Neil Jones, head of IS at Newport City Homes, explains how the transfer of Newport City Council’s properties to NCH has required a completely new enterprise-wide technology and telephony infrastructure.
Newport City Homes, one of the largest social landlords in Wales, was established in March 2009 after a stock transfer of around 9100 properties from Newport City Council. A service level agreement was put in place between Newport City Homes and Newport City Council to host the existing computer applications and provide network and desktop services for 12 months.
As we were in the fortunate position of having to bring a new infrastructure into NCH, we wanted to implement the most up-to-date technology to provide a robust platform on which NCH could deliver competitive advantage and efficiency by making the best use of existing data and corporate information.
As the organisation is new and vibrant, I was determined to follow the ethos of the executive team by embedding a customer-centric culture in my new department and ensuring that we are seen as facilitators, rather than blockers, of business change.
My first priorities were to appoint my team, and to specify and implement a new data centre in our new headquarters. There are still a number of positions to be filled within the team, but the majority of them are in place and they are working hard to deal with the various challenges involved in implementing new systems and occupying brand new buildings. The data centre has been specified and built to allow expansion and to have resilience in the form of UPS and generator back-up which will also benefit our emergency contact centre operations. In the interest of carbon efficiency and running costs, we have implemented an APC in-line rack cooling system with hot-aisle containment.
We had a number of other priorities to deal with. These included procuring and implementing a new computer and telephony infrastructure and a new data network. We also needed to replace our existing housing repairs system with one capable of helping us to improve services to our residents and to give us additional functionality to manage our housing stock to comply with the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.
By taking advantage of Microsoft’s pricing for charitable organisations, we decided to use Microsoft technology wherever possible. To this end, we will be going live on our new infrastructure in early November 2009, with Windows 7 as our desktop operating system and Microsoft OCS as our telephone system. We will also be using Microsoft Forefront, Microsoft DPM and the Microsoft SCOM and SCCM management and deployment products.
Dell was chosen as our strategic implementation partner and it has provided our hardware and technical architecture, along with consultation and project management. We have used virtualisation wherever possible and have built-in resilience for the computer and telephone networks which will be extended into true disaster recovery in the next few months.
Our data network was provided by BT and we use a mixture of 100mb LES circuits to our larger district offices and BT Business Broadband to our smaller offices and sheltered accommodation schemes.
Maintenance and repairs
ROCC provided our incumbent housing repairs system, and after a tendering exercise they were picked to provide their latest repair product and to act as primary contractor for a host of additional functionality that NCH will use to streamline our repairs function and improve the quality of the repairs service for residents.
We are currently midway through this project that will eventually see us implementing the ROCC Uniclass repairs system to deal with reactive repairs and planned/cyclical maintenance. Additional tools that will be available to NCH’s staff for the first time include the PIMSS asset management system, Omfax’s Keyfax graphical diagnostics package, Xmbrace’s Opti-Time dynamic scheduling system and a mobile solution from 1st Touch.
Our new OpenAccounts finance system has been successfully implemented and the project to deploy our new OpenPeople HR and payroll system is well underway.
Our IS strategy has been approved, and as we move into 2010 we will be implementing a number of systems that will build on our new infrastructure. In particular, we are already looking at electronic document and record management, service-desk systems, intranet, CRM and planning how to implement our data warehouse. So another busy year to look forward to…
Neil Jones is head of information services at Newport City Homes.