Delivering support and skills training for youth facing employment challenges

Japanese nonprofit organisation Sodateage Net offers employment support for young people who face difficulties in landing employment due to various reasons, such as the lack of social skills or practical experience.

Its programmes include skills training for beneficiaries, as well as seminars and workshops on how to support underserved youth for social workers, parents of troubled youth and civil servants. Sodateage Net has been appointed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to manage Local Youth Support Stations across the country as part of a government programme to support young people in finding work and re-engaging with society.

Established in 2001 and officially registered in May 2004, Sodateage Net has approximately 100 full-time and part-time employees, with most of them operating in the Kanto region and Osaka.

Recent organisational expansion has led to the need for improved information sharing and other functionalities to ensure effective collaboration and greater efficiency. In addition, the nonprofit needed to have real-time access to its operations that could be shared across departments for collaboration or handovers. Sodateage Net also recognised the need for complete digitalisation of all data in the long run.

Implementing Microsoft’s software donation of Office 365
Keiho Shintaku, Sodateage Net’s Business Strategy Manager, stated, “It was about two to three years ago when we saw the need to have a unified communications, collaboration and storage system in our organisation. The various divisions had their own processes and systems, most of which were not computerised. Furthermore, siloed information led to problems such as the loss of knowledge with every staff transfer or resignation.”

“The most significant benefit of using Office 365 is its ease of use by a large group of end-users who are already familiar with Office applications. Most of our staff have only fundamental IT knowledge, so it is better that they are taxed with fewer things to learn,” said Shintaku, who oversaw the implementation of Office 365 across the organisation, including for remote-based staff.

“With Office 365’s solid support system, including a call centre and online documentation, I know we can arrive at a complete integrated solution that benefits our operations.” 
-Keiho Shintaku, Business Strategy Manager, Sodateage Net

Improved communications led to enhanced information sharing among staff
Office 365 was first implemented at the organisation’s head office located in Tachikawa, and later extended to the rest of the organisation. The overhaul of the organisational email environment and new capability for staff to share schedules saw an immediate increase in operational efficiency. In addition, the team experienced other benefits, such as the easy creation of team sites to facilitate document sharing by utilising SharePoint Online.

Lync Online was also integrated into the revamped internal communications strategy. “Previously, we were using Skype to reduce costs,” said Shintaku. “But, we would encounter problems such as complications that arise from mixing our business accounts with personal accounts, and not knowing the account details of the colleagues we needed to contact. Lync Online allows clearer differentiation between business and private accounts; and since all the staff have to be registered, immediate communications can be established. We plan to migrate to Lync Online entirely in the future.”

One of Shintaku’s favourite applications provided by Office 365 is OneNote. He is impressed by its powerful ability that enables multiple users to collaborate on a single document simultaneously. It is also useful for consolidating meeting minutes even while the deliberation is ongoing.

The implementation of Office 365 has vastly improved operational efficiency and enabled greater diversity of work practices, especially telecommuting. “Working from home after the birth of my first child was good. However, it was not as efficient as working in the office. I felt disengaged and left behind as I was unable to communicate with my colleagues,” commented Sodateage Net’s Youth Business Support Manager, Akiko Kudo.

Kudo’s second child was born around the time Sodateage Net implemented Office 365. Besides having easier access to internally-shared resources while working from home, she found communications and group work to be easier than before, helping her feel more connected to the office and colleagues. For example, it is now more convenient for her to share data on team sites and participate in discussions.

Future implementation and improvements
Sodateage Net is looking to maximise the capabilities of Office 365, and has a list of objectives it plans to achieve in the near future, including computerising all interactions with external parties.

“Whenever we set up new projects, it can take three to four months for information collection and coordination among the related departments. With Office 365, we believe we can cut this time in half,” said Shintaku.

He is confident of achieving great results with the software. “With Office 365’s solid support system, including a call centre and online documentation, I know we can arrive at a complete integrated solution that benefits our operations,” concluded Shintaku.

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