Blackwood Homes has reported that it is in the latter stages of a three-year project to unlock the full potential of its existing Civica housing management system. Beginning in 2010, the project has concentrated on minimising the use of standalone spreadsheets and databases and increasing the use of the HMS by staff in areas such as repairs, voids and arrears.
The project began with an external review of Blackwood Homes’ systems and business processes which highlighted the use of multiple spreadsheets and Access databases being used across the organisation as work-arounds instead of using the main Civica housing management system. It was apparent that the HMS was being very under-used as well as being used inefficiently with, for example, very little letter generation being carried out directly from the HMS. The review concluded that the Civica system was capable of providing a robust solution but some significant changes were needed.
The first phase of the project included some ‘housekeeping’ activities to ensure the system was running efficiently. This included data cleansing and an upgrade to the latest version of the Civica HMS. In terms of specific service areas, Blackwood Homes and Civica agreed that the greatest benefits would be achieved by reviewing the repairs, voids and arrears modules, including former tenant arrears and tenant recharges.
Jenny Deed, housing services team leader, Blackwood Homes, said, “The void summary report we asked for not only saves me time every week as I no longer need to type up a report from our weekly team meeting on current void status, but we can have accurate and up-to-date information to discuss at the meeting. Just this one report makes a big difference in my role of managing voids for the team.”
The second phase then covered planned and cyclical repairs, rent and service charge modules and the introduction of a bespoke gas servicing system.
The main benefit to Blackwood Homes of having reviewed its use of the Civica HMS has been a reduction in the time its staff spend on administrative tasks that are no longer carried out using Microsoft Office and are now handled within the HMS.
Almost 40 arrears-related letters are now generated direct from the HMS, and all arrears cases requiring particular scrutiny are now automatically highlighted to staff, saving one day per month per housing officer. After supplier statement functionality was added, the housing provider’s three main contractors all now invoice against statements, reducing the number of invoices from an average of around 500 invoices per month for those contractors to around 30 per month. The repairs review has enabled all performance management reports to be generated direct from the solution, savings of two days per month for the senior property assistant.
Marie Livingstone, senior property assistant, Blackwood Homes, said, “It is much easier and quicker to complete tasks and we can extract information for all our reporting purposes. This has increased our tenant satisfaction as we have better processes in place therefore more time to concentrate on key customer service tasks.”