Complex IT integration across two independent housing associations.

Housing association, Eastlight Community Homes, benefited from bespoke consultancy services and the combination of two separate IT infrastructures — across a duo of locations — during the merger of two previously independent organisations.


Eastlight Community Homes is the largest community gateway association in the UK, empowering residents to become decision makers within their locality.

Created in 2019 from the merger between Colne Housing and Greenfields Community Housing, the newly formed Eastlight is looking to help solve long-term housing challenges in the East of England.
The social housing organisation provides over 12,000 homes to communities across Essex and Suffolk.


The merger of the previously independent housing associations resulted in two IT systems working simultaneously within the same organisation.

One site was already partially migrated to Office365, whilst the other was still using Microsoft Exchange on-premise. This resulted in day-to-day operations becoming increasingly complex and inefficient, requiring an abundance of project management.

The dual-system set-up also mean that Eastlight had to manage two different service providers, different networks and a host of differing business applications.
The main challenge of the project was to cause as little disruption to ongoing operations as possible, whilst carrying out a complicated merger of systems during the most restrictive part of the initial pandemic lockdown.


The initial task was to link both the Colne and Greenfields locations together, and Central achieved this through installing a wide area network (WAN), along with a new Cisco-based local area network (LAN) within the Colne site, as the existing network was not fit for purpose.

As both organisations were operating from separate Office365 systems, Central amalgamated both into one. Further to this, each site used a CITRIX desktop delivery application, which was also merged into a single entity.

Additionally, Central managed the migration of databases with legacy set-ups that posed a significant challenge when moving to new networks.

A new Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi system was installed at the Greenfields site as the incumbent system was severely outdated — mirroring the Wi-Fi solution already in place at the Colne offices.
Due to the nature of the merger, both sites required more data storage capacity, as the HD (hard drive) capabilities at the Greenfields location were not enough to absorb the Colne information.
To avoid business disruption, Central carried out as much of the work as possible in the background, with the full merger taking place over a weekend.

There was also the physical aspect of updating over 50 staff member laptops, which had to be returned so that Central engineers could carry out the necessary tasks, and then given back to users who were working from home. Social distancing considerations were taken into account, with a drop-off slot system implemented.

Central acted as a hub for issues during the project process, and provided continuous engagement between all stakeholders to effectively manage the changes. Engineers from Central met with the in-house IT team at Eastlight twice per week to ensure the smooth running of the project.

"This was a challenging project, given the entirely different systems that Colne and Greenfield were utilising before the merger, plus the obstacles caused by the initial lockdown. By working together with the in-house IT team at Eastlight, we were able to deliver the project on-time with nominal impact on people’s day-to-day roles.”

John Blackburn, operations director, Central Networks and Technologies

The ultimate goal was to merge the two companies as quickly as possible, focusing on achieving fully merged systems within just a few months. This included having to be flexible and complete new projects during the first lockdown in 2020, so that no time was lost in making the infrastructure live within the initially agreed timeframe. Central was able to successfully meet this goal.

Utilising a wide range of engineers’ skills to facilitate a stable transition, Central reduced time spent operating and maintaining two separate systems — mitigating cost and complexity — and allowing Eastlight to end previous provider contracts quickly.

The solution recommended by Central allowed the newly formed housing provider to focus on its core functions of business application issues, by taking responsibility for the combining of the two IT infrastructures and the implementation of new technologies and security systems. This has enabled Eastlight to smoothly progress from two organisations into one.
Central now provides ongoing managed services to Eastlight Community Homes, with further digital transformation projects in the pipeline.

Key Highlights
  • Merger of two separate Office365 systems
  • Cisco-based WAN implemented to connect two locations
  • Data storage capacity increased
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