Over the past few months, MRI Software has bought Castleton Technology, Orchard Information Systems and, most recently, Housing Partners. Housing Technology interviewed Dermot Briody, MRI Software’s executive managing director for Europe, about the impact of the company’s acquisitions on the UK housing sector.
What’s the background to MRI Software?
MRI Software has been built up over five decades, with our expertise, innovation and experience firmly rooted in hosted software for the property sector. We’ve become a global company yet maintain local presence and regional knowledge bases in all our sectors. Before our recent acquisitions in the social housing sector, we already had 400 staff in the UK. Throughout this growth, our mission has remained the same – we give organisations freedom to transform the way their communities live, work and play while elevating their businesses by delivering greater efficiencies.
Our innovation is completely aligned to our customers’ needs, always keeping their end-users in mind, and thanks to the diversity and depth in our solutions, we have built a strong customer base around the world. We have a deep understanding of the particular needs of property businesses, and we are no strangers to social housing; with a significant footprint in the wider UK residential market, we already serve some major housing providers and local authorities. Added to this is our vast experience delivering technology solutions to affordable and public housing in the US, and the strategic expansion of our social housing capabilities across the UK, Ireland and Australia is a natural next step for us.
Why is MRI moving into the UK housing sector?
There is the trend of social housing converging with wider residential and commercial sectors. Related to this, many housing providers have growing aspirations to become multi-faceted in the way they develop, manage and support communities – for example, expanding their operations into build-to-rent, co-living, student living and assisted living.
With our experience in the wider housing sector and, as mentioned before, our international expertise, growing and developing our proposition for UK social housing makes sense for us, for our existing customers and for the wider market. MRI has so much value to offer – for example, taking our success stories from outside the sector and looking at how we can deliver those approaches or new innovations to social housing providers.
I believe that there has never been a more vital time for social housing in this country and for the work that housing providers do. We are here to support that and support it at scale. Our infrastructure means that we can bring accelerated innovation, integration, servicing and delivery to social housing.
We will be building on the fantastic work that Orchard, Castleton and Housing Partners have already done, leveraging the deep domain knowledge these teams have to offer as part of MRI Social Housing. Our people are MRI’s greatest asset, and these existing local teams will continue to develop solutions for this market. They fully understand it and have lived and breathed the sector for decades; we see this expertise as a crucial part of our value proposition.
Finally, we believe there is a strong alignment of our own values and goals with social housing. In all areas of our operations, we strive to positively impact communities and enrich tenants’ lives through the power of technology – a core component of our vision for this sector.
What are MRI’s ambitions?
There are so many ambitions for a company this size! If I had to narrow it down to MRI Social Housing, it would be the drive to become the trusted technology partner of choice for social housing providers. We are intent on transforming tenants’ lives and experiences, and that extends beyond just software and into the deeper value we provide and difference we believe we can make.
Of course, it’s easy to talk about being the partner of choice, and we are very conscious that we need to earn that right and earn that trust. It will come from continuously delivering, being open and transparent and from partnering effectively together, consciously keeping tenant experience at the forefront.
MRI’s portfolio of products seems to comprise overlapping solutions – how will these be consolidated in the future?
We have done a lot of work to-date on analysing our product portfolio and how we can create the best combined solution sets to match market needs while providing continuity of service to existing customers.
What we will do is bring more solution choice, more innovation and more integration across our products. Every provider has individual requirements and every business is unique, and our whole ethos is about offering the choice and the flexibility to create a technology platform that works best for each customer.
Will these acquisitions lead to less choice for housing providers?
There will always be choice in what is a diverse sector. We place tremendous value on integration in parallel with our partners, hence our solutions are built on an interoperable, open technology stack. That means we can work with customers’ existing systems while facilitating greater flexibility and freedom.
We also understand that some housing providers and local authorities don’t feel that they’re getting true value by dealing with multiple legacy solutions from multiple suppliers. For housing providers who want to work with a trusted supplier for their comprehensive IT needs, we certainly want to earn that position and become a go-to business partner.
What’s happening in the next 12 months?
In short, we will be relentless in our focus! Right now, that focus is communicating to our existing customers and we’re using the first few months to get to know them, both in one-to-one sessions and through a series of ‘Meet MRI’ webinars.
Over the coming months, we will align our teams and processes and our customers will continue to see the same familiar faces across Orchard, Castleton and Housing Partners; it’s certainly business as usual in that sense. The team is planning a number of events to launch our combined offering of MRI Social Housing – these will be open to all housing providers in the sector and more information on these is to come very soon.
We are very proud to serve the housing sector across the UK and Ireland; it’s such a fundamental part of our society and we are committed to serving its community to the best of our abilities with a deep, innovative and accessible technology platform.
Dermot Briody is the executive managing director for Europe at MRI Software.