Michael Newey is group chief executive of Broadland Housing Association which provides 4500 homes across Norfolk and Suffolk, and recently acquired training and employment services charity Meridian East.
I joined Broadland as chief executive in 2003. The IT infrastructure I inherited was rather chaotic with a diverse mixture of hardware, operating systems and applications so our first objective was to simplify and consolidate our IT systems.
Reducing our administrative burden is becoming increasingly difficult as regulations seem to be constantly changing and ever more challenging. With a small IT department to support over 100 users and more than 20 remote sites, our main concern was to deliver a system that not only met BHA’s own needs, including our regulatory requirements, but also those of our tenants.
In partnership with Reidmark we designed and built RSL Manager, the first e-business management system for the housing sector. Both organisations made significant investments to create one business application that manages the entire business operation, covering tenancy management, HR and finance through to asset management and CRM. It includes workflow-driven systems bringing tenants, neighbourhoods, property management, finances and employees together in one application using accessible technologies.
The system concentrates on the tenants, making them the focus of the business, rather than managing the organisation via housing numbers or units. This has led to increased knowledge management as tenant management and decision making makes use of better access to business-critical data and reduces the need for the same information to be re-keyed into the system multiple times.
RSL Manager uses browser-based technology to deliver business-critical information to the right people at the right time, all within a monitored environment. This means from the initial tenant contact, there is a single chain of information and actions within one system environment shared throughout the business. It is accessible at any time from anywhere with an internet connection. The result has been outstanding improvements in operational efficiency, tenant satisfaction and cost control.
The software can be hosted onsite or offsite in a managed environment, with the latter providing risk management and data security and reducing the need for in-house IT support teams.
The system’s functionality is split into clearly-defined areas for user profile-based access to different parts of the system:
Customer relationship management including tenancies, arrears, anti-social behaviour, contact management, vulnerability assessments and home visits;
Asset management including repairs and maintenance, fault locator, contractors’ portal, voids and surveys;
HR management including company intranet, workflow, employee self-service, vacancies and recruitment;
Business management including finance and accounts, suppliers, KPIs and performance monitoring/reporting, and document management.
The return on our investment has been very good. Administrative time has been greatly reduced, particularly for the tenant services teams, with a corresponding increase in tenant satisfaction. Business intelligence, knowledge management and reporting have all improved, resulting in better senior-level decision-making, a wider understanding of service delivery, and a clearer, consolidated view of the organisation.
And it doesn’t stop there. We are working with Reidmark to develop enhancements to the tenants online and asset management modules, and planning the integration of training and employment services into the system.