Tuesday, 7 September 2021

(1st) Touch (has gone)

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

Many mobile working solutions within Social Housing, have often been linked by a quite extreme umbilical cord, to its founders. 

Examples include Microsurveys that was linked only to Codeman, Total Mobile forms that was very linked to the other TM product stack, there was that strange thing created to link with Orchard way back (South View?), OpenMobile, Footprint?, plus does anyone remember ‘Wrekin Hand-e-work’? Apologies if anyone has experienced any unpleasant flashbacks there!

Its been a long tortuous road no doubt. But isn’t that the case when tech is settling down? You know, from GPRS to 3G, to 4G, 5G to goodness knows where?

One solution that was (for a long time anyway) pretty independent, managed a good sized footprint in Social Housing. 1st Touch, emerging from the uni-campus blocks in Southampton, it was free to be sold into all kinds of situations. Examples include with ROCC, Accuserv and other products for contractor applications, as well as with Aareon social housing products, the organisation who finally bought them out.

I was involved with quite meaty projects involving 1st Touch myself over the last six years and even suffered a three day (of my life I will never get back), training course to design forms and workflow. Which I have to be fair, was extremely flexible. With sufficient imagination and experience of Javascript, HTML, advice avec Roy Ménage à trois, you could achieve most things. A great little product, praise where its due.

Once Aareon purchased 1st Touch, they looked to have improved integrations into QLX Housing (or ERP as I often hear it described these days), and I know a number of recent satisfied customers. Unfortunately, as with any product purchase/buyout it often polarises competitors, who may decide to change tack, from past alliances. Early QLX adopters clearly encountered some challenges from what I have seen. Although as I would suggest to any of my customers looking to be application/software early adopters, as in those wild west cowboy films, pioneers generally suffer/die with arrows in their backs. If any of my clients wish to die that way, I do regard it as my duty to warn them first of the risk element.

The recent surprise with 1st Touch, is the newly announced end of life after October 2022, apparently due to MS Silverlight being used extensively in the forms designer. I remember a procurement in 2015 where Silverlight was identified and a forms designer rewrite was due by 2017. A rewrite like so many others on roadmaps, that never occurred. So much for software supplier roadmaps.

Of course, if the forms designer (Management Studio) requires no internal tweaking of forms, it no longer runs and Silverlight, no longer a significant vulnerability. Bear that in mind if you have 1st Touch now.

I have more than one current client, to who this poses a problem and are predictably cracking on with considering alternatives. A future migration product has been proposed, ‘Versaa’ (also a brand of Fitbit, although no-one is suggesting a Fitbit sized device will be sufficient for housing management and contractor solutions. So that might be an unfortunate name chosen there..). Versaa on the upside is promised to provide an enhanced workflow designer to be BPMN2 compliant, hopefully providing flowchart drag and drop support. There is a suggested migration path from 1st Touch to Versaa. Where sophisticated integrations and parsing of data is necessary, clearly we are unlikely to be looking at ‘drag & drop’ or ‘low-code’ here.

Software re-writes rarely come cheap, so inevitably some additional costs coming down the line too, for existing customers. Many QLX customers may well also be quite heavily embedded into 1st Touch mobile and its tenant app. Lets hope the replacement is a brand new product as promoted. A bit of tweaking around the edges, should not be a costly repurcase. Lets hope thats not what to expect here.

I have also already been asked by more than one contact, “what alternatives, can we easily drop in here to replace this Tony”?

It’s not an easy question to answer. There are plenty of options with rich form functionality, but the Achilles Heal as ever is integration. That is where complication creeps in.      

Are you an existing 1st Touch customer? What are your plans? Will you be a pioneer or follow later with the ‘Women and Children’ like in the cowboy films later, in the ‘Covered Wagons’? Feel free to get in touch with your thoughts and lets see where we are in October 2022(!). As ever, feel free to get in touch with questions or if looking for help and advice.


Related Post: What other mobile solutions recently changed hands?


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.

Magazine – Touch and GoMagazine – Touch and Go.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009

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