Saturday, 26 April 2014

Interzone

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


Last week was one when I picked up on a new litmus test for how well customer services was working. I have heard it said that, "tidy desks generally equate to tidy minds", (although that might have just been some neatniks hanging around me). Well I have got to say, in the realm of the customer service centre, I am sold on tidy = good system integration.

So let me explain. This week I saw some CSC staff with post-its on their desks, cabinets, post-its hanging from screens, with messages, stuff to remember, to check, changes to apply, three deep in one case. Files for looking up stuff, sheets with lists etc. A bit like that red wine stain from June's retirement do, after a few days, it's just part of the patina and you just get used to it.

However from an outsider like me, it's a red rag to a bull. It's also a major obstacle to customer service. The Post-its are just one removed from having to commit those things to memory, instead staff need to commit to memory that they need to scan the right Post-its.

Have a walk down to look at your customer service team, lean on the window cill at the back and take a long good look mid-morning, while enjoying a brew.  If your staff have built an interzone of notes, files or other references, and are spending time checking them on each call, it should be ringing bells with you. Equally, I have seen a slightly more savvy version of the post-its held electronically on a HTML page. Now that's only 15% better in my book. At least you can hit Ctrl-F on that one.

I would guess that your staff may spend about 1/6th of their time checking those Post-It's (and fixing things they missed, dealing with queries generated downstream in Repairs/Rents too). For an average medium CSC of 12+ staff, introduction of an intelligent scripting application, such as Omfax would pay for itself in about a year. One member of staff freed up to create/manage scripts and one to add value elsewhere.

Now, is it worth you checking if your organisation CSC has an interzone now?

You can join me to pick up more Customer Journey Insights, next Tuesday 29th April at InMotion2014 at my Round Table at 11.30am - Best of Breed OR Single Supplier Systems. What’s Best For The Customer Journey? More info at inmotion-forum.com/inmotion-2014/round-table . I will have Owen Barrett from Newport City Homes, who has build his systems around Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Mark Howells from Sanctuary Housing Group, challenging the HMS status Quo by moving to SAP. Its going to be an interesting session. If you are at the event, please stop me, say hello and tell me what you make of the blog!

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/ It would be great to connect !

Joy Division - Interzone.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Staple It Together

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

Three or four weeks ago I was at a large housing group in Lancashire, NW England, doing some work. They used Keystone for asset management, one of the better third party options out there, based on how I see RSLs using it at many sites I have worked with.

One thing that did throw me was that they had not integrated Keystone with their core housing management system. Now as readers of this blog are well aware, I rarely name names here, but it was a popular well known HMS, who have dallied with a few third party asset management applications over the years, and recently acquired one. Other users I know have successfully integrated, so why not?

Well, it just seemed to be way down the priority list. A great shame in my opinion, as combined contact and property (well 'asset' really) intelligence available for all, to me is the holy grail. manually linking with UDC's, workflow or other third party methods can be a bit removed, and rely on too much user intervention. Why spend mega-bucks on software when we need users to remember to update or remove a user defined characteristic? Just remind me what century we are in again......

Now here we are talking about two applications that can be easily plumbed in together. I don't have a problem with best of breed solutions, if they integrate well, for me that's 2/3's of my boxes ticked. How would that work if we had four best of breed applications to gel together? Or maybe a whole new type of solution being applied to the housing environment? How well could a private sector ERP solution meet housing needs?

Housing for some time has been regarded by software suppliers as a 'vertical market'. What is meant by this, is that the sector is so specialist that only 'specialist suppliers' could write software to meet that sectors needs. Over the last ten years, the various core vendors, of which there were about 30 or so, have been distilled into just 8. The smaller ones are nudging into the medium to large RSL zone, customers are looking for innovation. No doubt about it, some suppliers have become complacent in recent years, over promising and under delivering. Others are trying harder than ever before for customers. Good for them and housing in general.



ERP solution providers are now eyeing up housing as the next new market for them. SAP for instance, can credibly provide asset management modules to support part of Heathrow Airport, the more switched on HMS suppliers are all watching cautiously if you can pull off the Sanctuary gig on time. These are very interesting times.

