Loreburn Housing’s director of property and development, Gary Alison, describes how the housing provider’s implementation of the HomeMaster housing management system from Designer Software has been a ‘game changer’ for its business and financial operations.
We decided to move to an agile working environment back in 2017 but our incumbent housing management system was a serious impediment to achieving that, so when I joined Loreburn Housing in 2019, we decided to replace our HMS.
We identified several options and contacted the team at Designer Software for a demonstration of HomeMaster; its functionality combined with its simple cost structure and zero implementation fees were our main reasons for wanting a closer look. We then found that not only was HomeMaster the most cost-effective of all the housing management systems we considered, but it was also the most impressive. HomeMaster offered us a single, fully-integrated housing and finance management system, specifically designed for agile working.
Before we signed the contract, the Designer Software team demonstrated HomeMaster to all of our staff because our executive team was keen to achieve universal buy-in. These demo sessions were very useful because they allowed end-users to ask questions and clearly define their requirements; 95 per cent of their requirements could be immediately achieved on implementation, with the remaining five per cent developed soon afterwards.
For example, we needed an additional service charge module, so a scoping meeting was held a week after signing the contract, and a working prototype was available within just three weeks.
Prior the implementation, we completed a data-cleansing and reformatting exercise so that all of our data could be migrated to HomeMaster in a consistent format, albeit from numerous disparate systems.
The implementation began in January 2020 and HomeMaster went around five months later. In my experience, I would normally expect this type of project to take 12-18 months. During the implementation, the Designer Software team was always on hand to answer any queries and the response times were excellent, with system changes made almost instantly, completely exceeding our original expectations.
Loreburn Housing has limited IT resources so we assembled a project team from different departments. Designer Software then trained up our project team to deliver training to the rest of our staff. This resulted in a sense of collective ownership which enabled us to truly embed HomeMaster into our organisational culture and working practices without being wholly reliant on our internal IT resources.
Functionality and efficiency gains
HomeMaster has eliminated our need to use five other business applications, such as an arrears tool and electronic document management, because these functions can now managed within HomeMaster. The Designer Software team also integrated our existing Total Mobile and M3 Locator applications with HomeMaster so that data flows in real time between the products but with just one point of entry.
This has created significant time savings and efficiency gains as well as helping us deliver exceptional customer experience; our operational staff can now spend more time in their communities while still having easy remote access to all the information that they need.
Our customer-service staff and other front-line workers now have access to real-time data when answering tenants’ queries, and by having access to all relevant parts of the HomeMaster system, they can see the bigger picture around each property or tenant, enabling them to take a more holistic approach to customer service.
The real-time data and management information from HomeMaster is also helping our executive team make better-informed decisions. Loreburn Housing’s director of housing, Sue Irving, said, “Real-time data is available in several formats; the HomeMaster dashboard, quick-access tiles and reports. This means that all processes are clear and transparent, allowing greater clarity and more objective decision-making, rather than relying on anecdotal or inaccurate information.”
Switching to HomeMaster, combined with the implementation of our ‘hub, home and roam’ model for hybrid working, will enable us to make over £250,000 of cost savings:
- £50,000 from licensing and maintenance of systems that are now obsolete (per annum);
- £50,000 from staffing costs by reducing the duplication of work;
- £50,000 from office costs due to switching to agile working (excluding repairs and maintenance);
- £100,000 from savings on previously-identified development costs for new functions which are instead available in HomeMaster.
Like most organisations, the pandemic accelerated our move to agile working. HomeMaster enabled us to deliver a safe, robust and efficient mobile working solution, with Loreburn Housing now operating a ‘hub, home and roam’ model to give our staff flexibility around where and how they work.
To summarise, the key reasons for our switch to HomeMaster were:
- Robust and easy-to-use cloud-based platform for agile working;
- Cost-effective solution;
- A comprehensive offer, with fewer bolt-on products required;
- Real-time performance data;
- Fast and responsive service;
- An effective, responsive partner.
Gary Alison is the director of property and development at Loreburn Housing.