If there’s a key element that ensures success when developing IT systems in housing, it’s listening to clients’ needs. Consequently, Aareon is always exploring different models of fulfilling clients’ expectations. This means identifying detailed system requirements and assessing the processes involved. One of the technology trends that delivers the flexibility to achieve this is managed services, a concept centred on IT process outsourcing. This speeds operations, while cutting fixed costs such as recruitment and related ‘on costs’ such as office space. In doing so, this model drives operational efficiency extremely well. There are numerous benefits from using the managed services model; these include:
1. Internal skills & resources
Housing providers’ IT teams are often at full capacity and their IT staff can sometimes lack the skills and expertise needed to add solutions. These organisations appreciate the value of external technicians who can perform key functions on their behalf using process outsourcing. There’s also on-hand, best-practice advice from a virtual CIO.
The best news is that by using opex managed services, organisations achieve significant cost savings and agility. Additional capex hardware/infrastructure costs are non-existent, as are software licence expenses. Service costs too, such as support, maintenance and back-up, also fall. Users don’t need to recruit/employ additional staff and are therefore free of related ‘on costs’, such as office space. Users can also readily budget ongoing IT costs, allowing management to assess RoI.
Managed service providers use modern AV software and constantly penetration test to prevent cybercrime. This is more robust than anything individual users deploy. Thus, users feel safer knowing that their data is secure.
With someone else taking care of their systems, users needn’t worry about many IT issues. And, by electing to work with the vendor’s experts, they learn about potential downtime issues in advance through predictive analytics.
Aareon looked at the benefits of this model and saw the potential of providing managed services that, while stopping short of full hosting, take the pressure off tasks such as support and upgrades. The services that Aareon customers can now pre-book include:
- Aareon QL (ERP) back-office finance and administration;
- System reviews and health checks;
- Management reporting and correspondence;
- Designing landlord-branded electronic forms;
- Workflow configuration;
- Module integration.
By using our new managed service options, housing providers can now access high-performance, cost-effective housing IT faster than deploying modules internally; this is particularly popular where timescales and/or budgets are tight. In addition, these services use only the latest versions of our technology, provided by a highly professional team with considerable housing experience.
Aareon managed services are popular, particularly because trust is a crucial factor; the last thing users need is to hand systems over to someone who is financially insecure. With its integrated IT solutions, Aareon provides support for property-sector processes in the digital age, with staff in Kenilworth, Swansea and Southampton.
As well as being a substantial UK company, Aareon is also part of the widely-respected European group, Aareon AG, Europe’s leading property systems company. Currently, the group has 2,800 customers with over 10 million residential units. Beyond this, Aareon Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aareal Bank Group, with headquarters in Germany and subsidiaries in France, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
A good example of the difference that managed services can make is WHG, one of The Midlands’ most successful housing providers. Our managed services enabled them to add numerous additional housing IT modules faster and to drive VFM.
At first, having conducted an extensive review of the market, traditional multi-platform Aareon systems were chosen by WHG because they allowed the housing provider to write its own forms, deliver better audits and to easily update its mainframe in real time. However, WHG was always keen to explore the potential to achieve more.
Having seen the significant benefits available through these first stages of investment, WHG realised the advantages of developing the system further by adding additional modules through managed services, including:
- Doorstep appointments;
- Stock condition surveys;
- Pre- & post-assessments;
- Voids management;
- Van-stock replenishment.
After just a few months of going down the managed services route, Aareon had deployed all the modules that WHG wanted. Additionally, they had been fully integrated with WHG’s back-office mainframe. Aareon’s managed services are now used by many of the 250 operatives who maintain WHG’s stock of over 21,000 homes.
Nigel Harris, director of home maintenance services, WHG, said, “The initial phases of our technology investment had been very successful. Our repairs processes are now more efficient and there are significant savings too, such as no longer having to pay £70,000 to generate gas or electrical certificates or using the existing Contractor module, which saved us a further £50,000.
“From this very positive experience, we could see the efficiency and customer benefits of adding further modules. The doorstep appointments module lets us make follow-on appointments while still with tenants in their homes. With the pre- and post-inspections module, operatives no longer need to take photographs and then return to the office because this is now done on site before moving straight on to the next property, having already created a schedule of works. The voids module enables us to become much more cost-effective and efficient, and the van-stock management module reduces materials’ wastage and saves time.”
An increase in demand for managed services might also spur the development of other apps and solutions specifically designed for the housing sector. With this in mind, housing providers such as WHG may well be in the vanguard of where the housing sector is ultimately heading. In time, this will lead to a host of new best practices, standards and KPIs. The best news, though, is that it’s likely to mean even better services for housing providers’ tenants and extra resources for those most in need.
This article is an extract from a forthcoming supplement from Aareon UK and Housing Technology on managed services in housing; please email email@example.com if you like a copy of the supplement.
Tim Birkett is the professional services manager for digital solutions at Aareon UK.