Studies have shown that up to two hours per day can be saved by eliminating paperwork and streamlining workflows, along with cutting out unproductive travel. It’s therefore no surprise that many housing providers are trying to automate the traditionally spreadsheet-intensive task of service charge processing. Typically, monitoring payment cycles, updating tenants and collecting charges are all managed via multiple Excel documents used right across the business.
Most housing providers have complex property portfolios, comprising diverse property types and different ownership models. For each property, multiple different service charges need to be apportioned, from roof repairs and garden maintenance to structural work and gutter clearing. In addition, tenant payment cycles vary, with some paying annually, others quarterly and some spreading out their payments monthly.
There may then be further complexities introduced through mergers and acquisitions. Historical legal decisions can define how service charges can be managed and charged for, demanding different approaches for differing parts of the portfolio.
As a result, the manual management of service charges is prone to inaccuracies and human error, not to mention being hugely time-consuming, inflexible and draining on resources.
For example, with a portfolio of over 42,000 properties and over £16 million in service charge costs to collect, Orbit was struggling to cope. Its service charge process was done using Excel spreadsheets, which was hugely resource-intensive, as well as the spreadsheets themselves taking ages to load, save changes or liable to simply crash altogether.
Solutions too confined to customise
In a bid to solve this problem, some housing providers buy ‘specialist’ or ‘off the shelf’ software that claim to make life easier by automating the process. However, these systems are often too rigid to cope with the large number of above-mentioned variables. The result? An expensive investment confined to its programming and difficult to customise, so customers are unable to save time, money or achieve their expected business benefits.
Increase efficiency and reduce risk
Orbit chose a bespoke service charge solution that was hosted on Microsoft Azure and built from the ground up based on its own exact requirements. With a dramatic improvement in reliability, it gave Orbit greater confidence in its business decision-making, aided by its rapid adoption by Orbit’s staff through its intuitive interfaces and integration with Excel.
A bespoke service charge solution such as this, which is based on your exact requirements, can help housing providers prepare for the next wave of technology and future-proof their systems.
Giles Horwood is the managing director of Simpson Associates.