Housing Director Roger Birkinshaw has identified eight tips to help you work towards a trouble-free implementation.
Implementing a new Housing Management System can be a complex task. It takes lots of planning, physical resources and high-quality detail from both your organisation and the supplier you have picked to properly implement the system. The last thing you want to do is fall foul to the common pitfalls and challenges of this undertaking.
Implementing any new piece of technology will likely have an impact on most areas of your business. It is important, therefore, to start strong and ensure your IT team are fully on-board and properly organised from the outset.
Dialogue should be established as early as possible between you, your IT team, your supplier’s consultants, and any other third-party that may need to be involved. Get a meeting in place where process and timelines can be discussed and established. This will give you a good head start when it is time to begin migrating across to a new system.
With a detailed agenda, which encompasses methodology; solution design; and what is involved at each step of the process, you can ensure that everyone is working in parallel, towards the same goals.
Choosing the right housing supplier is not just down to the technology and solutions it has to offer. A reliable housing supplier will also have premium consultancy available, to ensure the system you have invested in will give you the right results. The impact of a housing management solution, for example, will not be immediately obvious; it is a long game. You want to know, then, that the advice and experience from your supplier is quality and your investment sound.
Many consultants within this sector actually come with limited housing knowledge; their backgrounds often focussed on IT. This means that you, as a housing provider, are missing out on reliable consultancy from real experts.
Gavin Pugh, Housing Consultant, agrees:
“It’s really important to choose a housing management supplier which ensures all its consultants have a significant understanding of the housing sector, processes and best practice as well as skills in digital, data and mobility.”
This exact same principle applies to your own internal stakeholders and tech implementers. It is important to allocate the right level of experience from within to ensure that, over time, the processes, configurations, and data outputs are correct.
At all stages of the project, it is important to keep channels of dialogue open and maintain a good rapport with your supplier. This will help keep the wheels turning if and when challenges arise.
Regular meetings should be in place, especially during the earlier stages but ideally throughout, to identify and tackle potential issues, keep milestones on-track, and get answers to any questions you may have.
When issues do arise, which they invariably do, address them swiftly. This will not only reduce setback but also help maintain a healthy customer-supplier relationship (the sooner we, or a supplier, know about an issue, the sooner we can resolve it with as little impact to you as possible).
For all the expertise a tech solutions company can offer a housing supplier, you will still understand your primary requirements more. No one, after all, knows your organisation as well as you. It is essential to clearly outline your business in the first instance and identify key requirements.
For example, if you are a charitable organisation providing accommodation for vulnerable people, you are unlikely to want or need a system that auto-generates eviction notices in the event of arrears. A softer touch would likely be more appropriate. Likewise, if you are providing sheltered housing for the elderly, you won’t need a system that schedules visits around typical working hours, or the school run and so on.
Have the requirements ready from the outset so your organisation’s aims and values are understood by your supplier. This will help directly influence how your system is set up and implemented, giving you the best possible outcome.
When establishing what you do need with your new solution, it is important to know exactly what you don’t! There is little to no point knowing the shortcomings that exist in your current system and taking them across with you.
A good tactic with this is to approach the system through the eyes of a new employee. Would they be able to log in and use it adequately from the off? If not, what challenges have materialised and could these be simplified at no detriment to the process? It makes total sense to “future-proof” the new system as much as possible, as this will help drive longevity.
Consider this: do you use codes across your current system? It may be long established, for example, that ‘plumbing’ is ‘28’, and ‘carpentry’ ‘29’, but why not just call them ‘plumbing’ and ‘carpentry’? This makes more sense to a new starter, potentially reducing the time required for training, and will not impact long-time users that much at all.
It goes without saying that policies and procedures form the backbone of your organisation. You are governed by them and so will need to ensure they are adopted into your new system completely.
In the earlier stages of the project, you will want to identify each policy and procedure, to see how the new system can best align with them. In the first instance, documentation must be up-to-date. Then, throughout the project’s lifetime, this should be maintained; detailing all requested configurations and the decisions you make. Falling behind with this puts a lot at risk!
The key goal is to have a robust system in place before it goes live; configured to properly support the policies and procedures of your organisation. Proactive approaches will always triumph over reactive ones.
It is important to travel at the pace required by your organisation. Smaller housing organisations might benefit from a faster pace, for example, as stakeholders can be brought into the equation sooner. Larger housing organisations may need to go at a slower pace as they look to a wider staff-base and make ensure everyone is clued up and happy.
Your supplier should support the right pace, whatever it is, by talking to your team at each individual step for the new system. Put a timetable together to invite the right people from your organisation to test, comment, and involve themselves in the project at the right times.
If changes are needed, communicate this clearly with your supplier. It is often the case that a housing provider will identify new needs as they understand the new technology better. Again, your supplier should be flexible to these new needs and makes changes as required.
From the outset, a decent supplier will be on hand to answer questions, and drive their expertise and training so that you, and your organisation, can fully understand the new system. The end goal should focus largely on self-sufficiency.
Put it this way: if all staff required to use the new housing management system are adequately trained in basic use, knowing how to insert a new job code, for example, they can be called upon to reliably use the software. They will not need to be shown how to do basic tasks and time can then be better utilised elsewhere.
Find out more about NEC Housing.