Coastline Housing and its subsidiary, Coastline Services, have introduced mobile working for its housing maintenance team with help from Civica. Coastline and Civica ran a pilot trial of the PDA-based service in August 2009 followed by its organisation-wide deployment in November 2009.
Despite having relatively few properties (3700) to manage, they are spread over a large and relatively rural area, making it hard for Coastline to deliver a cost-effective and efficient maintenance and repairs service. Beth Lawton, head of ICT, Coastline Housing, said, “Many of our mobile workers live and work far from Coastline’s offices so our maintenance staff were making time-consuming journeys back and forth to head office, as well as commuting considerable distances between tenants’ properties.”
Coastline began exploring mobile working solutions to create a more flexible and efficient environment, connecting its mobile team directly with tenants’ needs as well as corporate databases at Coastline’s head office. Lawton explained, “Our objectives for a mobile working solution were clear: it needed to integrate seamlessly with our existing systems, to avoid further additional outlay, and we also wanted a straightforward, relatively self-explanatory system that could be used by anyone in Coastline, from senior executives downwards.”
Coastline considered giving laptops to its maintenance team but was deterred by their weight, limited battery life and their need for an always-on data connect, the last of which is not possible in parts of Cornwall. Instead, Coastline chose the PDA-based Civica Mobile system which offers one system for use across the organisation. It easily interfaces with existing databases and contact management systems, while also crucially offering online and offline access.
After a trial period, the PDAs were rolled out across the organisation supported with education workshops. Lawton said, “The primary consideration in introducing mobile working was getting our team used to making use of the devices, rather than feeling that they needed to sit down in front of an office computer to access case information.”
At the same time, Coastline also integrated its back-office functions into the mobile working solution so its maintenance team could receive requests in real time and provide updates remotely. The next step is for the system to be interfaced with building materials specialist Jewsons to allow materials to be pre-ordered, saving time and avoiding wasted journeys.
Beth Lawton concluded, “Introducing a true mobile working solution has really changed the way we tackle tenant maintenance schedules. Now that the system is fully deployed, we have noticed far better staff utilisation, improved staff morale and more robust back office procedures as our mobile team can provide real-time updates to tenant case files. From a tenant perspective, the service they receive is more responsive and we are also more flexible when reacting to last minute changes.”