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Sutton Housing Authority

A new business opportunity assessment


Sutton Housing Authority had spare capacity within their IT team. Rather than lay people off, they thought their may be an opportunity to provide outsourced IT support to local businesses.

This project was to find out whether this was a viable opportunity.

What did we do?

The viability study consisted of the following:

  • Desk research
  • Mystery shopping
  • Internal workshops
  • Interviews

The initial interviews with the department management looked to understand more detail about what they were looking to achieve and the reasons for it. They also looked to identify known gaps in the skill set within the department.

Once a good understanding of the project was gathered the desk research became much easier. Within a defined local area what was the size of the opportunity? How many suitable target companies were there? Data was gathered from the local council and the Office for National Statistics plus multiple other online sources. The desk research also looked to identify a list of competitors who advertised a competitive service offering within the local area.

Mystery shopping is always a bit of fun. After developing the “story” to tell a series of telephone conversations provided a great deal of information about:

  • The services being offered
  • Prices
  • The quality of the competitive marketing
  • An understanding of the sales processes used

Moving forward this will enable the organisation to set highly competitive prices and enter the market with better marketing.

The workshops held within the organisation were key in understanding how likely it is that this project will succeed. If there is no appetite for it internally, there is no point in moving forward.

A series of workshops gathered information and feedback from the whole department and then a set of individuals from each other department in the organisation. The questions looked to gather knowledge around:

  • The product/service range for now and the future
  • Levels of optimism/pessimism
  • Their thoughts on what the target market looked like
  • How they wanted to be perceived externally
  • Potential names for the new operation
  • The formal and informal skills available internally

The workshop outside of the department also looked to understand what, if any, hesitations they had around the project.

An internal team, by its nature, serves the rest of the organisation and so it was both understandable, and expected, that the key concern raised was about the level of service that would be provided internally once external customers were brought on board.

Further interviews that looked at the internal systems completed the discovery stage of the project.


The combination of research, interviews, mystery shopping and workshops strongly suggested that there is a good opportunity for them.

There is a sizeable local market, of small businesses, and whilst there is a fair amount of competition, there are only a few that should be considered a threat.

The staff within the department, whilst expressing some concerns, seem to be up for the challenge and for the work that will be involved.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be in developing and then maintaining a high level of enthusiasm for this project within the rest of the organisation. Whilst they seem, at the moment, willing to go with the project, there may be times when that enthusiasm wains. The roles of internal communication and customer service will be paramount in keeping them onside.

The biggest issue was the skills gap. Their internal network was on Microsoft Server 2003 whilst the market was using a combination of Microsoft Small Business Server (various versions), Server 2008 and also moving onto Server 2011. The cost of the upskilling would make the first year, or even two, unprofitable.

This project never went ahead but that was the point of the viability study – to see whether it was an opportunity that made sense to commit to.


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Tel: 020 8634 5911

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