Changes to systems in housing organisations can take a long time, even when selected solutions are already moulded to housing. Please do not take that as a criticism, this can be a sector that moves cautiously.  Adapting ERP systems to housing is certainly possible, similar to being able to strike matches on cucumbers. Both totally feasible given enough money, time and staff chucked at it. Maybe we can expect faster future ERP implementations, once a few pioneers have beaten a path to tread.

This is why when David Todd of Xmbrace, cracking chap, asked me to be involved with a panel about established solutions vs ERP and building home-grown solutions with MS Dynamics CRM, I jumped at the chance. We will be exploring the current landscape with Mark Howells from Sanctuary and Owen Barrett of Newport City Homes respectively at InMotion 2014 at Gaydon 29th April 2014. More details at http://inmotion-forum.com/inmotion-2014/ If you are going, feel free to get in touch with questions and queries. Great to meet readers of this blog at the event as always.


You can link with me on LinkedIn here - uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/ It would be great to connect !

Jack Johnson - Staple It Together.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Flicking Your Switch

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


Thank you those two contacts who reminded me it was a year ago this month, our benefit changes started and the bedroom tax subsidy came into being. I was obviously too busy celebrating with two litres of 'White Lightening' and a budget Aldi 'Sunday Roast' for one to knock out my blog, on that last week. 

Seriously though, I and every RSL & RP out there, (well all the ones I work with, I can 100% be definitely sure of...) are still working with what facts they have. While IDS is storing 115% on his Universal Credit belief-o-meter, facts are still pretty thin on the ground unfortunately. This is still as far as I can see, hampering everyone. Housing Associations cannot plan and organise, HMS software providers have little to specify with. So frankly, its actually a bit of a mess on the ground, from where I am looking.

One bright-spot on the Universal Credit horizon, to address benefit paid direct, to citizens who many are ill-equipped to cope sensibly with it, is Switchback. The process of allowing tenants to switch back to having HB paid direct to their landlord / RSL provider, if they are getting into difficulty, specifically racking up rent arrears.

Now I say bright-spot, even this does not appear to have been well thought through. If your organisation just works in a discrete region, you just have one set of criteria to satisfy. If you are a housing group, many I work with span 20+ local authorities, life has got pretty complex on this one. bad news if you are a Sanctuary, Bromford or YourHousing.



Here's the current details, no-doubt subject to change and development....
  • Southern England, (but not London) - Tenant has eight weeks arrears
  • London - Can be switched after 8 weeks in arrears, after 4 weeks receive support from Rents officer. Placed on a ‘probationary’ category  and monitored and help with managing finances.  If tenant pays rent for 2 months they will receive direct payment again.
  • West Midlands - After 12 weeks of arrears
  • Wales - Tenant underpays by 15 per cent over 12 weeks
  • Northern England - Tenant has eight weeks of arrears, Tenant makes no payment for eight weeks, Tenant underpays by 15 per cent over 12 weeks
  • Scotland - Tenant has not paid before 25th of the following month
Early adopers have also encountered delays when applications have been made, when systems become paper based inside the DWP. More on that here - http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/nhf-calls-for-overhaul-of-universal-credit-payment-rules/7001881.article where my local ALMO Golden Gates, has already encountered difficulties.

 As I have mentioned, the nature of this being obscure, mean that to date to my knowledge, only one of the main HMS suppliers, have incorporated these rules neatly, into their next release. A major advantage for their cross-region housing customers. So if you are not on OpenHousing, these rules need to be embedded in processes or workflow elsewhere.

Are your IT or Better Business team looking into this? Worth flagging up if you aren't.
The wise will keep a careful weather eye on it, as with all of Universal Credit, this is a movable feast.

The early local authority adopters are quickly finding the limitations of the poorly specified and delivered Universal Credit systems. This week (11th April 2014), new welfare claimants in Shotton, near me in North Wales, discovered problems in the system, to replace existing benefit strands. The Welsh Government in particular are finding they are wrestling with UC at every turn http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/welfare-reform-will-cost-wales-almost-%C2%A31bn-a-year/7003165.article

Universal credit sure isn't going to go away, but it isn't coming in fast, particularly not too fit for purpose yet either. Tread carefully social housing brothers & sisters....

