November 12, 2009 -- Thames Valley Housing Association has chosen 1st Touch mobile technology for inspection operatives visiting its housing sites. The mobile solution, which replaces a paper based system, combines back office management with the latest PDA technology. Inspection reports can now be submitted on site electronically, saving considerable time and raising efficiency levels.
Established in 1966, Thames Valley Housing Association is a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) and is registered with both the Homes and Community Agency and the National Housing Federation. The Association exists to provide affordable housing for people in need. Its current housing stock of 11,000 homes includes rented, shared ownership and affordable homes in London and the Thames Valley basin. The Association has achieved a number of national and industry quality standards, including Charter Mark, Investors in People and Quality Housing Services.
One of the key areas of quality management, upon which the Association is monitored, is the need to keep housing sites well maintained. The Association’s mobile inspection team tours the sites regularly, checking that maintenance of communal areas meets pre-defined standards. The inspectors need to feed back quality reports, on a wide range of services delivered, as quickly as possible. These can range from whether the grass has been cut, to any instances of damage and vandalism or the need for repairs and general maintenance. Until recently, this was a paper based system using a scoring process. Once completed, the forms needed to be sent or delivered back to base.
Thames Valley Housing decided to invest in mobile technology that would eliminate this delay. The Association needed a solution that not only achieved this but one that would also mirror current paper based processes and integrate smoothly with their existing Civica housing management system. This would ensure that there was no disruption to or impact upon working practices. The system would be subject to an on site user acceptance trial and its results monitored.
Thames Valley Housing Association chose 1st Touch Mobile technology as they were aware it had worked well with other organisations known to them and there were good customer references too. 1st Touch also fared well, in their market appraisal, as it had a smooth implementation programme with strong support. In addition, 1st Touch had developed a tight integration with the Civica housing management system. This ensured that the new mobile solution would easily interface with their existing IT investment.
The 1st Touch system enables the simple, programming-free replication of paper based forms on a handheld PDA; that uses Smart Airtime to transmit compressed and encrypted data in small bursts back to base. This is far less costly than many other “always on” options, so operational costs are low too. The system is to be rolled out over the next few months.
Howard Dawson, Assistant Director of Housing is clear about the impact the new mobile system will make. In his view: “Investing in mobile technology is an opportunity to improve further the way we deliver services to the residents. With 1st Touch, we can now send the data instantly from site to our customer service centre. This eliminates the two or three day gap with the previous paper based process.
“This gives us far more timely information on the quality performance of different sites and identifies more quickly where repairs or maintenance are needed. The software also integrates with our existing Civica systems too, which has allowed for a smooth implementation whilst maintaining existing working practices.
“We expect, as a result of our initial trials, that residents will see the benefits. In addition, once the technology is fully rolled out we are also considering giving PDAs to a number of the supervisors of our partner contractor.”
Robert Dent, CEO of 1st Touch welcomed Dawson’s comments adding: “Thames Valley takes its primary responsibilities to residents immensely seriously. So much so, that they have invested in 1st Touch Mobile technology that is making a real and quantifiable impact in terms of delivering a more timely response. And, as our mobile technology integrates closely with their existing Civica housing management system, we are pleased that the implementation has not caused any disruption to the smooth running of their operations.
“We are delighted therefore that 1st Touch has greatly enhanced the work of their inspection team and we look forward to exploring other future opportunities where it can make an equally impactful difference.”