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Over the last few months I have completed two interesting pieces of work looking into how Common Housing Registers (CHR) were working. Both were in two large geographic areas, one mostly rural, one mixed, one in England and the other in Scotland.
One utilised Abritas, which has become something of a default go-to application software for Common Allocation Policies (CAP)and enterprises of this nature. The second used the Lettings module of a popular Housing Management System, which was in use at the largest partner. In looking at the system and IT elements, both actually worked reasonably well, so no big shakes there. I have seen the latter approach a few times, done with Northgate and Orchard, with good results after a reasonable degree of bespoke set up and configuration had been completed.
Of course in many of these CAP projects, one of the biggest elements of the project is not IT at all, it's getting all partners to compromise and agree on letter formats & pointing/banding regimes. I have seen that take two or more years historically and I am aware of one City area in Scotland where with that aspect taking such a long time, the biggest partner just went it alone. As you would I guess with that level of frustration.
The two I looked at had been successfully in use for a year or more and starting to produce great statistics, around homelessness for P1E and other KPI returns. In both I spent time with some of the smaller partners to collect their views and had sessions with the managers responsible for ensuring a good relationship with the wider partners.
The interesting thing that I noticed was that external partners in both projects were hungry for greater autonomy from the centre. Both were eager to have greater control of submitting their own adverts for voids, also of some basic admin functions. After all these were their voids, and often their applicants looking for housing or to downsize etc.
On the first point, I found it interesting that staff controlling the void adverts and how they were posting on to the CHR took so much pride in them. So much in fact that they found it hard to trust the partners to hit what they regarded as the 'Right Quality' threshold.
On the second in both cases, the controlling partner seemed to create work for themselves, in order that no-one 'messed-up'. Rather than training the secondary partners up and letting them take responsibility, which would assist all, that paternal attitude persisted. Sometimes as parents we do need to let our offspring make mistakes and let them learn from it.
To better devolve both of these areas to the partners and then monitor the results, would let them fly or crash & burn. They would potentially provide greater autonomy and work could be reduced at the centre. If it could be proven to not work, (i.e. void ads are so poor they expanded void times, reporting suffered etc..), the current practice could be easily reverted to, for partners proven to not have the skills, staff or wherewithal to fly. The discussion could then be put to bed once and fall all and everyone move on.
In my mind it would prefer to see users take responsibility for their own data, processes and systems and understand the consequences of them and their wider staff, not getting things right.
Related Post: How secure is your data? Whats life like in the hacked lane?
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Buzzcocks - Autonomy.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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