Case study Education,Misc. services

Partnering Pragmatically

Taking a pragmatic approach to partnership ensures continuing success for Britain's leading research organisation

Collection and analysis of results; quickly, accurately and efficiently is of paramount importance in the research field. NatCen recognised the need to partner with an experienced technology company who could provide advice, specialised training and support, and work collaboratively to design and develop new internal systems. And most importantly – a partner who understood and shared their values and philosophy.

NatCen Social Research is the largest independent social research organisation in the UK with an international reputation for delivering robust and rigorous research which has an impact on all areas of social policy. NatCen has a team of 350 staff and a field force of 1,200 freelance interviewers. They are a not-for-profit organisation whose clients include various government agencies and educational institutions.

The ability to collect and analyse results quickly, accurately and efficiently is of paramount importance in the research field and it’s what NatCen’s reputation is built on. Information and technology play a crucial role in achieving these outcomes and NatCen are continuously reviewing and seeking to improve what they do to help them maintain their market leading position.

As a progressive organisation, NatCen recognised the need to partner with an experienced technology company who could work collaboratively with them to design and develop new internal systems, advise on the use of technology within their business and provide specialised training and support. Most importantly, they were looking to engage with a partner who understood and shared their values and philosophy.

In a competitive proposal process, Waterstons’ customer intimate approach to managing relationships resonated with NatCen, along with Waterstons’ willingness to share knowledge and expertise, their commitment to putting people first and their ability to tailor their services to meet NatCen’s specific requirements. Furthermore, Waterstons were able to demonstrate a strong track record of similar partnerships with other organisations, as well as specialised knowledge of bespoke software development using several different methodologies.

So far the partnership has concentrated on two work streams. In the first Waterstons have provided knowledge sharing and learning support consultancy with in-house technical teams. Topics have included the use of modern design patterns and techniques and practical technical training on topics such as SQL Server 2012 and ASP.NET MVC4.

The second work stream has focused on the development of NatCen’s business systems using an agile software development methodology. This was adopted to allow the solutions to be delivered in incremental stages, giving stakeholders the opportunity to continually tune development priorities to changing circumstances. It has also helped support the knowledge sharing and learning support work streams by allowing NatCen’s team to have their training tailored after each increment.

Cross-site working can be as effective as having the team together in the same room, while minimising costs and the amount of time people spend out of the office.

We were not looking for an outsource partner in the usual sense, rather someone who could work closely with our in-house team and provide knowledge sharing and support. When we embarked on the partner selection exercise we were unsure whether we would find an organisation which not only shared our values but also would be willing to proactively share their knowledge and expertise with our internal team of developers. However Waterstons came through strong on all these points.
Simon Holroyd Head of Project Management