Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Good Technology

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK

How good and modern need our databases and systems be in our HMS solution? Well, many a great journey can be had in an old Moggy Minor. Watch out to pull out the choke to start it and remember to push it in once the engines warmed up. Just be satisfied with 4 gears too. Using some older systems can feel a bit like that too. There are plenty of old CTX, Saffron and other old green screen stuff still out there and much of it generally does the job.
Older solutions were designed for a different century in many cases (the 20th) and to meet modern demands, need some adaptation around the edges. Often screens and additional data fields can be bolted on. Although many do not properly relate to main screens or in fact store data correctly. Rather than tightly data typed, a more ‘stringly’ approach used to be the way. Even recording the strands of diversity or successions correctly can often be a challenge.

Older solutions can often have moved on at the database level, but still use a sometimes dated ‘common’ user interface. Compared with a modern, all-windows solution, it’s easy for individuals in a demo to quickly mark it down. The reverse can happen. A great GUI skin on an old database or schema can often sell itself over a really elegant design with a tired GUI. Well there is no justice for some suppliers I guess. If you suspect you are looking at a brand new skin, probe it to make sure it covers all the solution. Once you are implementing it you might find that less prominent modules, such as Planned Maintenance or Service Charges may be waiting in the wings for sometime, for the re-write.

I was chatting with some people recently implementing a new housing system. They were complaining about the type & costs of database the HMS sits on, the (lack of a) schema provided and reporting difficulties. These are all areas that I find essential to probe deeply when looking for a new system. These are key things and certainly should not be left to worry about until you have already paid for a quarter of it and putting it in.

Database licence costs are another element that can form an enormous proportion of costs. Legacy databases such as U2, Progress etc always used to clock up some hefty licence costs. SQL Server used to be the vastly cheaper option. Even this now needs to come under scrutiny since Microsoft’s recent announced price hike. Each user, hopefully concurrent, will be clocking up a licence cost. A merger or change to a group structure can be expensive when a system is rolled out into every corner of the organisation.

Sometimes, organisations do chuck the solution out with the dishwater. One new housing group I am aware of after investing over 6 years of effort into a perfectly stable, but workmanlike HMS are moving to a shinier one used by a smaller member of the group, where little effort has been made to get the most from it. So, another 2-4 years of effort will be needed and already some of the shortcomings are being revealed. My point is that sometimes if the system delivers all you need, maybe that’s enough. If you get your reports, interfaces with adequate mobile and internet links etc, great support and helpdesk, maybe that’s good enough.  

Make sure you have a great reason to be hankering after ‘good technology’, consider the costs and risks. More important still, make sure you understand what problems it will solve and where your ROI will come from. If you are having trouble nailing that, be sure to seek some independent advice.

Read on to: Brass In Pocket

The Red Guitars had the measure of Good Technology.



(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk

File Under: 360,1stTouch,4Js,Aareon,Academy,ActiveH,Alignment,ALMO,Anite,Apex,ArchHouse,Archouse,asbestos,Asprey e-state pro,Asset Management,Aurora,Average IT Costs,BO,BPR,Browser Applications,Business Objects,Business Process Review,Business social networking,Castle,CBL,Cedar Open Accounts,Change,Cheaper Housing IT,Chics,
CHR,Citrix,Civica,Clearview,CMS Template,COA,Coactiva,Codeman,Comino,Competitive Dialogue process,complex IT procurements,Component Accounting,Consilium,Consolidation,Consultancy,Consultant,Contact Manager,Context, MD , Director , Housing software, UK, United Kingdom,
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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Computer Blue(s)

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK

It’s shaping up to be a rainy and expensive month for housing associations and housing groups as Microsoft have decided that these organisations no longer qualify as charity, for licensing purposes, unless at least 10% of income comes from donations. Now I haven’t seen a technical definition of ‘donation’, although I can guess which one might be appropriate.

This moves housing associations and groups into the public sector licensing agreement and for most a price hike of an eye watering 400% to the PSA12 framework. Changes take place in September, although already budgets will have been revised to take this incredible hit into account. A mad rush to buy cheap licences will surely take place for the next few weeks.

Microsoft said in a statement: “Microsoft's new discount frameworks recognise the increasing importance of the UK’s 70,000 social enterprises in driving public services. The new frameworks for social enterprises complement the discounts and free options already available to 174,000 UK charities, as well as public sector organisations and public sector mutual’s.

“Charitable organisations and social enterprises looking to buy new technologies from Microsoft will be entitled to different levels of discount depending on their levels of voluntary contribution or how they generate their revenue, if applicable.".

