If you’re an asset manager, you’re probably consistently having to do more and with less, just like many of your colleagues in other areas of your operations. The situation is compounded further in smaller housing providers where every member of your team has to ‘wear a different hat’ every day and juggle different responsibilities – one moment you’re a strategist, planner, administrator or customer service expert, the next moment you need to be a surveyor, void inspector, stock condition data collector or contract manager.
While an asset management system won’t necessarily stop you needing to juggle responsibilities, it will at least deliver plenty of benefits that make the investment worthwhile for a smaller housing provider.
It’s inevitable that staff will leave and the new people coming into the organisation will work differently. While still a headache for larger housing providers, staff turnover within smaller housing providers is felt much more acutely, with the loss of headcount and working knowledge simultaneously affecting multiple disciplines.
The one aspect that must remain consistent and safeguarded is your data. Data is the only thing you can solidly depend on through operational change, and if looked after correctly can leave an incredibly positive legacy for your organisation. So don’t wait until your spreadsheet falls over, move it into a central, auditable and reliable asset management system so you can manage it properly and accurately. Investment in IT is vital to ensure seamless working between asset management and the rest of the business and where the core objective is sustainable assets and happy tenants then access to reliable information is of the utmost importance.
Legislative & regulatory duties
There has never been a greater emphasis on compliance, and a robust set of data is what will help you sleep at night. I speak from experience when I say that asset managers working with smaller numbers of housing stock will undoubtedly know their assets inside out. But can you demonstrate to the auditor or regulator that this particular block doesn’t have a communal area, or that these 50 assets don’t have a gas supply? Holding everything in a central asset management system improves the integrity of your data and by reducing your reliance on spreadsheets, it decreases the chance of the errors that can occur when the same document is edited by numerous people.
Doing more for less
Long-term contracts aren’t just for the big housing providers! Nothing drives contractor pricing down like a full order book and an asset management system will enable you to effectively and accurately plan your investment for the next 3-5 years, so you can guarantee your contractor work. Longer term contracts can provide smaller organisations with cost certainty and a contractor commitment that can often be lacking on smaller works. Plus internally, there should be fewer resources needed to service contracts or manage repeat tenders, freeing up your team to be more productive.
Ease of reporting
Every housing provider is, and should be, scrutinised. The ability to produce accurate and reliable reports from a ‘single version of the truth’ with just a few mouse clicks is invaluable. System-generated KPIs reduce the likelihood of examination and take less time to produce compared with spreadsheet- or paper-based practices. The ability to accurately predict your planned spending will give you the ability to deliver an accurate and reliable business plan, which can be stress tested and stand up to the most arduous examination. With the potential for league tables just around the corner, being able to demonstrate excellent performance is likely to be a key differentiator, even among smaller housing providers.
Due to their size and nimbleness, innovative working is a big part of the success of smaller housing providers. To that end, asset management systems can often be extended far beyond just the management of your property assets. For example, mobile devices can be integrated to capture and report on any survey, so why not also use them to record tenant satisfaction, safeguarding, operative risk assessments, snagging or works sign-off? Those are just some of the many alternative uses for an asset management system that can automate cumbersome, time-consuming and unrewarding paper-based tasks, ultimately leading to better staff productivity and operational performance.
Asset management systems will let you store all of your files against the appropriate assets and eradicate the prospect of someone accidentally moving or deleting important data or records. This data store makes everything clear and accessible to everyone across the organisation and ensures a visible and robust audit trail.
This document management discipline also enables housing providers to meet their regulatory obligations regarding document and record retention. It also means that new staff only have to familiarise themselves with one, rather than multiple systems or file structures.
There are huge efficiencies and advantages to collating all data in one place, and in doing so an asset management system gives a clear 360-degree view of what is happening with your assets. This data can be accessed by anyone with the right privileges thus providing reassurance to your executives and board that records are accurate, up-to-date and will withstand regulatory scrutiny.
The housing sector continues to undergo rapid change, including further asset management scrutiny in future. There are many benefits to implementing an asset management system, none more so than giving smaller housing providers a vital tool to be able to transparently demonstrate all the hard and excellent work they’re doing.
So now the question should be can you afford not to implement an asset management system to transform your organisation to manage future challenges?
Ruth Dent is an asset management consultant at PIMSS Data Systems.