Saturday, 28 June 2014

Come Together

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Looking back 10-15 years there seemed to be many more RSLs out there. Much of their stock is still out there, but now they are most likely to be part of a larger group. Some might still retain their individual character and personality, but many are just now branded as their parent group name.

All of those smaller entities will have used their own housing management system and chances are, in a group structure, (many that I know anyway), 3 or 4 different systems, plus 20+ other applications are in use. Even just two RSL's under one groups' roof can mean perhaps an eye-watering annual maintenance bill for IT support and doubled up hardware or hosting.

Apart from obvious savings from merging to a single ERP or HMS, if done well, this can be an excellent project to provide 360 degree CRM, 'One version of the truth' reporting, integrated mobile and common, streamlined processes. The latter, a real requirement for great KPIs that can be measured across all group areas. Summed up in that short paragraph, you might ask, "Well how hard can that be?".

A vision need to be presented to captivate and motivate managers sometimes to see what the journey might be like and the benefits for each strand along the way. It's common for peoples' day job and current issues to anchor them in current problems. This being a barrier to going forward. "Well we get by now don't we, with our IT", is a phrase I had £50 for over the years, I hear it so frequently. Aligning IT with the corporate and board objectives, via a robust gap analysis, is a great way to make people realise how bad their current ICT is. A big migration/consolidation project is an expensive undertaking, but one that will underpin those 5 year objectives and the 10 years beyond that.  

That was the theme of a chat I had with someone at the Manchester CIH Conference this week. We all knew of groups where processes had been really researched and nailed down, such that new joiners could be assimilated very quickly. Also, one where I have done a lot of work, where newbie's almost can pick from a menu, which elements of the head office support & IT structure they will take on signing up. That's all well and good where really good process mapping has taken place. An exercise that can often be accelerated by using an external resource, with good housing and specific system skills.

In some cases 'change' can be very scary for staff. Even after choosing systems, it can be difficult to escape that silo mentality. You know, that 'I prefer my spreadsheet here...' approach. Middle manager & director jobs might be at stake. I have seen managers try to stamp their mark over processes and systems, just to stay in the mix. This might be regardless of if the systems in place could be easily configured to do it better. Outside help here can bring some realism too, issues around this are often not revealed until after go live, when the supplier is asked, "Why are we still doing it this way then?".

Everywhere I go, I am creating change and I realise that at all times, its useful to keep everyone's eye on the big picture, to keep them signed up. One example is CRM. A bit feared if departments are not now going to deal with specialist calls anymore. A: You will deal with the specialist issues, but not all those little chasing calls that really should be answerable by looking in our system. Now isn't that better? The customer support team can be provided with all the intelligent script support they need, so in 85%+ of cases, they solve the tenant/customer issue first time.

Quality of data is another gotcha. I have worked with many organisations where they swore that individual system data could not be merged consistently and accurately. Cross-referencing of data is always a job to do, when moving to a single system, but so is data cleansing. Without this essential element, or help in this area, your new integrated systems will not get the clean fresh start they deserve. Of course, this will help make your data consistent when you come together on one system. In the end everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about....

Read on to: Are your systems really so agile?

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

Primal Scream - Come Together.
(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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