Microsoft will also be increasing private sector prices by at least 25% too this month, in order to “harmonise prices and licensing terms across Europe”. This is a major part of its world portfolio and as many others have said, it risks alienating some of Microsoft’s best customers.

So what are the alternatives? Many of the base components are out there, but how well would the mainstream HMS (Housing Management System) providers interface to OpenOffice or some of the other open source alternatives? Some food for thought here http://www.junauza.com/2010/06/10-best-free-alternatives-to-microsoft.html 

We may not particularly like Microsoft, but housing has got quite hooked on its Office Suites, server software and other applications. Now we are all going to pay for it. Too late now to consider what else you could have bought. From now on, we all need to have every option on the table. Stretching software for longer, missing upgrades for example might help in delaying the pain.

There is still the CTX programme. See http://www.ctxchange.org/ . This would help many of the smaller organisations and even the community library project, which I am involved with in South Warrington, Cheshire. But you have to be a true charity. Even after an admin fee, savings of 92-96% on retail prices are claimed.

With these additional strains on budgets, many will be tempted to approach their bigger HMS and infrastructure suppliers for some annual savings. It’s certainly worth a try, particularly when you size up the cost of a new system compared with your existing annual maintenance. With 10 or more years of RPI adding compound interest every annum, you may be re-buying your system every 3 years. Come to think of it, that Microsoft price hike may not be that large after all......

The only thing for sure, cash spent on this will be just a little more having to be diverted from neighbourhoods, residents and front line services.

Read on to : Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger..

Prince. Now would he have put up with this?...




(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk

File Under: 360,1stTouch,4Js,Aareon,Academy,ActiveH,Alignment,ALMO,Anite,Apex,ArchHouse,Archouse,asbestos,Asprey e-state pro,Asset Management,Aurora,Average IT Costs,BO,BPR,Browser Applications,Business Objects,Business Process Review,Business social networking,Castle,CBL,Cedar Open Accounts,Change,Cheaper Housing IT,Chics,
CHR,Citrix,Civica,Clearview,CMS Template,COA,Coactiva,Codeman,Comino,Competitive Dialogue process,complex IT procurements,Component Accounting,Consilium,Consolidation,Consultancy,Consultant,Contact Manager,Context, MD , Director , Housing software, UK, United Kingdom,
Contractor Systems,CORE,CorVu,Cost Reductions,Covalent,CRM,Crystal Reports,CTI,CTX,Customer Relationship Management,Deeplake,Development Systems,Document Management,Documotive,ECMK,EDRMS,England, English,EnterpriseBI,ERP Systems,Finance,Financial Systems,Getting best from,Grasp,Grip,hardware,HG,Housemark survey,Housing Blueprint,Housing Group,Impact Response,implementations,In House,In4,Infoflow,Information Technology,Informix,inHouse,in-house workforce, HousingIT, Innovation,Inside Housing,Internet Portal,Invu,Ireland,Irish,IT Budget,IT Training,iWorld,Keylogic,Keystone,Kirona,Kypera,management reporting,Measuring Change,Mebus,Miracle,MISCS, mobile functionality,Monopoly board images and pictures, Montal,MS Dynamics,MS Dynamics CRM2011,Neighbourhoods and Communities,Northgate,Notice,NROSH,OA,OGC Buying Solutions,Ohms,OJEU  Limits,OmFax,Omniledger,Open source software,open tender,OpenHousing,Opti-Time,Oracle,Orchard,Outsource and outsourcing,Paloma,performance management systems,PfH,Pick,PIMMS,pimms4communities,Planned maintenance,Plus,PM,Progress,Promaster,Proval,Pyramid, QL,QLX,Registered Providers,Registered Social Landlord,Rent Increase Freezes,Repairfinder,Reporting,Reports,ROCC, Rocket,RPs,RSL,Saffron,SAP,Scots, Scottish,Scotland,SDM,sector,Server Virtualisation,servicing, Servitor,Servitor,Sharepoint,Simdel,Simdell,Slash and Burn,Social Media,Software,SQL Open Housing,SQL Reporting Services,SQL reporting services,SQL Server,Star rating,Stores and Stock,Strategic Asset Management,Sunguard ,Surveys,Sx3,System alignment, Systemwise, Factorwise, Blockwise, Block wise, Task,Terminal Services,Three Star,Today,Total repairs,Tribal,Twitter,U2,UniClass Enterprise,Unidata,Universal Housing,Universe,Unrest,Van Stock,Voice and data,Wales,Welsh,Windows Server,Workflow and tasking,Xmbrace,XML, 07854-655009 , 07854655009 , 07854 655009 , "07854 655009" , tonysmith , thathousing , thathousingit , thathousingITguy, guy