Selecting the right housing management system is one of the most important tech-related decisions your housing association will ever have to make. But, because regulations, best practice, your estate and workforce all change, the key requirements for your systems also change over time and it is a choice that you will need to regularly review.
While the thought of revisiting such a key decision may not be an appealing one, the process may offer some tangible benefits. As the available infrastructure technology is constantly improving and software packages are regularly upgraded to match, the latest systems may have the potential to offer efficiency savings and to improve service delivery to customers.
An Options Appraisal can help you to assess the suitability of your existing housing management system, effectively compare it with the capabilities of the latest offerings on the market (including customisable systems not originally developed specifically for the housing sector) and measure the potential benefits of switching. Once you have that information, you can make an accurate decision about whether your system is the best-fit for your current and future requirements.
Commission the right independent specialist consultant to undertake the appraisal and the process will be informed by real-life experience of rollouts and integrations of the various products available. It will also be completed without any pressure from sales people.
An effective housing management system should allow you to manage each core housing function, so this should be the first thing you look at when assessing the suitability of your current system. While the core functions will vary slightly depending on the exact make up of your estate and customer base, they are likely to include:
- Rent & arrears
- Void management
- Reactive repairs management
- Estate management
- Customer services
- Property purchase
- Anti-social behaviour monitoring
- Service charges
- Complaints and compliments
- Planned maintenance
- Choice based lettings
- Contractor management
- Customer relationship management
- Asset management
- 30-year planning
But as well as functionality, it is also important to assess the user experience. Staff will be working with the system on a daily basis, so it is crucial that it is easy to use and that core functions aren't likely to be overlooked or provided inconsistently due to issues related to either usability or lack of adequate training.
A new approach to housing management
Many of the traditional housing system providers have been adapting or, in some cases, rewriting their systems to be more customer focused and more functionally rich.
Over the last few years, there have been acquisitions by a number of organisations of asset management and mobile working solutions with the aim of providing a more rounded system. These are still, however, multiple systems glued together in places to make some interactions more seamless. They still have multiple datasets, backend databases and require lots of infrastructure to run the systems.
In contrast, some of the larger housing providers are taking a different route and moving away from the traditional housing management systems and choosing Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP) systems.
These ERP systems are not built specifically for housing and therefore require a large amount of customisation to meet the needs and process flows of the business. However, what they do enable is for the business to consolidate many of their silo applications (e.g. housing, assets, repairs management, sales, development, finance, HR, payroll, customer portals, mobile, resourcing, planning and scheduling) onto one platform.
So which way do you go if your current housing management system is holding you back?
Some housing associations that invested in best of breed housing management systems in the past have now found that their choice does not easily scale to accommodate a growing workforce, asset base, or that the outdated system does not effectively comply with new legislation and regulations.
And with social housing increasingly moving beyond the concept of housing management systems with add-ons for extra functionality, many organisations are turning to different IT services to meet their requirements. Systems are now being used to manage everything from people, property and income to more customer-service based offerings and integrated compliance and contract management solutions.
This has led to a rise in CRM based solutions and/or the layering of CRM with existing housing management systems used in conjunction with improved asset management integrations.
Engaging a specialist IT consultant to undertake an Options Appraisal could give you a fresh perspective and facilitate an informed assessment of whether your current housing management system is still the best fit for your organisation.
If there are any gaps in your current system, or areas for improvement have been highlighted, these will form the basis of your review. An independent consultant who has extensive knowledge of the social housing sector as well as the various products on the market will be able to determine which products will be the most suitable for your organisation, based on their functionality, structure and how they integrate with your other applications.
A comprehensive Options Appraisal will also provide the evidence required for you and your IT consultant to decide whether to upgrade your current housing management system, or if implementing a replacement system will facilitate cost savings, enhance efficiencies or enable staff to deliver improved service to both internal customers and external stakeholders.
Shaw Consulting are specialists in IT consultancy for the social housing and care sectors. We are entirely independent from the supplier marketplace, meaning that we will work with you to identify which systems will be the best fit for your organisation, improve your bottom line performance and help you increase productivity.
We are actively advising a number of housing organisations on replacements of housing systems and the implementation of ERP solutions and can therefore provide you with the insights you will need to make the right decision.
If you have a project you'd like to discuss, please contact us via the website or book a Skype Call today and one of our expert consultants will be happy to help.