Barhead helps BOM's 1600+ staff return to work safely

Tuesday, 27 April, 2021

Barhead helps BOM's 1600+ staff return to work safely

Digital solutions consulting firm Barhead has helped the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) bring more than 1600 staff safely back into the office.

During the past couple of years, the Bureau has been developing a digital workplace with Microsoft technologies front and centre to support its staff. When BOM was looking at safe return-to-work solutions, it approached Microsoft for assistance, and it pointed BOM to Clearspace, a Power Platform-based solution that can be accessed via Teams or via a mobile app.

Microsoft and Doug Maloney, Barhead’s Head of Product and IP, caught up with the Bureau’s Peter Fattoush, Manager Enterprise and Business Architecture, and Alison Hackett, Manager Office 365 Digital Workplace, to learn more about the Bureau’s requirements.

The Bureau’s transition to remote working was successful, but the obvious challenge, said Fattoush, was how they were going to track people coming in and out of the office for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes, and how the significantly reduced number of available desks could be managed with ease, accuracy and transparency.

“Barhead solution seemed the most logical because it was built on the Power Platform, part of the Microsoft foundational systems. It was quite the logical approach. The other option was building it ourselves — but we want to spend our development time on products unique to the Bureau, not digital workplace.”

It took four to six weeks to plan, procure and design the system and go through the internal approvals to allow it to be deployed. “After that we brought back staff to a new floor in our Melbourne office each week before then rolling it out across the country,” Fattoush said.

“As the solution was developed in the Power Platform, it was a straightforward change request through our technology side,” Fattoush said.

“Because it was standalone, it limited the risk to our other systems. It was completely separate from our operational systems. So that was easy.”

As the staff had already pivoted quickly into working from home and adapting to new technologies and processes, change management was easy compared to pre COVID-19, Fattoush said.

“Our users are predominantly accessing it through the web browser or through the Power Apps app on their phones. So for the most part, we’ve had a very clean implementation. We haven’t had too many issues,” said Alison Hackett from BoM.

The UX (user experience) is clean, easy to use and self-explanatory. “When you open the app, you have that day’s booking on the landing page as well as a tab for your upcoming bookings. It gives a lot of the users confidence to come into the office because they know that as soon as they get there, they can check in. All the information’s right there on the home screen.

“And they know that if there’s any incidents, we can contact trace immediately. So I think it’s really given some people who are nervous about returning to the city and into the office the confidence that it is safe to do so. And that we’re doing everything we can to make it easy and to put in any fail-safes just in case another outbreak happens.”

Rolling out a product that was going out to every single person in an organisation there’s always a risk, noted Fattoush. “Even if you’ve got 20% negative feedback, that’s quite a large number. We just didn’t see anything like those numbers. I’d say 95% of staff have found the product really easy to use.”

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