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ArcGIS adds value right across our organisation, enabling us to plan and build new homes, work efficiently and deliver better services for residents.

Building a successful and responsible housing organisation

Responsible for 38,000 homes across the south and south west of England, Sovereign Housing Association uses Esri’s ArcGIS platform enterprise-wide to help it address a range of business challenges. The solution helps it to deliver more responsive customer services, better understand the needs of tenants and plan strategically for future growth.

Sovereign Housing Association has extended its use of GIS in a strategic, enterprise-wide initiative that is transforming core business operations. Now, the organisation can deliver more responsive customer services, better understand the needs of its residents and plan more strategically to build new homes.

ArcGIS gives the organisation clearer insight into issues faced by tenants and their property requirements

Sovereign can respond more quickly to enquiries from tenants and deliver better customer service

The organisation uses ArcGIS to reveal business development opportunities and share information with local councils

The Challenge

Sovereign manages and maintains more than 38,000 homes across the south and south west of England. Already one of the UK’s largest housing associations, the organisation aims to grow to 50,000 homes by 2018, to help address the critical shortage of affordable property in this part of the country. It is, however, often difficult to identify suitable development sites that will pass the scrutiny of planning authorities, so Sovereign has to be able to work closely with local councils to facilitate its growth plans.

The housing association currently has more than 80,000 residents in its properties and strives to deliver the best possible services to enable these people to live comfortably and happily in their homes. To consistently achieve a high standard of customer service, it needs an accurate understanding of its residents’ needs and concerns, as well as efficient operations so that it can respond quickly and effectively.

“ When we first used ArcGIS Online in a meeting to highlight potential development sites to a team from a local council, their jaws dropped. It was incredible. ArcGIS has opened up a whole world of opportunity and will certainly help us to achieve our planned growth

Andrew Bradley – GIS Manager, Sovereign Housing Association

The Solution

Sovereign had been using geographic information system (GIS) solutions to manage spatial data for some time, but, in the year of its 25th anniversary, it took the strategic decision to exploit the powerful analysis capabilities of GIS more extensively as part of a wide-ranging business transformation programme. It selected a comprehensive suite of solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform, including ArcGIS Server Enterprise Advanced, ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, 3D Analyst, Spatial Analyst and Network Analyst and began to apply GIS to pressing business challenges.

At the same time, the organisation decided to extend GIS capabilities out to the whole business, aiming to train 500 employees across all parts of its business by summer 2015. With support from Esri UK’s professional services team, Sovereign built a GIS-based web app to deliver accurate information about properties, assets, land and residents to employees working in all departments ranging from housing services to the customer call centre. Available via the company’s secure intranet, this solution gives everyone in the business instant access to up-to-date business information, all in one place, in an easy-to-use interactive map-based format.

“ ArcGIS is adding value right across our organisation and will continue to do so for years to come. It will enable us to plan and build new homes, work efficiently and deliver better services for residents

Andrew Bradley – GIS Manager, Sovereign Housing Association

Benefits

The enterprise-wide use of ArcGIS has begun to transform the way in which employees work and will deliver long-term benefits for the organisation, as Andrew Bradley, GIS manager at Sovereign, explains. “ArcGIS is adding value right across our business and will continue to do so for years to come,” he says. “It will enable us to plan and build new homes, work efficiently and deliver better services for residents.”

Sovereign employs its new ArcGIS solutions to conduct analysis and gain a deeper insight into business issues and tenant needs. For instance, the company collected data on the incomes and living costs of its residents, at all of its different locations, and performed GIS analysis to ascertain the impact that the government’s new ‘benefits cap’ would have on residents over a period of 5-10 years. When the findings were displayed on a digital map with a time lapse slider, the effects of the new policy became clear. “We could see a wave of impact coming out of London over time and identify easily where and when different types of households would start to struggle,” says Bradley. “ArcGIS is a very powerful tool, helping us to better understand and respond to our residents’ needs.”

The enterprise ArcGIS platform is proving particularly beneficial for Sovereign’s strategic asset management group, a team tasked with identifying and qualifying development opportunities. It has successfully used ArcGIS to pinpoint locations where Sovereign-owned land lies adjacent to under-utilised council-owned land. It then uses ArcGIS Online to share this information with councils and commence negotiations about mutually-beneficial new housing projects. Bradley recalls: “When we first used ArcGIS Online in a meeting to highlight potential development sites to a team from a local council, their jaws dropped. It was incredible. ArcGIS has opened up a whole world of opportunity and will certainly help us to achieve our planned growth.”

Now, if residents contact Sovereign with an enquiry about a boundary, employees can quickly check on the Intranet-based GIS and often clarify issues instantly. Previously, such boundary enquiries had to be passed on to the company’s legal team, and responses could take up to 21 days according to the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). “Our employees are empowered with information that they simply didn’t have before,” Alice Rhodes, GIS Analyst at Sovereign says. “Customers get accurate information much more quickly.”

Finally, ArcGIS is enabling Sovereign to improve its operational efficiency, as all employees can share information much more easily. They no longer have to send emails from team to team requesting data and waste time chasing up further details. Instead, they can simply look up the information they need straight away and work more productively.

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