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DMS helps Ormiston Academies Come Together


Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) is one of the largest not-for-profit and longest established Multi-Academy Trusts in England. It has been sponsoring academies since 2009 and now educates over 30,000 pupils in more than 40 schools across the country.

Centralise and Integrate

With so many academies, whose IT provision had evolved differently over time, OAT’s aim was to integrate them into a central Microsoft 365 tenancy and benefit from the technical uniformity and economies of scale that it would bring. 

Existing IT provision varied

Academies had a mixture of on-site and cloud storage with a local domain for access control and device management. Local Active Directories did not share a common design and their organic growth over time had accentuated their differences. To compound this, some Academies used Google, others Microsoft 365.

OAT leads the way

OAT’s Richard Canning, Director of ICT and Les Leese, Head of Technology Integration, had already developed a thorough process and successfully migrated 18 schools themselves. To speed up the process of closing the technology gap between these newly migrated schools and the remaining 26, they sought external help.

To complete the job of migrating the remaining Academies into a Microsoft 365 single central tenancy, OAT Held a compliant, competitive tender process to procure technical and programme management services, which DMS won.

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    A real partnership

    ‘We enjoyed a real partnership with DMS’ said Richard Canning, the team was hard working, yet flexible and easy to get along with’. DMS’ Gavin Clucas was grateful for the head start; ‘Richard already had a proven project management system in place which we joined seamlessly, rather than impose our own framework which could have thrown the momentum of the OAT team. We picked up where OAT had left off, simply providing the manpower and expertise to migrate the remaining academies.’

    Communication key, fears allayed

    Before each migration, OAT organised a meeting to introduce DMS to the Principal and IT lead of the academy. The reasons for the migration were explained and the timeline for the work and its expected impact on the school were outlined. DMS used this meeting to develop working relationships with team members, and to draw out information specific to each academy that would help them to deliver on time and with as little disruption as possible.

    There are always concerns with any significant change and this meeting provided an opportunity to address those and outline the benefits for a stronger collaborative working environment. The OAT IT team ensured teaching and admin staff had access to training material to make the transition as smooth as possible for them.

    A shared Teams site proved to be a powerful communication tool, saving multiple phone calls and ensuring both DMS and OAT teams had access to all the information they needed.

    Teamwork to keep deadlines

    With so many academies, all at different stages of the migration process, teamwork was essential and preparation key to successfully integrating academies into the OAT Central Tenancy.

    Working closely with OAT’s supporting regional managers, DMS kept in regular contact with each of the Academy IT leads in the run up to their migration, with a final meeting with all stakeholders on the morning work was about to start, to make sure everything was in place and to lay to rest any final concerns. As the migration progressed, individual issues were raised and resolved. On the ‘go live’ date, often after an intense weekend, a member of DMS staff would always join OAT on site to assist with any snagging issues reported when staff and students returned for the critical first week.

    Time was tight, with migrations every week. Richard realised that it was running too fast, schools needed more time to settle after migrations, and sought permission to slow the rollout. ‘The DMS team was very accommodating. They adapted to a revised schedule and continued to deliver as they had promised, often giving extra where they were not obliged to; displaying qualities rarely seen these days’.

    Into the future

    After the success of the Central Tenancy Migration Project partnership, OAT appointed DMS to assist them with specific projects in academies where their expertise and resource could be best employed. Both parties look forward to developing their relationship to serve the trust’s academies.