Squared: Carrying out an IT transformation project during lockdown

Squared, a Luton based housing association, embarked on a transformation project to overcome back-office inefficiency issues across the organisation so they can better serve their customers.

In February 2020, after a rigorous review of the market and their current systems, Steve Behan, IT and Finance Director, Squared and his team put together a strong business case as to why they needed to move to a cloud based software suite and implement solutions more suited to their size and capacity as a smaller housing association. They were successful in receiving approval from their board to partner with MRI Software (previously Castleton Technology at the time) to provide the cloud based, housing management solutions they required to fulfill their ambitions.

Squared, felt that MRI’s integrated Housing Management Community solution, was the right solution to improve their back office inefficiencies, streamline their processes, enable remote working and reduce the pressure on their small IT team. They found the Community solution to be great value for money; offering the same level of functionality as a larger housing management system but at a more affordable price.

Another major benefit of the solution for them was the integration with MRI Software’s Housing Finance Professional system, which will allow them to work much more efficiently as planned.

As they began this project, the Coronavirus pandemic led to a national lockdown being imposed in March 2020, so how did this affect Squared’s plans?

Challenges through lockdown

As staff had to work from home, Squared, like many other organisations had to find alternative ways of supporting their tenants where face to face interaction was no longer feasible.

Rob Robinson, IT Manger, Squared commented:

“Challenges for us as a social housing provider during lockdown included: providing support, help and advice across our varied client base. Day to day contact within our single person accommodations had to continue despite shielding and self-isolation though we were able to provide support remotely utilising our technologies. Advice and help with arrears for our clients who were furloughed or had lost their income. Continuing to provide emergency maintenance cover through our own staff and contractors.”

Rob explained that whilst many organisations have struggled to provide uninterrupted service during the lockdown and since due to drain on resources. Most social housing providers will have had strong business continuity plans in place reducing the risks.

Luckily, Squared had made a conscious decision to encourage flexible and agile working and all relevant staff had been provided with laptop and mobile , with the “remote desktop” option also adopted. Most staff already had the ability to work from any location which meant we had an easier transition to home working than other organisations. However, their main housing software was not cloud based and updating, editing, and obtaining data was laborious. The MRI Housing Management Community solution is cloud based and fully remote was one of the key drivers for changing their current systems.

IT project experience throughout lockdown

Squared have managed to successfully continue with the project and have already succeeded in going live with the Housing Management Community and Finance Professional solutions.

The Housing Management Community solution is cloud based, so the implementation was simple and has been successfully carried out during lockdown, over a relatively short timescale. The short project timescale was another key factor in Squared’s decision to go with MRI’s Housing Management Community solution. Squared have also managed to train staff have remotely and feedback has been positive from a user experience so far.

Rob Robinson commented on how the MRI staff have supported Squared to continue with their project implementation during lockdown:

“The team have been extremely supportive, they have provided regular progress updates, provided us with templates for required data (building in easy to use formulae) and the project has remained “on time” throughout. They have delivered remote training for all of our relevant staff, and have also been willing to admit when things haven’t gone well. They have not sought to pass the cost or blame on in these instances and have resolved issues by bringing in subject matter experts where necessary.”

Benefits of the project

Squared believe the Housing Management Community solution will reduce pressure on their small IT team as it is cloud based. They also believe the solution is the only one in the market that is truly developed for smaller housing associations but with the required scalability to support their future growth.

The benefits they are expecting are:

  • Enhanced processes and practises using real time data, driving efficiencies in CRM, property management, planned/unplanned maintenance.
  • Finance function efficiencies, including arrears management, HousingBrixx planning, payment collection, management and executive reporting.
  • Streamlined document management, analytics, scheduling and maintenance, cleaning and gardening staff tracking.
  • Enhancing digital engagement with customers and real-time customer communications, through the use of MRI customer self service solutions.
  • Live, real time data capability to provide the insights and intelligence needed in order to make data driven decisions quickly and clearly.

Next steps – 2021 and beyond!

With their back office and remote working capabilities in place, Squared’s strategy is to now focus on digital engagement and self-service for their tenants, by implementing MRI’s digital, customer self service solutions.

MRI look forward to working with Squared on the next phase of their project and to see their innovative vision come to life with the support of our Social Housing solutions.

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