The world of Housing Management Systems in the year 2020.
There is a great deal of noise at the moment in the world of housing management software for the social housing sector in the UK. This makes life difficult for those landlords looking to change their core housing systems, to enter the underworld of systems procurement, to select what should be an investment of between five to ten years.
It is difficult in some ways, but surely choice is a positive thing, right? Well, you would think so wouldn’t you, but let’s think again.
Some years ago, not too far back in all honesty, it was indeed simpler. You would really only have about five to seven ‘Housing Management System’ suppliers to choose from. Throughout the years, some of these ranged from very good, to downright awful. The very good could end up being poorly implemented, and a complete waste of time. Sometimes they could actually do what they said on the tin, work! I heard someone say once that it was a ‘lottery’.
Those who know me know I have seen a fair share of systems across many landlords, and with many of these suppliers. I have witnessed abject failure to address the demands of the customer, the landlord, and I have also seen landlords not do their bit assuming the supplier will just press that magic install button for it all to be remedied. It can be just as much the landlord that needs to hold up the guilty hand in the classroom.
I have seen promises of 6-month installations, for them to end up in the years.
I have also seen promises of ‘all-in’ costs being proposed and ‘capped pricing’ both ending up broken promises.
Here’s the galling part. This still happens. It is happening now!
We do see some good projects and suppliers getting it right, but in honesty, the scales tip on the side of the negative experiences for most landlords. There are current suppliers struggling to implement systems with costs spiralling and also timelines constantly being extended.
So, you take this state of play, and you add a few more ingredients to the pot and you get the perfect storm of confusion. Or perhaps not, but we will cover that later.
What are these extra ingredients?
You have some trends developing over recent years of ‘build your own’ systems with a range of development methods.
You get the ‘part build’ options from existing tools such as Microsoft Dynamics 365. ‘Dynamics 365 is a set of ‘intelligent’ business applications that helps you run your ‘entire’ business and deliver ‘greater’ results through predictive, AI-driven insights.’. That is the Microsoft description. It is a set of applications that form part of Microsoft’s product line. It is extremely popular and, in our opinion, very powerful as a toolset.
I have put the words Intelligent, entire and greater in quotes as they are what the real challenge is. You want ‘intelligence’ built into any application, that is a given, but what we in social housing need to fathom is how this is applied to the entire business or at least the core functionalities you would look to address. If you then want greater results through AI and Data driven insights, then this is ideal as we believe Power BI as the best solution out there. However, you don’t need to deploy a whole Dynamics solution to implement this latter part. You can, and we have designed, and implemented, a Power BI dashboard that works with other databases and systems from the suppliers we mentioned at the start.
So, you have Dynamics as an option, but there are risks and some rewards. It’s your choice but be careful as it can be very costly and again time consuming. It is also not mature yet within the sector, but is that really a problem, or just a mindset.
Let’s leave Dynamics for a bit and look at the options such as the ERP systems that exist such as SAP. I’m not a fan, I have to be honest. They have been tried and tested and have in the main not been well received. This isn’t to say that you can’t make it work, but you have to be of a larger size and have a well-stocked budget.
But hold on, there is a new option on the block. We at DtL Creative witnessed an announcement from a company during our recent online unconventional convention, the UnCon. It was revealed that they are developing a new housing management system that is built with a different mindset and will be priced differently than others. So, even within the subspace of Housing Management Systems there are new options.
So, you can see that the options are wide and varied. One of the tricks in identifying what you want is to see through the noise, work out what you need for sure, but also work out what you can afford, what you can deal with internally as far as change, skills and resource is concerned, but perhaps what you can also stomach. Some don’t like change, we see that. Some are willing to change but not to listen, some are consumed with the prettiness of a system and the promises of sales teams, but slow down, think. What do you really want?
Once you understand what you want in considerable detail, work out who is best to deliver, procure properly and professionally, build your team, seek help and so on. This is all just the beginning.
Or is it?
Look out for the follow up article on ‘Best of Breed’ as an option.