Wednesday, 27 July 2016

SAP does not sell Sanctuary

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It's not often that implementation of a new housing system is cited in reasons for not doing a mega-merger, but that's what I noticed in the following article about Sanctuary and Housing 21

The article mentioned the following snippet:

I have heard the phrase "No one ever got fired for choosing SAP", very few people hang around long enough traditionally to see it go live. Clearly there is some way to go for the Real Estate Management module, to unseat Northgate PS Housing, at Sanctuary. With what might have already been spent on it, plus future spend clearly Housing21 must have considered better uses for that investment. I.E. Lots more supported housing. I have procured many systems for large groups, for way less than a couple of £m.

I see many of my LinkedIn contacts have moved on quite a lot with their SAP skills, over the past three years, from Social Housing clearly into areas that pay much better, since the original award . A skilled ICT team with SAP ABAP and other skills, is an expensive one, and difficult to keep, feed and water. Skilled SAP people who can endure 45 degree heat in the middle east, can earn up to £2,500 per day tax free. The alternative being a potentially expensive contract to completely support the implementation, from a large expert provider. 

Many public sector & government contracts have turned into proverbial poker games in the past. It feels easier chucking more money into the pot, rather than doing maybe the more sensible thing, of walking away from the table before the losses are too apparent.

Back getting on for 4 years ago, I chaired a session at a conference on the subject, "Is the traditional Housing Management System dead?". We explored the staleness and difficulty in implementing traditional systems and the hope that SAP and Dynamics CRM seemed to offer, to two of their users.At the time, SAP was touted as being big in the Netherlands social housing systems arena, after deregulation there. Vestia one of the biggest providers in Holland have had mixed fortunes, more recently.

Well it all seems to look a bit different looking back, hind-sight being a fabulous thing. Many of the old 'favourites' seem to have been improving what they do and still winning new HMS procurement's, particularly in larger RSL groups. There's been some thinking out of the box and a few more alliances & consolidations struck. Reasonable deals are available, if not rock bottom bargains in my experience.

Even in Holland which was held up as a stronghold of SAP in socialhousing, I have heard stories that there, many organisations are turning back to traditional vertical market housing applications. Certainly, now that budget belts are tightening in the UK, perhaps choosing SAP for housing data management was maybe not the best decision in hindsight, particularly if it's affecting mergers now too. 

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The Cult - She Sells SanctuaryThe Cult - She Sells Sanctuary.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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  1. Hi Tony
    Thanks for writing this blog post. I think you may have been slightly misled about our systems though. I wonder if you would like to come in and meet with our Director of Technology who can talk you through what we are doing?
    Kate Reynolds
    Group Head of PR and Communications
    Sanctuary Group

  2. Hi Kate, yes I would be pleased to take up that opportunity. Its always interesting to see alternative approaches within the sector and your pioneer work with SAP, is sure to be an interesting story.

    Please get in touch and let me have some possible dates, that might be suitable.

    Best regards,

  3. Hello!
    Thank you for sharing this interesting information about SAP Sanctuary and Housing system, it's good analysis of the problem.

  4. Hi Tony,
    Just curious if you ever took the opportunity to meet with Mr Heslop, Sanctuary's Director of Communications regarding their SAP implementation. If so, it would interesting to see how you found this. Apparently the implementation has had several issues, most notably there is a recent reeview on Glassdoor commenting on their poor IT systems under the title "Nice staff but it may SAP the life out of you." - link here in case you're interested

  5. Hi, an interesting read indeed, from what sounds like a (ex-)manager inside. Thanks for sharing! Feel free to DM me direct via Gmail, Twitter or LinkedIn. Obviously some of those comments might seriously worry any larger socialhousing groups, thinking of or implementing big ERP for #UKhousing

    I did indeed take up the offer for a chat about the organisations take, on how well OneSanctuary was working, with Keven Hislop and Kate Reynolds of PR, who had set it up. There was a bit too much good news on the day for me TBH. After all, big change prospects are stressful activities.

    There were some fundamental issues highlighted on the Glassdoor post, which any standard HMS solutions, have had no trouble fulfilling for the last 20 years.
    When I help housing groups procure, we iron this out at early ITT or demo stages. If it gets this far down the line on a project, they should be getting a decent technical witness in or similar specialist, to assess recompense. I have had experience of that.

    Inefficiency like that must be costing a fortune and stressful for staff, managers & residents, if believed. If Kevin needs one, I can put him in touch with a really good technical witness I can recommend.

    After all I must pass Worcester at least once every other week, going down the M5, it would be interesting if I got an invite in to meet with some coalface users and managers, to see if it's really as described here. The 'social media manager' who replied on Glassdoor, gave me the impression, clearly it's not all champagne & roses, otherwise there might have been a more measured response.