Marie Hailing, community services manager at Bromsgrove District Housing Trust, outlines how the organisation has deployed a new BlackBerry-based system to help housing officers capture key customer data while out in the community.
Bromsgrove District Housing Trust has eight housing officers, each of whom manages a local area and has responsibilities including introducing new tenants into communities and offering support services to existing residents. They also deal with anti-social behaviour and any ongoing disputes.
The nature of their role means they need remote access to data while in the field via unobtrusive, easy-to-use mobile devices, access to standard forms, and minimal disruption to community-based work due to fewer trips to the head office.
We thought that a mobile working system would improve the housing officers’ working practices will also addressing several organisational goals at the same time.
We have recently developed ‘YouNique’, a tool which segments our customer profile information into distinct customer groups, enabling BDHT to target services and resources at customers in the most effective and efficient manner. We were therefore keen to be able to collect data from front-line staff to continually update this tool in order to better understand our distinct customer groups by reflecting a wide range of factors, such as household composition, income and other needs.
We made it a priority to assess the needs of the business and users first and then to match a mobile system to those needs. As a BlackBerry-centric organisation, it made sense to build on our existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server, devices and network by adopting a system that would be compatible with these technologies. The system would also need to integrate with our Anite housing management system as well as our new CRM and customer complaints workflow systems.
After ResourceTrack, our existing responsive repairs solution provider, launched Pro-Forms at the end of 2009, we trialled the system with our housing officers.
Flexibility and control
Using a mixture of BlackBerry 9700 Bold and 8900 Curve devices on the Vodafone network, staff initially had secure access to two commonly-used forms, for tenancy home visits and customer information surveys, created using Pro-Forms. Both forms were previously completed on paper by community-based staff, returned to the office where they were checked for factual errors, re-typed, often photocopied to be shared with other departments, and filed for future reference.
These forms are now part-populated with accurate customer data via a live link between the Blackberry-based Pro-Forms system and the Anite housing management system, with the fully-completed form returned to our head office within seconds. As forms are returned, pre-defined triggers send specific data to each of the BDHT software solutions either for manual or automated import.
Business and IT benefits
One of the key attractions for us was that the new system gave non-technical staff the ability to create and publish their own forms to the mobile devices, while our IT team were self sufficient in designing the format and methods for delivering data to our existing systems.
Our mobile system has exceeded the requirements defined at the start of the project, so we are now expecting to deploy it across other service areas and initiatives, including data collection around the new TSA Regulatory Framework for Social Housing which takes effect from April 2010.
Marie Hailing is the community services manager at Bromsgrove District Housing Trust.