Finding the right Microsoft partner for your housing organisation is just like trying to find a real-life partner; there will be challenges you’ll face that you hope your partner can support you with and searching for ‘the one’ can take time. After all, there’s a certain degree of trust necessary for a good relationship and one of the pivotal questions you need to ask is: does this partner not only understand the challenges I face but do they genuinely care about them?
Let’s talk first about the common challenges you face as a housing provider and why we feel that a ‘Microsoft-first’ approach works best.
At the Housing Technology 2022 conference in March, TSG and Grand Union Housing took a light-hearted look at why partnerships are like relationships; this gave us licence to add in a few dating puns which we hope will translate as well in the written word as they did to the live audience…
Legacy housing management systems might have worked in the past, but you might be facing these common struggles today:
- An expensive legacy system that lacks modern functionality;
- Slow to change;
- Closed APIs;
- Lack of mobile working;
- Replicating data between silos and fixing data synchronisation errors;
- Complaints handling;
- Improving stock condition;
- Regulatory compliance;
- Tenant/customer satisfaction.
Many of these issues rely on accurate data which legacy housing management systems might be struggling to give you. This becomes a problem when trying to gain better insights and it becomes a battle to communicate with your legacy system for the right information.
This is why, at TSG, we have a dedicated housing team that specialises in supporting you with adopting a Microsoft-first approach; an all-in-one solution that can support your challenges with the help of our specialist team. This is what you should expect from the right IT partner.
The benefits of a Microsoft-first approach
A Microsoft-first approach can bring better collaboration, communication, data, and insights into one place on the Microsoft Cloud. Microsoft has a wide variety of solutions that can be customised to your needs. Among those solutions are:
- Azure (SQL and App Services);
- Dynamics 365;
- Power Platform (Dataverse, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents & Power BI);
- TSG EDRM for housing (TSG’s flagship electronic document management solution for housing, built on Microsoft 365 & SharePoint).
Although this may seem like a great toolbox of strong applications, you can’t open it up and expect to know exactly what you need and how to use it. Taking advantage of Microsoft’s mix and match of products is why we suggest adopting Microsoft solutions to replace your legacy systems. This is where we come in; providing the support of a partner that genuinely understands and cares about your needs. You can get a tailor-made solution which works for your specific requirements.
This brings us to why finding the right IT partner is a lot like starting a new relationship.
How is a partnership like a relationship?
Every great partnership starts with a strong foundation. Consider what you need to know before you get into a relationship; you need to know who you’re about to commit to, whether they understand what’s important to you and if they have your best interests at heart. This is the same for any partnership you start with an IT supplier or external contractor.
Starting a relationship with TSG means you have access to:
- Microsoft resources, including the knowledge and expertise of a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner;
- Technology evaluation and POC;
- Innovation and best practice;
- Training and knowledge transfer;
- Guidance and willingness to work with incumbent suppliers;
- Support of a multi-Gold Competency Microsoft Partner;
- A provider that can back up customer satisfaction with an NPS score of 84+.
The signs of a toxic partnership
Sometimes it isn’t all blissful; relationships can become difficult and toxic if your partner begins to exhibit certain behaviours that demonstrate they don’t actually care for you or your needs. Similar to partnerships with IT suppliers, you should be wary if they begin to display certain behaviours that suggest their intentions may hurt your organisation.
There are several signs that you’re working with an IT supplier that isn’t the right fit for you. Some of the signs to look out for include:
- Gaslighting – if the supplier is working with, or compares your organisation to, other companies and offers you the same work, it’s likely that they are cutting corners and not giving you the attention and quality of service you deserve.
- Promiscuous behaviour – your partner doesn’t value your organisation if they’re already moving onto a customer with a bigger wallet.
- You’re not the only one – your partner is saying the same thing to all of their other customers.
A true partnership with the right partner means that you both have each other’s best interests at heart. It’s that simple, yet we understand that you may get ‘catfished’ by low quality service after the first few dates.
However, here’s what a good partnership looks like.
Nurturing the relationship: TSG & Grand Union Housing’s ‘baby’
After getting to know and understand Grand Union Housing, we were able to come up with a plan that would transition them from outdated legacy systems to a platform that would enable them to grow and collaborate better. Our relationship and commitment to each other became more solid once we knew we were on the same journey and had a shared vision of our future together.
In a sense, this was almost like raising a child together (the next step of the relationship), which in this case was SharePoint. Let’s break it down in the context of what we did to help Grand Union Housing:
- The baby – SharePoint is the face of the new system – customising it and helping it to grow is essential to its development.
- Training – tailoring the training for SharePoint and other Microsoft tools was necessary; a normal training provider might give you the same as other companies, but the right IT partner will fully tailor this to your organisation only.
- The pram – your data is likely to be spread out over multiple applications. Dataverse is a one-stop shop where everything lives; essentially, it’s the hero behind the scenes.
- New toys – this was introducing Power Apps; bringing together custom applications designed specifically for Grand Union Housing.
- Keeping an eye on baby – weekly workshops, encouraging IT staff and other members of Grand Union Housing to get more out of Microsoft.
- Baby-proofing – TSG helped to safeguard the housing provider by ensuring everything it was using was compliant with government regulations.
- Getting enough sleep – working while sleeping; RPA and workflows ensured that things were still coming through without needing to be ‘on it’, such as EPC certificates and housing deeds.
A lasting partnership: TSG & Grand Union Housing
The reason TSG’s partnership with Grand Union Housing works is because we understand exactly who Grand Union Housing Group is; this enables us to support the organisation, its goals, and objectives. You can read more about our partnership with Grand Union Housing on tsg.com and to start your relationship with TSG, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirsty Marsden is the housing service design lead at TSG.