Founded in 1995, Hobbycraft are the largest arts and crafts retailer in the UK with almost 100 stores and a large online presence. They offer materials and supplies for a wide number of interests, such as sewing, knitting and crocheting, baking, painting and drawing, and papercraft.

Hobbycraft also has a vast community of crafters, publishing regular content and tutorials to its social media platforms as well as having the number-one crafting blog in the UK. Additionally, the company has close ties with the charitable organisation Together for Short Lives; a Not-for-Profit who provides vital care and hospices for children with life-limiting conditions. To date, Hobbycraft has raised over £1.4 million for the charity.

The challenge

Hobbycraft were using Microsoft 365 minimally, having procured their licenses from a third party. However, there was no support package in place or Microsoft knowledge shared and as a progressive retailer, Hobbycraft wanted to modernise their environment to increase collaboration and secure their systems.

Instead of having a transactional relationship, Hobbycraft wanted a partner to assist in this digital transformation, commencing with a Microsoft Teams deployment. They selected Transparity to assist them with this due to the Microsoft Gold Partner’s demonstrable experience in working with companies on their Cloud journeys, as well as the additional benefits that moving their licences to Transparity would offer.

Originally, this transformation was planned as a phased approach. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 changed this, creating an immediate need to not only implement remote working and increase collaboration for the company, but to quickly bring users up to speed with the new Microsoft technologies.

The solution

Transparity proposed moving Hobbycraft’s Microsoft licences to Transparity’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) platform. Microsoft 365 was provided for the retailer which incorporates Windows 10 and the familiar Office applications as well as Enterprise Mobility + Security, which has a number of features that would help Hobbycraft with its new remote working needs. The use of Microsoft Teams became integral to the company’s operations, as it offers a centralised place for staff to communicate and collaborate efficiently. With features such as persistent chat, voice and video conferencing, plus co-authoring of documents and desktop sharing, employees can now easily keep in touch with each other and continue to work on projects together, despite being physically apart.

One of the most useful apps for increased security is Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which enables the company to manage and secure access to company data from a central location. This allowed them to enable a remote working policy – something which had become critical during the pandemic – ensuring that staff could remain productive in a secure environment. Endpoint Manager affords the company complete visibility over who has access to data and apps, and can easily control this at will in just a few clicks. Additionally, Azure Active Directory offers staff a single, secure identity to use across their Microsoft applications.

Moving to Transparity’s CSP platform not only gave Hobbycraft access to competitive pricing and reduced consulting costs, but came with a wide variety of inclusive value adds. These include expert support from Transparity’s Microsoft specialists, ensuring that a dedicated team is available to assist Hobbycraft with any issues that might occur. Additionally, as a Microsoft Direct Partner, Transparity has direct access to escalate issues to Microsoft should they be needed.

Finally, to ensure that Hobbycraft employees could learn how to adapt to their new Microsoft technologies, Transparity implemented TAP; their Training and Adoption Portal. Designed to help users learn at their own place, this easy-to-use online learning platform includes a wide variety of resources for Teams, Office, Outlook and many more apps. Included as part of their CSP licensing, this came as a huge benefit to Hobbycraft as it brought staff up-to-date with their new apps and services, but at no extra cost. This offered a chance to maximise return on investment at a time where keeping on top of their expenditure was essential.

The outcome

Hobbycraft now have their Microsoft licences via a new technology partner, who is there to advise and support them throughout Covid-19 and beyond. They now have a secure platform which allows for straightforward collaboration and communication between employees whilst they are out of the office. Hobbycraft have also seen a huge uplift in Teams usage combined with a “surprisingly low” number of support calls to their internal IT team, which is testament to the efficacy of Transparity TAP for the retailer.

An added benefit of CSP licensing through Transparity is that Hobbycraft aren’t tied into a long contract, and can scale their usage as needed. Their digital transformation journey had just begun before lockdown, but this need for flexibility was soon tested when Hobbycraft has an almost-immediate need to furlough a large number of staff. Instead of needing to pay for licences that weren’t being used, the company were able to reduce their amount of licensing straightaway, which reduced unnecessary expenditure. This was made even easier by Transparity’s self-service Control Centre, which allowed Hobbycraft to review their usage as often as they needed to and adjust it in a few clicks.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, like most businesses Hobbycraft have needed to adapt and change their way of working. For us, this included rolling out Teams to all key colleagues, many of which had no awareness of what Teams could do for them. As a small IT Team we did not have the knowledge, materials or time to educate our colleagues effectively, and the Transparity adoption portal has allowed us to deliver targeted training to everyone, regardless of location or job function. The ability to flex our licensing at the click of a button is a far cry from the days of sending a request and waiting days for it to happen; it’s instant and totally within our control. Transparity have been a real breath of fresh air.”
Andy Elston – IT Manager at Hobbycraft

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