Catalyst Housing has embarked on a major IT transformation programme with Orchard and Mosaic Island. The agile delivery methodology underpinning the project is working well, with several key milestones already achieved between April and June this year.
Like many housing providers, Catalyst found themselves with a myriad of applications and business processes accumulated over the years. As a result, tasks became more and more cumbersome to execute, management information slow to assemble and the applications difficult and costly to maintain.
Catalyst selected the Orchard housing management system as the platform on which to consolidate a number of legacy applications. A transformation programme called Diamond was established to migrate users and processes onto Orchard, allowing the legacy systems to be decommissioned as new features and functionality are released.
In order to get the most from its investment, Catalyst enlisted Mosaic Island, a specialist in information systems design, to assess the current architecture and recommend a delivery methodology. Using business capability modelling, Mosaic Island mapped the key business processes and produced a target architecture, a high-level programme plan and a risk analysis.
Mosaic Island led the programme at Catalyst’s head office and established a proven agile delivery methodology. This connected the business user’s needs with the technical implementation team and provided complete transparency and visibility to stakeholders while engaging Catalyst’s in-house IT delivery team.
The key ingredients of the agile methodology are daily ‘stand ups’ (15 mins max), designated product owners from the business, clearly-articulated user stories and prioritised backlogs of work. The programme was divided into two-week sprints, at the end of which tangible results could be shown to stakeholders to ensure that the delivery team was on the right track. Even Catalyst’s CEO, Rod Cahill, would occasionally attend the morning stand up meeting which gave him good visibility of progress and provided motivation for the delivery team.
Piece by piece, the Orchard platform was configured to meet Catalyst’s business needs. The first release in April 2013 provided search capabilities across the extensive volume of data that had been migrated into Orchard from several legacy systems. It also included document management to associate scanned documents with the related tenant data. A training programme designed by the in-house Catalyst team was rolled out and around 200 staff could then access tenant files electronically.
The second release in June 2013, covering rent accounting and arrears, provided business-critical functionality for core financial processes. This consolidated four different arrears processes across different regions into just one for the whole business.
The third release later in June saw the addition of functionality for ASB handling and a basic CRM dashboard. The Orchard platform was also integrated with the call-centre telephony system to allow incoming callers’ records to automatically pop up onto agents’ desktops.
The programme continues and some of the imminent milestones are improved CRM, voids and allocations, repairs, and bulk SMS/email messaging. By the middle of 2014, a number of legacy systems will also have been decommissioned.
Kevin Nichols, CIO, Catalyst Housing, said, “Catalyst now has a solid platform on which to grow our business in years to come. What’s most impressive is how quickly the business embraced and adapted to change and created the opportunity for continued success.”