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Last week I was reading the July 2017 edition of Housing Technology magazine.
Interestingly it had articles that extolled the go-live virtues of HMS packaged solutions (4 supplier success stories) and also big ERP (1) at Sanctuary Housing. Strangely, on page four there was also a success story, from a 12,000 home landlord who had gone it alone, DIY just like the old days, how we used to do it.
It was very interesting to read Lawrence Gardner’s article and to hear about the journey he has taken the Wrekin on, for the last five years. I am sure it can feel quite good to have broken free from the shackles of your software suppliers and can dedicate resource to the specific issues being encountered, rather than waiting for ‘Roadmap Enhancements’ to be delivered. Lawrence did not outline what software tools, over just five years it had been developed in, with just 11.5 man years. Clearly Telford rather than Hanoi or Bangalore, is where certain key HMS software providers, should be cutting their code.
My experience of developing a rich HMS solution at my old shop, between 2004-2008, was about 26 professional developers beavering away for about 4 years. That’s 104 person years in Microsoft VB6 technology. We might assume the Wrekin have not developed this in .net. Few clues here then, for any of the UK’s 300+ RSLs/RPs, to pick over, to replicate this themselves. The Wrekin have got previous form on the product front however, if anyone remembers the Hand-e-work solution. Possibly speculating, ‘Hand-e-Housing’ may be released in the coming months. Watch this space.
However, I have had lots of chats over the years with many clients, who have wanted to consider building a HMS from scratch. They often ask, “How difficult can it be?”, “It’s just people and properties isn’t it?”. I have also had that conversation with one client who had their own in-house housing system up until about 7 years ago and after having a (mainstream HMS) package for a while, were considering building one again.
I asked, “Why did you abandon your last in-house HMS then?”. The reply was that it fell behind with needs of the housing team, regulator, returns/KPIs and was poorly documented, so vulnerable to key staff leaving/retiring too. They clearly did not have 104 person years to chuck at it either, so it would have been a pretty basic solution, at best. Understandably, a (sensible) decision was made to select another packaged HMS.
There are alternatives out there as well as DIY, MS Dynamics CRM, ERP from a number of sources, as well as the usual packaged HMS solutions. Each come with their own risks, costs and anticipated richness of functionality. That latter deliverable is perhaps easier to evaluate with a package solution, less so on a project involving much faith and trust, based on high hopes and often extravagant sales promises.
When you are using an external software supplier, at least (as some RSLs & Housing Groups) are finding, you can always dig out the contract and with some assistance, take them to/threaten a trip to court for damages. Bear in mind it would be very hard to do that with your own ICT team, if they didn’t manage such a good job of the deliverables, as the Wrekin.
Related Post: Dont leave documenting your in-house ICT solutions, it soon could be too late!
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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