Housing associations and ALMOs across the country face a raft of targets governing future funding and status. The Decent Homes programme, which promised a certain level of social housing by 2010, looks set to miss its target. Combine this with the pressure of successfully passing Audit Commission inspections and Housing Corporation assessments and it’s clear to see how much organisations have to deliver.
However, there are key priorities that could help organisations to meet the vast majority of requirements. Effective and accurate asset information should be the first priority for all housing associations. It may seem to be a surprisingly simple thing to get right, but currently many organisations are held back due to the archaic nature of current working practices across the property portfolio.
Associations are hard at work dealing with large-scale stock transfers and managing improvements in line with Decent Homes requirements. Scheduling renovations and resources have traditionally been driven by paper-based systems. This is not only inefficient in today’s technology-driven workplace, but also means there is a distinct lack of asset management across portfolios because resources are not allocated effectively.
Taking a more strategic approach to planning, executing and evaluating daily repair schedules will have a direct effect on bottom-line efficiencies. Automating these processes, and examining the role of mobile technology within these strategies, will pay huge dividends by enabling associations to allocate better resources (both human and material), as well as manage daily workloads.
However, moving from a paper-based nightmare to a technology-driven dream isn’t something that happens overnight; quick fixes are destined to fail and potentially ruin further attempts to modernise. The initial stages of any workflow shift should be tested, and employee feedback must be assessed carefully before any procedure is implemented across the workforce.
Any changes in technology must also be accompanied by an assessment of how information is compiled and disseminated to employees. In terms of strategic changes to asset information, planned maintenance schedules must be merged with day-to-day responsive repairs. Too many organisations provide inaccurate asset information to the responsive repair teams, and as such, their work is not updated on the planned repair schedule.
Driving effective asset information across the property portfolio will not only enable day-to-day tasks to be completed more effectively, but will enable the entire organisation to work towards a more streamlined approach. Ultimately more jobs can be completed faster, with less pressure on central resource planning. The more effective the groundwork, the better chance the association has of meeting the key demands of central legislation.
David Cockayne is a housing specialist for Consilium Technologies.