Cambridge City Council has been a client with MRI for over 25 years, and in that time has been supported by MRI Software throughout their tech transformation.
Starting from the earliest Unix solution, which was run via DOS style command prompts, the team at Cambridge City Council now use an integrated social housing management solution, Housing Enterprise (formerly Orchard Housing) alongside Accuserv for Repairs, Asset Management, Income Analytics and the most recent addition is the Digital Self-Service customer portal.
As a council based social housing provider, efficiency and cost effectiveness is key, and being able to provide quality service to customers. It’s therefore important for Cambridge City Council that their housing management system is able to provide powerful management capabilities that streamline their processes and day to day operations.
With around 200 users, the system needs to be powerful enough to handle the amount of daily usage and data storage, and also needs to support hybrid working, as much of the team at Cambridge City Council have adopted more flexible work situations.
Even though the council undergoes a tech evaluation and tender process on a regular basis to explore other solutions on the market, they have always come back to MRI Housing Enterprise.
“MRI has always fitted what the business needed… when we looked at upgrading the entire MRI system, we did go out to tender and again MRI came up trumps.” – Jon Staff, Senior Application Support Engineer, Cambridge City Council.
Having recently begun the process of moving to Housing Enterprise web, the team at Cambridge City Council are excited by the value that this upgrade will bring to the business.
“We are very keen to use Housing Enterprise Web. At the moment we use RDS servers and we don’t have local client installs on laptops. Staff access it via remote desktop services so we’d be able to almost do away with our overheads for the service that manage the RDS infrastructure for Housing Web, and it will be processed lot quicker as well.”
This upgrade includes when live the 360 dashboards feature which is useful for customer service teams, providing a complete panorama of tenancies all in one view. While they expressed some search function improvements, the MRI development team are working with Cambridge City Council to ensure that it meets their needs. Once in play, the potential for improved efficiencies and enhanced customer service is enormous.
“Previously, if you’re in a repair job and you need to find out the personal details of the tenant, you have to go to the person menu and you’ve got screens everywhere. All of that is contained within the one view in Housing Web. So we really like that and we value that feature.”
Digital Self Service
Cambridge City Council implemented a digital self-service customer portal which provides rent and tenancy management capabilities to customers. This is hoped to reduces the number of routine calls to the customer service team, allowing them more time to focus on providing personal service to vulnerable customers or more complex cases.
Customers can use the portal to direct message a customer service representative, set up direct debit payments, print statements, make payments and log repairs, all at a time and place that is most convenient for the customer.
The team at Cambridge City Council conducted a deliberately steady and measured roll-out of the portal. They saw 150 digital registrations in the first month and now five months later, there are 1,600 registrations, which accounts for 20% of their customer base.
The portal has also garnered a lot of engagement from the council’s internal teams, after a roll out of demos across the different departments, including asset, housing, and customer teams.
“I’ve seen a lot of self-serve offerings and I would say, hand on heart, the MRI Portal offering is one of the better ones… It’s not as clunky as other incarnations of portals I’ve seen, and it can be made to be quite user friendly… it does pretty much what it says on the tin and it doesn’t look half bad either.” – Jon Staff, Senior Application Support Engineer, Cambridge City Council.
With the rising cost of living, many social housing providers are seeing an increase in cases of rent arrears within their tenancy portfolios.
At Cambridge City Council, the team use MRI Income Analytics, which for many organisations works as an early prevention method for tenants to falling into serious arrears. The income team at the council work with the module to manage arrears and provide solutions to tenants who are struggling with affordability.
“This was a fairly seamless implementation, and it has produced a lot of value to the business. The income team rely on it a lot when they’re doing their arrears recommendations.” – Jon Staff, Senior Application Support Engineer, Cambridge City Council.
Property and Repairs Management
To manage programmes of work and stock condition surveys for the planned repairs within their portfolio, the team at Cambridge City Council are about to implement MRI Asset Management, which will manage location, HHRS, energy, servicing, asbestos and planned projects.
Previously, the team were using a disparate solution which was in no way integrated with MRI Housing Enterprise, meaning that repairs data was being exported into Microsoft Excel for management. This raised issues around GDPR and fragmented workflows.
However, with MRI Asset Management the team will be able to enjoy full integration within the housing management system, meaning more streamlined operations and improved GDPR compliance in terms of the management of personal information.
For the management of cyclical repair and maintenance work, the team are planning to use the contractor interface. This will remove any need for manual intervention as it will work from live data, meaning the risk of errors is reduced, ensuring an accurate and fully compliant cyclical maintenance process.
For custom reporting, Cambridge City Council rely on Accuserv’s customisable tiled report dashboard, which allows for quick and detailed overviews of the organisation to identify any outstanding issues or tasks from a repairs and maintenance perspective.
For in-depth interrogation of data, the team use BusinessObjects, supplied by MRI which use ‘universes’ built for them by the MRI team, and the IMS Data Warehouse for deep analysis of data.
Over the years, MRI Software and Cambridge City Council have built a strong working relationship which allows for the smooth implementation of solutions, as well as honest feedback and dedicated support.
“On a personal level, every single consultant and every engineer I’ve dealt with at MRI has been brilliant… They’re all very amiable and very quick to help. We would have left MRI years ago if we didn’t think they were up to the level of functionality we needed to keep our organisation meeting business objectives. As an authority, we’re always looking for best value, and we’ve never had an inkling that we’d want to move away.” – Jon Staff, Senior Application Support Engineer, Cambridge City Council.