Housing providers need to adopt a more commercial approach to IT procurement and a proven approach to IT implementation that is commonplace in many other sectors, according to Rob Bryan, operations director and transformation specialist at Vantage Business Solutions.
My experience of procurement in other sectors is that an approach of ‘outputs first’ must be embedded in the process. All too often, housing associations are trying to shoehorn old processes into new systems, and when they write an IT specification, they approach it from a view that it must fit how the service works currently. Purchasing offers a great opportunity to rethink how you deliver services, especially in repairs and maintenance.
By putting outputs and performance reporting requirements at the top of the wish-list for any specification, housing providers will wrap the technologies around service needs, not just the layers of processes that sit behind them.
For example, we helped the team at Broadacres Housing Association to design, procure and implement new mobile working and scheduling solutions that go beyond the usual functionality. Broadacres now use the tools, including software from 1st Touch and DRS, to generate productivity improvements. By going beyond the simple appointment scheduling tool, they created smarter systems to intelligently schedule jobs, saving time and money and delivering a more effective service to tenants.
Broadacres’ business support director, Chris Fawcett, said, “We underwent a large technology change when we set up an internal maintenance service, and operatives who were ‘tuped’ over were used to working on paper-based services and we had to get them on-board from the beginning. We now benefit from digital solutions that have helped us mobilise over 60 operatives by taking a root and branch approach to transformation.”
Truly engaging service users in the design process can really bring a fresh perspective and help embed the required change.
How many organisations are mapping out the stages of their future services and getting service user input to improve the process before they begin a re-procurement exercise? This is where other sectors such as the automotive industry excel, with continuous improvement points and truly engaging service users. Now that’s how you achieve true innovation.
Rob Bryan is the operations director and a transformation specialist at Vantage Business Solutions.