Monday, 13 May 2013

Best In The (Housing) World

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While doing some work at one of my customers the other day, during a spot of downtime I had a look at the Housing Technology IT Supplier Review 2013. I don’t know if you caught this, if you are in Housing IT I am sure George Grant emailed you to let you know it had been completed.

Two results that made me smile were the areas where my old shop MIS-AMS came top of the pile; CRM and Asset Management. In some ways I was not surprised as that's two modules and application areas I know like the back of my hand. Also I had a lot of involvement in the design, implementation and customer facing aspects of getting those two modules right. They are pretty good to be sure (as I recall two of the Irish customers telling us), but seriously are they that much better than specialist offerings?

MIS-AMS ActiveH comes out way better than Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Surely is that not cream of the crop, supported by one of the world’s leading desktop software authors? MS Dynamics CRM did score highly on value for money, but then surely it should be, due to volume discounts and the like. So did the respondents skew the results? Strangely I had this conversation with an old colleague at another housing management systems supplier later in the week. I didn’t think so.

The differences boil down in my opinion to that old chestnut integration and look and feel. Adding Dynamics CRM or maybe Civica’s Contact Manager to a vertical market set of modules, such as a HMS provides training and significant integration issues. Out of the box costs are quite low, plumbing it all together is where resource, frustration and compromises slip in. So I am not surprised that bespoke CRM integrations score currently below out of the box CRM with all its links with Rents, Repairs, ASB, Web Portal, Planned Maintenance, Service Charges, Care, Development and Financial modules. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has come a long way from its original ‘bag of integration tools’ approach of a few years ago, but for most I don’t think it’s quite there yet.

Asset management is another mystery area. How on earth can a generic asset management module from the smallest player in this sector score higher than a specialist module such as Keystone, built by a team of ex-surveyors around housing needs? If I were Keystone I would be a bit worried. If I were Promaster or PIMSS I would be calling a working party to ask why on earth that might be.

If you are an ICT manager reading this or an Asset Manager, you can probably guess why the responses looked like they did. What are your day to day difficulties with your modules in place? It’s probably lack of or inconsistent integration, maybe a silo style approach which does not bring the main organisation into the orbit of asset management. Visibility counts for a lot when your housing officers are on the scheme and cannot answer basic asset orientated queries. Off-shore islands of data held in a separate asset management system (some even in a foreign database that has difficulty talking to your main ones) are not conducive to efficiency.

Opportunities to integrate well with voids, planned works, response repairs both ways are laborious, unreliable and often just abandoned for just that reason. I would guess from experience that Keystone is the best integrated of the respondents, hence it’s up there near the top. The Capita (old IBS) module deserves to be up there too. Obviously with Capita or MIS-AMS ActiveH, integration consists of setting the right parameters and code tables, not calling in the plumbers!

No-one should take any of the above as an endorsement (...other HMS & bolt on modules are available, all trademarks acknowledged etc..). The choice is always down to organisation needs. Just because it works in one RSL does not guarantee it will work in yours.

If you have a badly performing Assets or CRM module, get in touch, you know where to find me!

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Dr Feelgood - Best In The World.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 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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1 comment:

  1. I thought I would respond to your post as Goldcrest Solutions Ltd have implemented MSCRM to 10+ Social Housing Organisations and therefore have a good deal of experience in the highs and lows of implementing MSCRM. I think CRM's biggest weakness is also its biggest strength - flexibility! When we first implemented CRM into a HA we developed everything from the ground up and it was at times exasperating for both us and the customer however after a shaky start we now have a plethora of housing solutions and integrations to most HMS which make implementations far more streamlined and more of an OOTB experience. However if a Housing Association decides to go it alone or involve a partner with no Housing experience then there will invariably be issues.