Home Group are determinedly pursuing their aspiration to be an outrageously brilliant organisation, seeking to help their customers and clients to ‘open doors to new opportunities and healthy lives.’ One of the main ways they are looking to achieve this is by improving the quality of their housing stock and through the provision of reliable housing services; providing their tenants with a high quality home and a safe place to live.
Home Group work in close partnership with their maintenance contractors to respond to the needs of their customers; ensuring that responsive maintenance requests are serviced quickly and to a high quality, that necessary gas servicing is undertaken within legal constraints and that proactive maintenance work is well planned and delivered.
Key to enabling this quality service is the ability to pass accurate information about the maintenance jobs back and forth between Home Group and their contractors; with a focus on enabling appointments to be made whilst the customer is on the phone and ensuring that updates to the job are visible to both parties. To help facilitate this real time data sharing, we worked with Home Group and five of their maintenance contractors to deliver a digital solution to support this process.
First time appointments
One of the overriding emphases for the solution was to ensure that tenants were able to report an issue and agree an appointment during a single phone call. To facilitate this, the solution needed to share data in real time between Home Group and their contractor; with details of the problem being logged and available appointment slots for tradespeople ready for immediate booking. Following a tenant’s initial contact, detailed progress updates for each job need to be available in real time so that at any point, the customer can contact Home Group directly for an update on the status of the job.
Working with Home Group and their contractors, we designed and delivered a solution to enable the real time data exchange using a middleware platform to provide business-to-business software integration. Home Group’s customer service advisors were provided with a bespoke digital scheduling solution, which is launched from within their core housing management software.
Leveraging middleware integration gives Home Group the following benefits:
- Providing a generic interface giving control of the details passing back and forth between Home Group and contractors’ systems.
- Greatly accelerating the rate at which contractors can be onboarded into Home Group systems; adding new contractors simply requires a new ‘adapter’ adding to the platform
- Ensuring a highly available solution with resilience built in to the hardware and software solution
- Giving flexibility to realise their business processes using digital technology that is easily adapted and extended as business needs change
- Establishing a platform with features that can be exploited in the future to allow even greater value to be realised
Whilst the introduction of the middleware platform was relatively straightforward, the main challenges within the project were due to the number of different organisations involved in the end-to-end solution. Project managing and co-ordinating different contractors and, in some cases, their third-party software providers required careful orchestration and planning.
In addition to the project management complexities, the majority of time spent on the project was in the end-to-end testing phase with each contractor. Significant time was spent ensuring that all scenarios were tested and that all components of the interface met the quality expectations set out at the beginning of the project. This presented a different set of challenges due to the diverse spread of technologies used by the different contractors, the age of their underlying systems and the commercial agreements in place with their software providers.
Waterstons ensured that throughout its duration the project was viewed holistically; as every component of the interface needed to work for the project to be successful and for Home Group and their contractors to achieve the outcomes they were looking for; but most importantly deliver to Home Group’s customers improved levels of service through the use of technology.
The work Waterstons has done is enabling us to deliver an enhanced customer experience. It is providing us with valuable insights which are, in turn, helping us to work with our maintenance partners in continually improving the services we deliver together. Waterstons were instrumental in the delivery of the project, working in partnership with us to co-ordinate efforts across all of our maintenance partners. They ensured the implementation of a quality solution, driving the project through to completion.David Redpath Director of IS