is considerable data being trafficked across our network,” said Craig. “With the upgraded network and technology we now have in place we are starting to see real benefits in terms of improved productivity and efficiency. We are in a very competitive industry, so the use of technology is important to keep CHS at the forefront.”
In terms of technology, CHS operates under a continuous improvement model. The organisation is looking to move its core applications to the cloud to remove the costs and risks associated with operating its own server infrastructure, and to use technology to introduce more tailored programs for its clients. CHS also has plans to utilise the web and social media as channels to better engage with clients and contractors.
What excites CHS’s CEO most is the innovation that technology in the home is bringing to the aged care sector, especially as connectivity to rural communities continues to improve. “In the country, we have a big issue with a lot of loneliness and isolation for the older generations, and technology will play a really important role in alleviating that. There are opportunities for families to be more connected with their older relatives, and for devices and sensors in the home to monitor their health and wellbeing. For Baby Boomers who are much more used to technology, IT will become embedded in how they use our services as they start to have a need for them,” said Craig.