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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

Moving to Civica will mean savings of 60 per cent, says Alliance Homes IT director

Alliance Homes Group is a community-based social housing and home repairs services provider operating in the West of England. It owns and manages around 6,500 homes and employs more than 480 staff, with an annual turnover of £43 million.

When Rob Barton, interim assistant director of ICT joined the organisation in October 2017, he felt that it was behind the curve when it came to technology – and that this could hinder its plans to build an additional 1,000 homes and help 1,000 people into work over the next five years.

According to Barton, not much had changed with the IT since the organisation installed an on-premise IT estate from Northgate Information Solutions 12 years ago.

“They had bolted on a lot of add-ons on what was an established but old system based on an Oracle database, and we had up to 20 different business systems trying to talk to each other, which was quite complex to keep running. It was evident that we had to do something about it,” Barton explains.

Barton had looked to change some of the technology in other areas – enabling the use of thin clients, laptops and mobile clients, as well as Skype for Business to ensure that employees were not restricted to working from one location. When it came to looking at alternatives to replace the 20 or so business systems it had in place, Barton considered all of the big housing systems on the market.

While each of the leading suppliers offered demos at Alliance Homes, Barton and his team asked all of the vendors to name their flagship customer sites so that they could go and visit them to see how the platforms actually worked in practice.

“At this point I stepped back as I didn’t want to influence anything; they spent a day on-site in different vendors’ flagship sites and the outcome was overwhelmingly Civica’s cloud-based Housing Cx and Coldharbour community care software systems,” he says.

Customer journeys

One of the key areas that Alliance Homes was looking for with a new housing system provider was the ability to focus on customer journeys. The organisation had 13 customer journeys it wanted to put in place, whether that was focusing on repairs or renting homes, and it wanted to align the platform to that – Civica was able to give the social housing provider the flexibility to make this possible.

Another benefit of Civica’s platform, Barton explains, is that all of the history of a contact centre caller is brought up instantly.

“We know the communications that have taken place historically and we know how many times they’ve called us. We also know whether they are vulnerable or elderly, but also the intelligence around the telephony will guide the customer towards the right service so if we have a customer in arrears, just by recognising their number we can route that customer to an income officer that can deal with this despite them calling for a general enquiry,” Barton states.

There is no official live date for the platform, but Barton insists that it will only be when the organisation is completely satisfied that Cx is fit for purpose – but it is likely to be in the summer of 2019. He is also not concerned that by selecting one vendor to cover a number of different IT areas for the organisation would mean that it is locked-in to using Civica.

“I’m confident that we will have a solution that is fit for purpose and that is flexible enough to be developed and changed, whether it’s legislation or a shift in strategy or policy” he says.

He is also confident that Alliance Homes will be able to recover about 60 per cent of its operational costs, if not more, on an ongoing basis.

“Because we’re moving from 20 business systems that all carry licences and support requirements to a cloud-based system, we’ll be able to reduce costs by 60 per cent,” he says.