Housing management systems (HMS) solve a lot of problems for housing providers; if you want to improve customer service and asset management, an integrated approach drives efficiencies and makes you a better landlord.
Unfortunately, enterprise solutions come with a few inherent problems. For many housing providers, they’re just too expensive, and any return on investment from increased productivity and reduced costs takes a long time to materialise. They’re also static, one-size-fits-all closed solutions with very few opportunities to localise them for your specific requirements or to innovate in a changing market.
Then there is the digital transformation challenge. Housing providers have huge volumes of data that need to be migrated from their legacy systems to an enterprise solution; that’s not an easy job and is also a barrier to embracing cloud computing for many.
Of course, there are many housing providers and local authorities that are getting benefits from their HMS, but if you’re looking for an alternative, what are your options?
Three alternatives to HMS…
Let me propose three options which can deliver an integrated solution with a single view that gives you all the benefits (and more) of an enterprise HMS.
As you might expect from a low-code platform developer like us, these all use low-code as an affordable and flexible way to improve customer service, raise productivity, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
1. Use low-code to join up the dots
Instead of getting rid of your existing enterprise software such as housing, document and asset management systems, appointments, subcontractor repairs systems and so on, join them up with low-code.
An application can be built quickly and affordably in low-code that provides a single view so that staff don’t have to search multiple systems to get a comprehensive view of the customer. This can be modern, attractive, easy-to-use, and contain exactly the functionality your organisation requires in the language they use.
We’ve developed this low-code platform for the London Borough of Camden. With a live repairs call-centre interface and landlord’s system that reflects how the organisation operates, it brings all the small pieces together in real-time. As a result, repairs are prioritised more effectively, call-times reduced and customer satisfaction levels have increased; repairs are done right the first time.
We’ve also helped Camden develop a low-code application for their housing application forms and a billing solution, all integrating existing systems to optimise workflows and improve customer service.
2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM and plug the gaps with low-code
Many housing providers are moving or thinking of moving to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. I think it’s a great platform and a good alternative to an HMS, and really puts the customer at the heart of operations. However, one piece is missing from Dynamics CRM and that’s how to manage income, such as rents and service charges. A low-code application can solve that problem and integrate this specialist functionality with a cloud solution like Dynamics CRM.
This option provides housing providers with a customer-centric PaaS solution with a low-code plugin that gives them the big picture. As with the option (above) of using low-code applications to join all the dots, there’s plenty of scope for innovation with an open API, therefore delivering more value for money from your existing systems or solutions such as Dynamics CRM.
3. Build an HMS in low-code
With the right low-code platform, it’s feasible, even with large volumes of data, to build something as big as an HMS in low-code – I’ve done it!
However, there are risks with any self-build/DIY project. But since low-code requires minimal coding, has a ‘drag and drop’ toolkit, and quality and security are built in, the risks are controllable. In-house teams, with standard IT skillsets, can rapidly prototype and deploy applications, reducing costs and giving them full control over their systems.
There are different approaches for everyone and that’s one of the key benefits of low-code; its flexibility and openness. You can go all in, use a hybrid model, or just build software to optimise your existing systems with less risk and lower costs.
Low-code platforms also include tools for mobile working, forms, workflow, case management and customer portals, which is why we’re seeing a lot of digital teams in the housing sector using it to enable digital transformation.
It’s important to note that low-code also empowers housing providers to take control of their IT solutions. Applications can be developed by in-house teams, by people who have an in-depth understanding of existing systems, operations and the challenges faced by staff within the organisation. This generally delivers much better localised solutions than a one-size-fits-all enterprise housing management system.
Gareth Edwards is managing director of Rapid Information Systems.