Saul Stevens is head of ICT at Family Mosaic, managing an ICT department of 18 staff. With an annual turnover of £160 million, Family Mosaic has 1500 staff and manages 21,500 properties in London and Essex. Housing Technology interviewed Saul to find out more about Family Mosaic’s ICT plans.
What have been your major technology achievements of the past couple of years?
The past two years have been very busy, as our focus has been on a creating a business-enabling, resilient and value-for-money technology infrastructure for the group. We have also rationalised our suite of business applications to support more prescriptive business processes, which makes our business more efficient and ultimately helps to increase tenant satisfaction.
In terms of infrastructure changes, we have outsourced our server hosting to a professional N+1 datacentre in London’s Docklands and deployed a high-availability MPLS network for all of our major sites, both of which were supplied and managed by Telstra, while our 90+ scheme sites now have an ADSL-Max managed service. For telephony, we have installed a Mitel VoIP system across the organisation.
Our storage requirements have been centralised using NetApp SANs and we have created a ‘warm-start’ in-house disaster recovery environment to complement our existing production systems and now have over 2.5TB of data replicated between the two sites.
In the desktop and business applications areas, we have moved the entire group to thin-client Citrix desktops, managed to move to a single Northgate housing management system, added workflow-enabled CRM (Northgate Front Office) to support our new customer contact centre, which itself has been updated with a Mitel ACD system with call recording, workflow management and reporting tools.
We have completed a voice convergence project, with all of our sites now running VoIP-enabled Mitel switches which has made significant savings to our telephone call costs across the group. We have also deployed a mobile working system for our housing officers using a combined Northgate-Kirona system, and finally added online payment processing to our income collection department.
I am also delighted to say that our ICT department achieved ISO certification in May 2009.
How about integration between your different business applications?
Integration is never easy and has been made overly complicated by the older architectures still used in some of our back-office systems. However, we are now only deploying new ‘world-class’ technologies and this is making the task of managing and reporting on our core data set a much simpler process; our goal is a single data warehouse.
Our next challenge is to streamline how we manage the need for exchanging data with other organisations in the housing sector. To that end, we need to learn from what has been achieved in other vertical markets, and I hope the Housing Technology Standards Board will be a key driver in raising awareness of this issue and ultimately delivering a standard that will simplify the process for everyone.
How is your ICT budget changing?
Our budget is the same as last year as most of our large investment-driven projects have now been completed. The focus of the ICT team is now to ensure that we always deliver value for money, and that we are seen to add value and support Family Mosaic’s business objectives.
What are your ICT plans for the next 12-24 months?
We plan to develop our applications further, including the introduction of more mandatory data fields and more prescriptive processes, both of which will help to significantly improve the quality of our core tenant data. At the same time, we want to reduce the number of ‘point’ applications and move towards a central data warehouse. We are also investigating the use of Sharepoint.
In terms of specific applications, we are deploying a digi-pen system from Destiny for over 200 of our floating and visiting support staff, as well as using our Kirona mobile system to make our back-office systems more available to mobile workers.
Finally, we want to focus on disaster recovery testing; with the further development of our new ‘warm start’ in-house DR environment, we are keen to make sure that regular testing of our DR plans becomes part of our normal ICT operations.