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/ It would be great to connect !

Read on to, Universal Credit:
http://tonysmiththathousingitguy.blogspot.com/2012/09/universal-credit.html


Ladytron - Flicking Your Switch.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

File Under: 360,1stTouch,4Js. 07854-655009 , 07854655009 , 07854 655009 ," ""07854 655009"" ",07854-655009,#UKHousing,1st Touch,3squared, Acutence,Aareon,Academy,ActiveH,Alignment,ALMO,Anite,Apex,ArchHouse,Archouse,asbestos,Asprey e-state pro,Asset Management,Aurora,Average IT Costs,App,Associates,ACL,Abritas,AMS,AX,aspireview, BO,BPR,Browser Applications,Business Objects,Business Process Review,Business social networking, Blockwise, Block wise,BI,BancTec,BluTek,Bluebox, Castle,CBL,Cedar Open Accounts,Cx,Change,Cheaper Housing IT,Chics, CHR,Citrix,Civica,Clearview,CMS , CCS IT Keystone CCSIT, Contractor Systems,CORE,CorVu,Cost Reductions,Covalent,CRM,Crystal Reports,CTI,CTX,Customer Relationship Management,Cashflow, COA,Coactiva,Codeman,Comino,Competitive Dialogue process,complex IT procurements,Component Accounting,Consilium,Consolidation,Consultancy,Consultant,Contact Manager,Context,CIH,Chartered Institute Of Housing,Cadcorp,Cerrus Saturn,convergeOne,CACI,CPL Director, Deeplake,Development Systems,Document Management,Documotive,datasystems , Microsoft dynamics GP 2013 ECMK,EDRMS,England, English,EnterpriseBI,ERP Systems,ERP,Elmhurst,Estatecraft,EDM,ESRI,Exponential-e, Finance,Financial Systems,Financials, Factorwise,Facebook ,Fusion, Getting best from,gotonysmith, Grasp,Grip,GeoSolveIT,GIS,GGP, HouSys,Housing software,HG,Housemark survey,Housing Blueprint,Housing Group,hotpixuk, HousingIT,hotpix,Hardware,Hitex,Housing Contact Company, Housings Best Kept Secret, HousingsBestKeptSecret, Housing'sBestKeptSecret, Housings'BestKeptSecret, ImpactResponse, Impact Response,implementations,In House,In4,InMotion, InMotion2014, InMotion2015, InMotion2016 , Exhibition, conference, Infoflow,Information Technology,Informix,inHouse,in-house workforce, Innovation,Inside Housing,Internet Portal,Invu,Ireland,Irish,IT Budget,IT Training,iWorld, Innovation Group Apex,ITIL, In4Systems Promaster,IT,Insight, Keylogic,Keystone,Kirona,Kypera,Keyfax, Ledgers,Linkedin,Locality,Liquid Voice, MD ,Mr Void , MrVoid, Measuring Change,Mebus,Miracle,MISCS, mobile functionality,Monopoly board images and pictures, Montal,MS Dynamics,MS Dynamics CRM2011,Miracle Software,Management Reporting,MI,M3,MIS,MIS-AMS,Mobysoft, Northgate Codeman,Neighbourhoods and Communities, Northgate,Notice,NROSH,NINTEX , NINTEX workflow,Nintexworkflow, OA,OGC Buying Solutions,Ohms,OJEU Limits,OmFax,Omniledger,Open source software,open tender,OpenHousing,Opti-Time,Oracle,Orchard,Outsource and outsourcing,OpenContractor,ORS,OneServe, PIMMS Data Systems, Paloma,performance management systems,PfH,Pick,PIMMS,pimms4communities,Planned maintenance,People Value,Plus,Peoplevalue,PM,Progress,Promaster,Proval,Pyramid,PRINCE2,prince,Pamwin, QL,QLX,Quiss,Qlikview, Registered Providers,Registered Social Landlord,Rent Increase Freezes,Repairfinder,Reporting,Reports,ROCC , Rocket,RPs,RSL,Reality,ReAct,reidmark,RM865, Saffron,SAP,Scots, Scottish,Scotland,SDM,sector,Server Virtualisation,servicing, 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,SM,Sequoa,Serros,SP,Scout,score,Swordfish,Serengeti,SOTI,south view,Sunguard,Service Charges,Southview, Template,Task,Terminal Services, tonys , tonysm , tonysmi , tonysmith, tonysmithth, tonysmiththa, tonysmiththat, tonysmiththath, tonysmiththatho, tonysmiththathou, tonysmiththathous, tonysmiththathousi, tonysmiththathousin, tonysmiththathousing, tonysmiththathousingg, tonysmiththathousinguy, sharepoint, share point Three Star,Today,Total repairs,Tribal,Twitter,U2, tonysmith , tonysmiththat , thathousing , thathousingIT , thathousingITguy ,TED,Tagish Casework,TP Tracker,Telecetera,Tagra,Trace, UniClass Enterprise,Unidata,Universal Housing,Universalcredit, universal credit, universal credits,UC,Universe,Unrest, UK, United Kingdom ,Ukhousing,UK Housing, Van Stock,Voice and data,Vantage Sentinel,Version One,Visualmetrics,Voluntas, Wales,Welsh,Windows Server,Workflow and tasking,Wheatley, Xmbrace,XML ,XenApp,Xen App

