Aster Group is making location-based analysis technology a central part of its strategic decision-making processes following its implementation of a GIS system from Esri. The project began in August 2010 focusing on better customer service through to summer 2012 covering fuel poverty mapping.
In common with many housing providers, Aster’s previous use of GIS was limited to isolated pockets within the group with no consistency across its operations, involving a mixture of paper maps, desktop GIS and limited data sharing and collaboration. The new Esri system, dubbed AsterMaps, spans housing management, asset management and repairs, with Aster reporting that use of AsterMaps has increased by 50 per cent over the last year as more of its staff realise the benefits of geographic and spatial analysis.
Roy Thompson, IT director, Aster Group, said, “We focused on delivering practical functionality so we could quickly demonstrate the benefits of GIS and not be distracted by ‘vapourware’. Each GIS project offers immediate tangible benefits in terms of operational efficiency and cost savings.”
The widespread use of AsterMaps has made it easier for Aster’s developers to find new sites on which to build homes and allowed its front-line staff to respond to tenant queries 50 per cent faster. The system also enables better resident profiling, with the result that the average age of ‘involved residents’ has been reduced by 10 years, and by bringing mapping in-house, grounds maintenance costs have been reduced, such as saving £80,000 on tree survey data.
Aster originally spent around £68,000 on hardware, software, training, consultancy and data. Compared with the housing provider’s annual spending on GIS, it is now saving around £20,000 per year, based on more cost effective GIS contracts, replicating datasets internally and removing some unnecessary data services, but not including the operational efficiency savings or staff time saved from the new GIS-related projects.
Mike McCarthy, operations director, Aster Property, said, “GIS has fundamentally changed the way we deliver our asset management strategy. From managing our repairs and planned maintenance programmes, through to mapping our estates’ performance in support of our wider stock options appraisals, we couldn’t do without it.”
Andy Bradley, business systems analyst for GIS, Aster Group, said, “Through the new GIS approach with Esri, we’ve given all staff better access to interactive mapping and increased the type of tasks they can perform. In the past, maps and GIS were just a by-product and something we had to have. Today, GIS has moved centre stage and is core to the way we operate.”