There seems no end of articles on impending mergers, within the socialhousing press. Some have spectacularly crashed & burned, while others are rolling on. While mergers all seem to propose that efficiencies will be realised and tenants/customers better served, this is always a difficult nut to crack.
Having this year had the pleasure of working with one new housing group, very close to me in the North West, I can see that it can be done. Torus Group for one, have now procured the right nut cracking ICT environment, for the task ahead. If you are at HOMES next month at London Olympia, do come to my session elaborating on the journey with them.
Groups typically will have multiple directorates initially, and often multiple board structures. Clearly there is a need for accountability in each strand or owning body in a group and multiple boards continue what has probably worked well before. Anyone with a keen interest in a lot of these merged entities, (forgive my geekiness, please dear reader!), will have noticed the current trend of 'flattening' of structures going on.
Together Group and Your Housing, are just two which spring to mind, although others are occurring. While mergers are the thing that hits the headlines, particularly larger ones, the collapsing of boards has created some fault lines, in a number of housing groups. I have been working on a couple of projects where de-merger, has actually become the order of the day.
Often multiple boards gave smaller group members, a greater degree of, or the semblance of autonomy. Collapsing of structures is putting a spotlight on what this might mean. In particular, some organisations are clearly looking at if they will still have the local community links, that might have been promised, or enshrined in their agreements to merge in the first place. Bigger, people are realising sometimes, is not always better.
A bit like when a personal relationship has been jogging along fine for years, then suddenly some life event occurs, that forces a re-think like "What on earth are we doing here, where is this ultimately going?". I would bet we have all been there.
Obviously, these changes generally need the authority or rubber stamping of the HCA/Regulator. One big aspect is how data is transferred, between organisations smoothly. Also the removal or archive of 'group data' once the entity has left.
Recent in-depth assessments (IDAs) have put the spotlight on this aspect of due-diligence. It was mentioned at one of the HCA chaired NHF sessions, I was at in Birmingham last month. All merger/de-mergers must be aware of this, it's something that will no doubt trip many organisations up.
Being a bit of a veteran of many mergers and transfers of stock over the years, while being involved personally with migrations into systems at places like Accord, Spectrum, Orbit, Bromford Group and others, I am aware of the complexity of what is required. Modern housing, finance and EDRMS systems, are not always designed in the best fashion, to support fast accurate data migrations. So if you are merging or de-merging, do recognise the time it might take to complete this complex and sometimes elaborate task, even if source & target systems are from the same system providers.
I will be sharing my experiences in a second blog, later this month, to help organisations on the path to merger/de-merger. Of course, you can also as ever, contact me for some personalised advice too if needed!
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Albert King - Breaking up someone's home.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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