07th December 2015
East End Homes looks to drive efficiencies
For Registered Social Landlord East End Homes Ltd, the primary focus since its inception in 2005 has been the mission to regenerate some 3,533 properties located on estates across the London borough of Tower Hamlets; a strategy supported by focusing the vast proportion of finances and resources on the delivery of front line services.
With funding cuts set to significantly affect every aspect of front line service delivery, public sector organisations are facing up to the need to impose ever stronger controls over back office processes to drive up efficiency and minimise the impact on the delivery of core objectives.
One key component of this strategy has been the adoption of technology partner Sovereign Business Integration Group (Sovereign) to provide managed IT services, giving East End Homes a known financial commitment year on year.
Critically, in addition to providing day to day support for 85 users of the Orchard housing systems, Sovereign enables East End Homes to leverage its broad expertise and experience to attain strategic planning and drive forward relevant, cost effective and timely IT investment.
Set up as part of the Tower Hamlets Housing Choice programme in 2005, East End Homes Ltd is a community-led Registered Social Landlord with a mission to regenerate its properties and to provide a local housing service which is efficient, gives value for money and meets the needs, priorities and aspirations of all residents.
The organisation currently has 2,105 tenanted homes in management, with a further 1,428 leasehold properties on estates across the borough which stretches from the Isle of Dogs through to Spitalfields on the fringe of the City of London.
Whilst many organisations in the social housing sector are focused on expansion through organic growth and consolidation, East End Homes has a very clear remit.
Peter Gibbs, Finance & Resource Director at East End Homes explains:
‘Our primary objective is to achieve the comprehensive regeneration of our estates and to bring about a sustained improvement in the homes and quality of life for residents.’
The organisation has undertaken a rolling programme of regenerating and refurbishing its property estates and is on target to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard by 31st December 2010. The major part of its estate improvement programmes should then be completed by 2014.
Front Line Focus
As part of the philosophy of the organisation, East End Homes limits the cost and overhead associated with back office processes, preferring to focus on front line service delivery to the residents. As a result, less than 20 of the organisation’s 120 staff are based in the head office near Canary Wharf; the rest are based locally on estates where they are best placed to understand and deliver tenant needs.
As part of this strategy, the organisation decided from day one to outsource the provision of IT services rather than employ an in-house IT Manager.
Peter Gibbs confirms:
‘We make every effort to manage our costs very carefully, and outsourcing our IT allows us to take control of our budgeting and to ensure that every investment is delivering value for money and maximum benefit to the organisation.’
The role of IT service management has been fulfilled by Sovereign since the inception of East End Homes in 2005; and in April 2010, Sovereign’s contract to deliver a fully outsourced IT service was extended again.
In essence, the choice to outsource IT is about reducing risk and ensuring that nothing detracts from the core provision of front line services.
‘Outsourcing the IT services to Sovereign provides a real comfort factor. East End Homes know the financial commitment up front; and we know the systems will be maintained by people who have the technical expertise, resources and background to keep them running. This contrasts to the risks that could be associated if going to the marketplace for an individual member of staff. In a small organisation like ours good IT people are usually hard to find and hard to keep.’
Says Peter Gibbs.
Sovereign delivers both a day to day IT support service and strategic IT consultancy advice.
With Orchard the company supports East End Homes’ 85 users of the Orchard ArcHouse and Open Accounts Financial systems, used for rent and service charge accounting, including the processing of all charges, to receipts and payments from tenants, leaseholders and freeholders, in addition to housing benefits, tenant and leaseholder recharges including maintenance costs – such as caretaking and gardening.
Orchard’s software also provides a record of property maintenance.
Peter Gibbs explains:
‘Sovereign enables East End Homes to operate on the basis that its IT systems are available whenever we need them, basically 24x7. Feedback from users on the quality of Sovereign’s service is extremely positive.
'Customer satisfaction survey results from within East End Homes are consistently high, around 95-96%, and the staff view Sovereign’s technicians as very much part of the East End Homes team. Sovereign is one of the few IT consultancies with extensive experience of delivering and supporting all aspects of our IT systems which allows the company to offer a one-stop-shop that is very cost-effective.’
East End Homes is also leveraging Sovereign’s market experience and expertise to ensure IT plans evolve in line with business requirements. In recent years, the organisation has followed Sovereign’s advice and purchased SAP Business Objects business intelligence software to supplement the reporting offered by the Orchard software products. This has streamlined the reporting process, enabling East End Homes to respond rapidly to the ever escalating information demands of TSA, whilst also providing an excellent platform for in-depth analysis to deliver performance information.
Now the company is considering two key developments: firstly the possible value of adopting virtualisation to consolidate its 11 servers; and secondly whether or not to upgrade Orchard ArcHouse to Orchard Housing over the next 12-18 months. East End Homes has regular meetings with Sovereign both to discuss their current and future plans and to gain an insight into new technologies and their potential relevance to the organisation.
Whilst East End Homes has a very clear focus and remit, there is no doubt that it is likely to be affected by the massive cuts in public spending now facing local government. Even if housing benefit payments remain unchanged, East End Homes may well experience a serious reduction in other income and grants available for improving properties.
It is, therefore, even more pressing to keep strong control over internal costs in order to minimise any impact on the regeneration project and the delivery of front line services that include day-to-day maintenance.
‘Sovereign charges a set fee for a set service, providing East End Homes with excellent financial control and confidence over IT costs.
'Furthermore, the combination of day to day service and strategic advice ensures the limited financial resource available to East End Homes is targeted at those areas that will deliver the greatest benefit to our business operations and maximise our service delivery to the tenants of East End Homes.’