An office move last year saw the start of a more agile way of working for MHS Homes’ staff, with new mobile technology added to support the initiative. After we reduced our office space from three floors to two by introducing hot-desking, our ICT team enabled flexible working practices through the introduction of mobile devices and software upgrades. It also included the development of a new intranet, provided by Interact, which staff can access from any location.
The new technology allows staff who normally divide their time between the office and other locations to spend more time in the community. This increased their efficiency, streamlined services and allowed staff to deliver better customer service. The staff members benefited from access to key software outside the office environment for the first time.
Since the office move in June 2014, our ICT team has provided Nokia Lumia smartphones, with both wi-fi and 3G connectivity, to 20 grounds maintenance and caretaking staff, replacing the basic, calls-only phones they had before. We hope to replicate the success of these devices with our repairs operatives over the next year or so. The surveyors in our asset management team can now use Dell Venue 11 tablets to complete technical surveys on site, and access detailed information about properties on the go. The tablets were specifically chosen for their compatibility with our Keystone asset management database, and reduce the need for surveyors to return to the office between jobs.
Sheltered scheme support officers were given Lenovo laptops so that they can remotely access MHS Homes’ servers using Citrix Access Gateway. Enabled with both wi-fi and 4G connectivity, these allow our 11 support officers to spend more time in the housing schemes and to access a range of software previously only accessible in the office.
20 board members have also benefited from new software, with BoardPad installed on all of their iPads. This paperless technology allows board papers to be uploaded directly onto the app, and as the data is hosted externally, it reduces the risk of contents being lost in case of a problem with our servers or if the iPad was stolen.
Our 2015-18 strategic plan highlights the need to make best use of technology to achieve our objective of delivering great services. Over the next three years, we are investing in more digital services to help prepare tenants for universal credit, to bring our services into the community, and to ensure that resources are invested into areas which add most value to tenants. As part of this, we will develop our digital portal to allow tenants to access all of our main services and self-serve 24/7, including the introduction of online repairs appointment booking.
When it comes to office processes, the next 12-18 months will see investments into EDM systems and P2P processes to streamline services, reduce paper use and make financial efficiencies. Over the next year, we expect to expand the use of tablets to our wider asset management team as well as housing and income officers.
We aim to implement a device which meets the needs of all three roles and provides both great technology and continuity of service, allowing the tablets to be interchangeable between teams where necessary. This also reduces the amount of paper in circulation which further streamlines processes and reduces the costs of high paper and printing use. This will benefit around 40 staff in addition to those already embracing mobile technology. By the end of the 2015-18 strategic plan, the majority of staff members will have benefited from mobile technology.
Nick Hadley is head of ICT at MHS Homes.