TOWER Scrutiny Panel - How we use MS Teams

Monday 23rd of October 2023

At BCH, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve and develop our services, including our support offer to involved customers. Our resident TOWER Scrutiny Panel has recently undergone a series of changes, with a new Chair elected who has brought with him a vast knowledge and new ideas. 

It was the new Chair who suggested developing a Microsoft Teams Channel for the group to better communicate and enable easy access to all relevant documents for each scrutiny exercise. As Involvement and Communications Officer, I had the technical expertise and knowledge to facilitate this and set about creating a new Channel for TOWER. 

All scrutiny members already had access to Teams as they’re used to a mix of online and face to face meetings, so once I’d set up the new channel in MS Teams, I uploaded the documents and items from the most recently completed scrutiny to demonstrate how the Channel would be used; I then shared the link with the group and set up a Teams meeting to provide members with an overview. 

Members requested for a direct link to the Tpas website and Four Million Homes campaign and so these have been added as quick links at the top for ease.   

As a new Scrutiny exercise began, the Channel was fully ready to use. Meetings and agendas are set through the Channel and an automatic email notification is sent to all members as soon as these are uploaded. The Project Tracker section is a handy, at-a-glance way of setting tasks for each scrutiny exercise and assigning members with different aspects; it’s also useful for updating BCH managers or staff members if they’re responsible for a particular task, or invited to a meeting for instance, as they will receive an automatic email notification too. 

The Project Tracker allows for tags to be added to each item, which assists with data collection and reporting i.e. how many staff interviews were conducted for a specific Scrutiny task, for instance. It also allows easy progress tracking and items can be ticked off once completed which gives an instant sense of achievement!

As with any change, there were, of course, teething problems. One panel member had difficulty logging onto the Channel at home so I organised a visit to provide support and help with access. Whilst all panel members currently have internet access, we realise that this could be a barrier for some residents to getting involved, and so this is discussed during the recruitment process. We have a great link with Blackpool and the Fylde College where digital skills training can be provided through our Community Learning Programme, which helps to remove the knowledge and skills barrier at an early stage. 

TOWER member, Julia recently shared her experience of using the Channel with us; 
For me, it’s a great tool to help me remember to ask questions. It’s accessible and one of the few ways we can talk in real time. Yes we have each other’s telephone numbers, but we can put questions or thoughts on the Chat section for the whole group in one place and receive responses straight back. 
It’s better than trying to keep track of emails and we don’t have to download anything which would take up space on our computers. It also saves on paper and ink and we have everything we need to hand, to read as much as we want to and keep track of.

In our recent re-accreditation from TPAS, our commitment to Scrutiny was highlighted as an area of good practice, with “The demonstration of a clear role for scrutiny in all areas of the business” being noted. This is something that we will continue to build on and seek innovative solutions to strengthen the role of resident involvement in the Scrutiny process.  Due to the success of the Scrutiny Teams Channel, BCH has adopted this as good practice across the organisation, with new Channels being created in a variety of areas of the business. What started as a simple idea from the new Chair has resulted in positive change across the whole company.