Monday, 1 July 2013

I am the greatest

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here
Is your IT team ‘the greatest’ and do you give maximum satisfaction for expenditure per user? What price satisfaction then?

These are some of the things that the annual ‘HouseMark Information, Technology and Communication Benchmarking’ report aims to find out, by taking into account 144 housing organisations.

A little slimmer than previous years, the report suggests that RSL’s spend between £4K-6K on each ICT user, where LSVT’s appeared to mostly spend less. Notoriously, I have always wondered how accurate figures were, as I knew of organisations that deliberately submitted lower costs and others submitted very accurate figures and not surprisingly appeared in the lower quartile (higher cost section) of results.

One surprising conclusion is that costs did not seem to correlate to perceived satisfaction. Spending more on ITC does not appear to guarantee a better user experience or a more reliable system. I am unsure if many finance directors and managers will appreciate that outcome, as general up-time appears to be between 97-100%.

It would have been very useful to compare ICT costs across the six main housing management systems. This is not possible in this year’s report, but might well reflect where they have been used to create staff efficiencies.

A question I have been asked many times over the years, is “How many ICT staff do you think we should have?”. I am pleased to say that my usual finger in the air guess of one FTE (Full Time equivalent) post per 1,000 homes, is still a pretty good baseline. How does that compare for your team? IT staff remain stubbornly expensive at an average of over £41K, with ITC salaries in Yorkshire over £4K higher than in the North West of England. Maybe gods own county is not so frugal after all. 

Consolidation is often thought to reduce IT costs, this report suggests that smaller (perfectly formed) RSLs of under 5,000 homes appeared to perform better and cheaper on average. Of course the provision of many remote offices can push up costs.

Another interesting fact is that having a DLO appears to reduce ICT average costs, as well as saving your organisation 20% on your VATtable repairs.

The report highlights the current  ‘Digital by Default’ agenda as a driver for more web based resident portals and a drive to self service. From what I have seen recently, the drive to move Universal Credit and other current benefits online, is assisting take up of this type of channel shifting. As can be imagined, this reduces the cost of an enquiry or transaction from around £10, down to a mere fraction of that, providing enough customers move to use web portals.

It’s my view that tenants and customers still need a number of reasons to go to the HMS portals provided. This might well point to better integration with social media, local twitter feeds/Facebook/Google+ pages etc, to entice people in. Discount/reward schemes may also be a way to bring people in. A few RSLs to my knowledge have used social media very well in emergency situations, extreme weather, crime, lost children etc.

To help get residents on-line, a trend was identified to move old hardware into schemes that had exceeded its 3 year depreciation as a business tool. Thus the green box can be ticked and costs of disposal deferred or avoided. If your organisation is going down this route, do not overlook support provision, or that this older gear will be more prone to breakdown.

Download the full report for bedtime reading at:$File/HM_ITC_BM_rpt_2013.pdf

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

A House - I Am The greatest.

(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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