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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