At MRI Software, we have been exploring how the fundamental process of managing housing stock could be improved for teams and how we can assist housing providers around the incoming regulatory need for transparency.
Our latest solution, Service Charges, combines the expertise of the heritage brands that make up MRI Social Housing with the best of MRI Software technology. The past year has been spent examining the service charges offering of these heritage brands and assessing the capabilities that we have available, as well as what we feel we should be offering the sector.
Why is Service Charges a priority?
After extensive consultation with our clients around their expectations and hopes for a system, it was established that the right way forward was to build a new solution that would incorporate all the functions they relied upon in the heritage products. For many of our clients, this was an opportunity to review the data that they hold in disparate systems and to think about implementing something new.
Through this process of consultation, it became apparent that there was a real opportunity within the social housing sector for a strong standalone service charges solution. The main driver for our clients was developing a system that would integrate seamlessly with their housing and finance management systems.
Following our clients’ feedback, housing providers can expect the functionality of the Service Charges solution to include elements, such as:
- Data migration from selected modules
- Expenses and structures that can mirror other systems and integrate with them
- Or, for providers whose structure includes more than housing, expenses that can be managed as standalone items
Core principles of the Service Charges product
Alongside the primary goal of delivering an integrated product, one objective of the solution is to eliminate swathes of manual processing that might be prone to human error. To support use, Service Charges will be an easily configurable system with an intuitive user interface, developed to be accessible and simple to use.
Importantly, workflow in the solution is organised to drive users to the most pressing actions, preparing teams for the day. Ease of use is one of the core principles shared across our systems and in aligning their styles, our aim is to deliver a consistent experience for users of multiple MRI solutions.
The ability to report well
How a housing provider spends its income and service charge payments is going to come under increased scrutiny in the near future. The Charter for Social Housing made clear that “service charges should be transparent and communicated effectively, and that there should be a route to challenge or redress if things go wrong.”
Consultation with social housing residents by the government mirrored our own research around the belief from residents that service charges can be unclear. This can lead to a lack of clarity as to how residents’ money is spent, whether they receive the services they are charged for and whether the prices are reasonable. This, in turn can fundamentally damage trust in an organisation. Our Service Charges solution allows housing providers to drill into the detail of their service charges and evidence where they are being spent.
Built with the sector, for the sector
In our workshops with clients, we have tested the delivery of the solution in phases, asking them whether we’ve got right, if any key functionality has been missed and what the order of priority should be for the building of product features. Our approach in building our solutions is to work with individual providers and tailor implementations to their needs.
And it doesn’t stop there. These consultations will continue as the system progresses to ensure that the solution is continually improving and that we’re building the solution that the sector deserves.
Phase one: initial release
Phase one of the Service Charges solution is planned for delivery across the last quarter of 2021. The initial release will include a plethora of functionalities, including the ability to manage payments and arrears, to apportion and approve estimates and to report.
From December 2021, implementations will begin with existing users of our Housing Enterprise solution.
Phase two: additional functionality
From 2022, the solution will move forward in an agile way, delivering regular releases. We will be growing our user groups and actively seeking our clients to feed input into the product’s roadmap. The solutions will be further enhanced through integration with existing products and additional features, such as managing meter readings and resident enquiries.
Our hope for the solution
Service charges are a core element of providing housing. At their best, service charges systems within an organisation provide efficiency, transparency, assist decision making and ensure no elements are unaccounted for. Through our Service Charges solution, we are looking to drive technological innovation in the sector that can support teams in building thriving communities and sustainable tenancies.
The launch of our Service Charges solution has already piqued the interest of housing providers and is due to launch soon with our pilot partners. If you’re interested in how the system could support your own processes, please get in contact with your particular timescales and personal implementation needs at email@example.com, so that we can make sure that we are able to accommodate you with your Service Charges journey.