Orchard is pleased to announce that emh group is now live and fully operational with its full re-implementation of their housing management system, Orchard Housing, delivered in partnership with Orchard Information Systems.

East Midlands Housing Association (EMHA) first implemented Orchard Housing in 2003 for EMHA and Midland Rural Housing. Since then the organisation has expanded with the introduction of new housing partners; Foundation Housing, Three Oaks Homes and Three Valleys Housing, resulting in the creation of a group structure. The organisation underwent a further restructure in 2013 amalgamating the housing organisations to form emh homes. Under the emh group umbrella are emh homes (providing 18,000 affordable homes for rent and ownership across the region), Enable (providing care and support services to a wide range of customers, from people with disabilities to those requiring nursing care) and Midland Rural Housing (one of the leading providers of rural housing services in the UK).

Business requirement
Each entity within the group structure was incorporated into Orchard Housing with the intention of maintaining their unique ways of working. However, as this resulted in inconsistent data and widely different coding structures and configuration in Orchard Housing, it became apparent that significant process re-engineering was required to consolidate those many different ways of working that existed. Therefore, with the group looking to become more efficient in the future, a complete review of its business processes was conducted. This process involved a review of Orchard Housing resulting in a decision to re-implement the solution to meet those changing business needs.The re-implementation process began early 2015. The strong relationship between emh group and Orchard was a key factor in their business decision to work with what they had and this was also the most cost effective and shortest route to achieving a return on investment.

The solution
The Orchard Housing solution is made up of a series of service delivery and business process components implemented within a phased approach. The aim of the project was to have a comprehensive housing management solution that supported the newly restructured organisation and a new way of working. The overall objectives of the re-implementation of Orchard Housing were to:

  • Ensure that there was one source of core property and customer information
  • Achieve significant improvements in data quality
  • Ensure business processes were standardised across the organisation and reflected in Orchard Housing
  • Standardise coding structures
  • Reduce the use of 3rd party suppliers, and to remove locally held or manual systems such as spreadsheets and paper based systems
  • Provide full audit of customer interactions and services being provided
  • Maximise the potential of Orchard Housing and to enable continuous improvement of systems
  • Improve reporting of business management information and integrate Enable’s properties into the existing Orchard database.

A key objective for the project was to engage emh group’s staff to ensure that the implementation would be driven by the business and supported by its ICT team. There were 5 key stages to the project:

  • Integrating the group’s Care & Support arm, Enable, onto the Orchard system
  • Review of processes – conducted via modular groups consisting of modular sponsors, implementation leads and staff from across the group
  • Implementation stage – conducted via workshops with Orchard’s implementation team
  • Testing – User Acceptance testing by the modular review teams
  • Training – Over 100 half day training sessions were delivered by the lead implementation team.

Over 91 staff were involved in the project. In addition, a special customer workshop was arranged with the group’s active residents to gain their views and input. The change programme included the re-implementation of existing core functionality, plus the addition of new solutions, to manage their service charges and anti-social behaviour business processes, Orchard’s texting capability to improve customer interactions and solutions to support their reporting and business intelligence needs.  

Business benefits
The project very much supports ICT and Customer Service strategies which recognise the extended range of services provided by the group to a diverse customer base, the increasing customer expectations and the advancements in the use of technologies to deliver service. emh group’s strategic objectives include, delivering greater efficiency in service delivery, reducing the number of reactive customer contacts, resolving more enquiries at the first point of contact and reducing the cost to serve.

To date, the project has already delivered a number of significant business benefits including:

  • Improved customer service and for example has empowered the contact centre to deal with low level ASB and void notices
  • Streamlined processes
  • Cutting out waste and improving the output to customers
  • Increased automation to improve quality and deliver efficient processing
  • Automating and standardising staff/team prompts and referrals in connection with arrears and voids processing using the Orchard Business Process Management Toolkit  
  • More accurate and cleansed data with new streamlined coding structures that are aiding  reporting and reducing user error
  • Seamless integration to historic data from the previous system without having to resort to logging into separate systems
  • Reduced costs associated with maintaining the old system
  • More cost effective communication channels have been realised with the introduction of Orchard’s texting capability.

Commenting on the re-implementation project, David Morris, Head of Customer Services and Project Manager at emh group said, “This was a major project which was part of the group’s organisational development plan. The preparatory work in creating a governance and delivery structure proved to be invaluable in the project being delivered on time and within budget. It was very much a one team approach with our project team working closely and effectively with Orchard’s team. It was fitting that we went live during our 70th Anniversary year.”

Helen Bradford, emh group’s Head of ICT continued, “The aim of the project was to deliver a Housing solution that addressed the business need for efficient, streamlined standardised processes and improved customer service, supporting the group’s strategic objectives; this is what we have achieved. Working in partnership with Orchard, and the creation of a project team from a range of specialisms including ICT who were focused on maximising the potential of the Orchard Housing solution, ensured the successful delivery of the project; the project met our objectives, on time and in budget.”

Adding to David and Helen’s comments, John Wallace, Orchard’s Customer Relationship Manager said, “We are extremely pleased to support emh group with their ambitious change programme. emh group had a very clear and ambitious objective to review their business processes and data so that their housing management system would support the business with greater efficiency and accuracy. The project team worked really hard with business experts to define and re-engineer their business processes which fed into the Orchard configuration workshops. We established a really good working relationship with the project team and have to pay tribute to their hard work and dedication which delivered the project on target and on budget. We look forward to a continued and strong relationship with emh moving forward.”