Wednesday, 17 March 2021

White Paper Lines

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As anyone in the Social Housing sector interested in asset management or compliance will tell you, the Grenfell Enquiry has provided essential insights, this last year. 

Coupled with the social housing white paper strapline of ‘Keeping residents in social housing safe, listened to, living in good quality homes, and having access to redress when things go wrong’, there are more pressure on Asset Management Teams, than ever before.

In fairness, a lot of asset management teams have been on top of this for some years, albeit with fragmented solutions and system tools available. Spreadsheets or ‘best of breed’ applications were the traditional go-to places to store data. Loose or (frankly in some cases) pitiful integration, often helped make some asset teams quite siloed and detached from the rest of the housing operations.

Some of the better asset management solutions are now getting somewhat long in the tooth, or needing substantial investment to remove Silverlight too, which is unsupported from this year by Microsoft. Much better integration with where the rest of the housing solutions sit, plus a window into self-service, is necessary to engage openly with residents, so they know their RSL/RP has procedures in place and they have evidence they are being followed to keep them safe in their homes. 

Grenfell has put an essential spotlight on FRA’s (Fire Risk Assessments) and resident trust in other compliance. Another area where a separate Asbestos, Fire Risk or Gas Servicing solution could represent a cats cradle of more data silos, some in a browser, others only accessible in the office. Increasingly, to better service and support residents, more or all of this asset data needs to be in a single repository. Where a wide selection of Housing Management system modules are in use with a decent EDRMS, if the quality of asset/compliance offerings is good, it makes sense to consolidate there. Potentially it can be cheaper too, when annual licence & support costs are considered.

In many sites, I think its management inertia that has traditionally put the brakes on considering sorting this out. One site I do work for, every other year, we do an asset reconciliation. There is one figure there from the Fixed Assets ledger, one from HMS, one from the DLO system, one from Assets and one from a compliance team. All differ and the one we go with every time is a managers Excel spreadsheet. On concluding the gathering of the figure each time, I remind them that all of this could be integrated and consolidated in a project of 3-9 months, providing additional efficiencies. Without talking out of turn, I would be adding more value as Critical Friend helping them get it done, than counting the disparate parts every 24 months. As the above demonstrates, many organisations keep old survey data, which is little or no value.

What might be referred to as ‘The Golden Thread’ is often missing from many organisations and their asset strategies. In the tragic event of a serious incident occurring in a block or other asset, how long will it take to bring evidence together, of previous good management? Data commonly can be so dispersed/siloed, it takes days or weeks to determine chronologies or where safety and compliance was at in that location. If it takes longer than a couple of hours, I would say your systems are not adequately supporting this aspect.

In the last few months I have done a lot of work with some Northgate HMS sites, who now have the opportunity to close the loop and bring all the separate elements into a single browser presented and cloud ready solution. Following on from Hackitt, more organisations are discovering the buck stops at them. Even where good practice is in place, there is seldom the conduit in disparate solutions and data stores, to share with residents that accountability and responsibility that is being exercised.

The joined up approach that can be implemented within Northgate Housing, creates many new efficiencies. We have all encountered £2,700 being spent on preparing an essential void and within eighteen months, the assets team rip it out as part of their pre-planned programme and replace it again.

Using standard facilities in the main platform, all the good stuff around customer communications can be coordinated. There’s nothing worse than the asset management solution being a week behind the HMS data, a nightmare for Housing GDPR, but also opportunities for putting contractors and staff in danger. A visit in twos warning should not take up to a week, to be utilised properly within the asset management team. Scheduling and mobile all come into this picture too.

Visualised risks delivered by dashboard

 Visualised risks delivered by dashboard

Being properly plugged into the main HMS, also means that a 360 degrees CRM view, can see asset management activity too. So often the asset silo is a blind spot, which causes frustration for all. Residents frequently chasing queries twice or more and generally too many hand-offs and hand-overs. Done properly, sharing necessary asset and compliance data and certificates in self-service, is a matter of 30 minutes of less than taxing configuration. Its like providing ‘the golden thread’ as a bi-product.

Fire Risk and follow up management

 Fire Risk and follow up management

Being able to connect all your compliance contractors, into a flexible integration platform is another advantage, that cuts out so much of the admin usually required. Consuming data, not PDF’s being rekeyed, is the way forward. One other aspect of integration is plugging into IOT and home automation to protect our assets. Its great to see Northgate customers, such as Wolverhampton Homes prove how problems such as damp can be handled, as well as helping residents better manage energy bills and usage, potentially tackling fuel poverty too.

Northgate NPS Internet Of Things (IOT) monitoring dashboardInternet Of Things (IOT) monitoring dashboard

Keeping all this data in sync and stored in the same database, enables better cross module analysis, such as viability. Say goodbye to importing data once a year to process viability, once set up fill your boots three times a day if you feel like it.

Water Risk management dashboard

Water Risk management dashboard

The point I am making here is that consolidating your data makes life easier, with decent visualisation tools, in addition to making bankable savings. At a time when quite a few asset management solutions are being rewritten, look again at your housing management system. There may be a second option there, like with my examples here with Northgate, that will take you to a better place.

All power to Northgate taking advantage of all the NEC investment from Japan, now rebranding as ‘NEC Software Solutions’, bringing a clear integrated, ready to go, Assets alternative offering. Others would do well to consider a similar approach. 

Read more about 'Smart, Safe and Sustainable Social Housing Solutions' on the NPS site at

Related Post: UAT - Take it serious and take control of it


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - 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.

White Lines - Grandmaster Flash & Melle MelWhite Lines - Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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