Friday, 4 April 2014

Love Travel (on the customer journey)

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


Repairs, repairs. repairs.. such a lot of repairs action these last few weeks. I don't know if its increased arrears fears with it being the anniversary of the (spare) bedroom (subsidy) tax and fears of more caps to come, that is putting the (white LED) spotlight on repairs. But I do seem to be looking into a lot of repairs for my customers.

A lot of questions you might recognise go into the mix. Better diagnosis or broader originally, performance of internal workforce/contracted major contractor, improved interfaces/bulk invoicing, lastly the most important, when its recognised, improving the 'Customer Journey'.   

Do you recognise the real meaning of 'The Customer Journey'? More pointedly, how often do you have all parts in that long chain, in one room to share experiences, tackle challenges and make improvements quickly? Each Tuesday morning I attend a meeting with one of my larger customers in the West Midlands managing over 18,000 homes. Its only an hour, but because we have a full chain from Customer services, scripting, assets, repairs, dispatcher, an IT chap and trade operative (An excellent 'Plumber' since you ask, don't DM me for foreigners(!). I do my best to not miss any of these. I would even make a special journey to go to it, for the hour, if I was not working for the whole day there.

Most weeks we solve or change something. although everyone has their corner/team to look after, we don't get upset when a mirror is held up to reflect something we can improve. More importantly we dig down to seek the real cause of our issues and usually by the meeting following, someone can report some improvement or a nugget of greater insight.   

The few people at other RSL's I have talked with about this approach have all, surprisingly for me, found this remarkable. Doing it so often, or even achieving it at all. If you are not doing this regularly in your organisation, in my opinion you are missing a trick. Consistently good customer service is the cornerstone of great service delivery and achieving best value for money.

Failures when we log our customer requests and problems on the doorstep can be so useful to us. Bring them on, bring them to us and get the journey members in a room to solve them. Discuss, solve, improve brothers and sisters, you know it makes sense.

------

If you are free later this month 30th April 2014 (in London) or 22nd May 2014 (in Manchester) and looking to better tackle your repairs reporting and improve your service, read more here about the one day workshops, with the Rod Laird people http://www.rodlaird.co.uk/default.asp?page=1466
Places are booking up fast. I will be exploring what to measure, how to maintain accuracy, what can go wrong and how your IT systems can help (not hinder) with your task. 

Also, a big shout out to everyone who said hello at the Stoke road-show event this week, great to see some old friends again, hopefully it wont be long until I see you at a free bar or buffet again soon. You know who you are Simon 8 - )


You can link with me on LinkedIn here - uk.linkedin.com/pub/tony-smith-bsc-hons-acih/a/979/351/ It would be great to connect !

Read on to, cutting your waste:
http://tonysmiththathousingitguy.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-waste.html

Danko Jones - Love Travel.


(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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