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In 2020, hybrid solutions for the Social Housing sector are en-vogue, like almost never before. For some reason, many social landlords are turning away from the traditional Integrated Housing Management Systems and looking to swap out components, modules or considering binning whole elements.
Large organisations, such as Orbit and Clarion are looking to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 365 as the future spine of their systems, rather than the old fashioned and often lagging HMS. I come across many much smaller ones too, dipping in a toe into Dynamics CRM. Some clearly of the smaller ones have scoped projects less well and I have come across a few that have become unstuck, for various reasons, or suffer an ever inflating budget galloping away from them. At least one HMS provider is already borrowing some leopards spots, by calling their offering an ERP, not a HMS. (might fool some )
Personally, I don’t regard COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) solutions or the hybrid route, inherently good or bad. As ever its horses for courses. First know what problem the organisation wants to solve, your expected budget and what’s your appetite for risk. This is no different actually for procuring any software solution(s). That last risk element probably deserves a follow up blog, all on its own to be honest!
Microsoft Dynamics is by no means the only direction to go in to achieve CRM/ERP. SAP and SalesForce are often considered outside the social housing sector. Sanctuary Housing did at one point look like the door that SAP would come through to sell successfully into the sector. Resellers soon discovered that deep pockets were more rare across UK Social Housing, or appetite for expensive ABAP developers, than anyone had assumed at its Baden-Württemberg HQ.
SalesForce is a slightly different ERP/CRM platform animal. Not least because SalesForce has tiered licensing, providing a very economic platform for charities and authorised non-profits. I first blogged about this in 2017, when encountering an application built by Housing Link. In contrast to alternatives, so much comes with the platform, simplifying delivery. A very mature quality, authorised eco-system of third party tools/features are available, delivered under almost an app store format. Almost plug and play, this eliminates a lot of the knotty issues seen where add-ons need to be relied on, within other ERP platforms used as core solutions.
In my earlier blog, I opined that some software supplier could strike gold building an ERP/CRM to properly support Housing. Interestingly too, in the last month I have read a lot of speculation that Google might hoover up Salesforce very soon.
The news that landlord Riverside Group, who manage over 55k homes, is well on its way to completing a bespoke ERP development in Salesforce, might open the door to others, looking for credible alternatives. Riverside did a careful evaluation of platform capabilities and relative costs, before selection. A mix of internal ICT and experienced Salesforce reseller, seems to have worked well for them. A lot of traditional HMS components have been retained as yet, although I would expect more to be taken over by the platform, as time goes on.
Housing does seem to be looking to cloud platforms that offer an additional functional environment. I can’t help thinking that this disadvantages AWS & pure hoster’s, missing these elements. Thomas Kurian of Google buying SalesForce, immediately has an application to help sell more of its cloud-space offering to millions of more users. Lets hope if that comes to fruition, SalesForce.org keeps its charity licensing ethic!
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Saint Jude – Rivers and stream.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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