Digital transformation Powering social and environmental restoration.
Te Whangai Trust is a community-led enterprise that equips and advocates for people who find it challenging to enter/re-enter the labour market. It was established as a Charitable Trust in September, 2007 by the Daltons who had the passion and mission to nurture everyone with work and life skills, and ultimately reduce social exclusion. They have since designed several kinaesthetic Work & Life Skills Self-assessment & Development hubs with community partners—-each of these hubs are plant nurseries where participants are trained on plant propagation and planting techniques while undergoing rehabilitation and personal development. With increased skills, training, and self-esteem Te Whangai participants are better prepared to gain commercial sector employment. This pioneering effort by Te Whangai serves as a pilot program and will soon be expanded across New Zealand.
Fast-paced growth makes tracking progress a challenge
As part of Te Whangai’s environmental restoration and conservation efforts, they take seeds from specific areas and grow them into plants/trees for replanting back to endemic areas. But as plants keep growing, keeping track of an inventory item that is always changing presented a challenge—-and Te Whangai manages over 1 million units of plants, making detailed tracking of the entire process critical. More importantly, Te Whangai found it increasingly challenging to monitor the progress of its program’s participants–their ability to cope, their personal growth and skills development. “So, we were growing faster than the ability to really properly record what was happening within our business,” said Gary Dalton, Co-CEO, Te Whangai Trust. “Our people didn’t have a clear view on their own progress and how their contribution made a difference,” added Gerry Boy, Ecosource & Propagation Manager.
Visibility powered by mobility.
Te Whangai participated in a 2-day hackathon organized by the Microsoft New Zealand team and took the opportunity to build an app to support their operations. “We met up with the Microsoft team and were invited to take part in a hackathon. It was pure magic working with Microsoft,” said Adrienne Dalton CO-CEO, Te Whangai Trust. “What we aim to do, and it was part of the hackathon, was to establish a mobile app, so that everyone on board who has got a phone could start recording the outcomes of their work, their attendance, and look at social, environmental, economic and cultural outcomes of the program,” she added.
Kinetics, a Microsoft partner, was brought on to develop a stock management app which leverages PowerApps which offered broad customization capabilities for developers, custom connectors to a range of applications including SharePoint, Excel, and more. The Kinetics team took charge of refining the flow and user experience of the app, and helped onboard Te Whangai users.
With SharePoint, the Te Whangai management team now has access to up-to-date and accurate information about plant inventory and the progress of all participants while developing a mobile app based on PowerApps has eliminated all paperwork. “No more lost records and weekends spend entering data, while formulas in Excel help create the summarized information Te Whangai needs—-automatically,” said Leonie Williams, Productivity Advisor, Kinetics.
The newfound productivity enabled by PowerApps was immediately felt by all quarters of Te Whangai. “By using PowerApps, I think it makes our job a lot easier, because we can easily track where they are, what the codes are, the numbers and outputs for the day,” added Gerry. “So now all the nursery staff need to do is use PowerApps. Data goes straight into SharePoint, and they’re reporting goes straight into Excel. It gives real-time data to Te Whangai and allows them to focus on the things that are important to them, which is helping the people contribute back to the communities,” said Leonie.
Going digital for good.
Digital transformation is equipping Te Whangai with the tools, workflows and visibility needed to effectively conserve the environment and nurture the personal development and growth of its participants. With the stock management app powered by PowerApps, Te Whangai’s IT infrastructure is now essentially mobile, translating to more agility and scalability.
From participant tracking and development to inventory management and quality control, Te Whangai now has seamless tracking and visibility across its hubs, and is in the midst of implementing PowerBI which will further offer it more insights into its operations in each growth hub. Te Whangai plans on expanding their network of growth hubs, and they are confident that staff will be able to easily extend oversight of new operations simply because all the computing power needed is literally in their hands. “We are now able to clearly see the progress of our people which is the core mission of Te Whangai,” said Gerry.
Together with Kinetics, Te Whangai will look to develop an app that monitors their participants’ emotions and sense of well-being, enabling them to better craft programs that are tailored each unique individual’s needs and personal progress. The app will guide mentors who can then better spot any warning signs and better offer support for participants. This app will leverage Office 365 and Azure to enable personal mentoring from anywhere. They will also be looking to utilize more of SharePoint and tap on Microsoft Security tools to manage intellectual property.
Going digital has empowered Te Whangai to better protect nature while effectively embracing business principles to make social, environmental, and economic and cultural impact in the communities it serves, and ultimately fulfil its role as a sustainable ecological, social and education enterprise.