Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Special

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @HousingITguy
or LinkedIn here https://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy


I am sure you like me have often bought goods from eBay or Amazon, when you get strange plugs on them, maybe not for your country/region, or with strange adapters. That’s what happens when products are made and adapted afterwards to use in other ways, situations and places.

Software is much the same.

Great if you are very vanilla in needs and requirements. In that situation, you are likely to have few real gripes. If you are ‘special’, then you might just get quite frustrated with suppliers who refuse to recognise a lot of things they might regard as special, but are just bread and butter to you.

Why would it concern me?

Well anything that concerns my clients, interests and concerns me. Also, having been involved in working for an English software house involved in SocialHousing systems, I have some experience in this area. While different landlords, charities and RP’s in the same country have their quirks, leave England’s green and pleasant land and software has some more specialness to contend with.

Devolved administrations have now control of health, housing and legislation to a certain (or total) degree. This leads to mixed standards, returns and regulations. In Wales or Scotland, to see a system solution default to ‘English Decent Homes’, rather than WDH or the SHQS, is a crime worthy of a small fine. Increase that if you see all three coming up in the solution. Irritating if nothing else. Also, never have an option showing for ‘Right To Buy’ in the solution outside of England. The sensible devolved nations will smile when they remind you it was dropped a few years ago.

Travellers and historians (or maybe just having a passing historical knowledge) of the UK, will know that in Scotland, there is a whole separate and in many ways unique legal system. A job title I have occasionally struggled with over the years, is the ‘Procurator Fiscal’. I have yet to meet one in real life, although different titles and different laws, mean different terminology particularly used in communications. This is a very key difference and I have seen clients change whole systems or create (hated) elaborate workarounds, to get around the issue. Why suppliers are so lax with this I do not understand. In selling to Scotland, most suppliers have to agree and sign a contract conforming to Scottish Law, so you would expect the clue to be right there.

Leave the UK and the specialness gets worse.

Just across the sea from Holyhead or Fishguard and the specialness really starts. While the UK systems of Housing Benefit and Universal Credit work in a very similar way, Social Housing is funded in a particular way in Ireland. Under the differential rent scheme rent paid is directly related to household income and subsidy assists the original build. Worryingly I have seen much rent software exported to Ireland, that fails on this most key of requirements.

Second on the Irish irritation list is address formats. Try fitting a Kerry, Cork or Dublin address & postcode format into a standard UK address control. Its fun, but its rarely right!

Its amazing too how often a change to Country or Region, such as Ireland or Australia can make a big difference in standard functions or date formats. Even more amazing is that sometimes software is deployed to other countries for SocialHousing use and this type of functionality has not always been checked and tested, to operate coherently. Field labels and database column names often irritate too. In some places we have ‘Local Authorities’, in other regions ‘Councils’. Just one example that I have seen anger over in past projects. Suppliers just stating ‘Well that’s just the way it is’, never cuts it.

You would hope that in the new world of SaaS and cloud deployed solutions, most of these problems should start to be designed away. I would hope for that to be the case, but do not rely on it as the silver bullet. Take my advice, always ask where software originated or was designed. It will give you better clues, where to check for possible issues!

If you are a supplier, take some of these thoughts on board. Recognise your customer (& prospect) specialties. Ignore them at your peril !

Related Post: How do you prove your system interventions are truly making a difference
 

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I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

Garbage - SpecialGarbage - Special.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009


Access a quick list of our Social Housing ICT blog posts here

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