Integrating data to create business insight
Initially daunted by the challenge of integrating data from multiple systems, the housing association Thirteen discovered that Esri’s ArcGIS platform provided a simple solution. It has developed a suite of ArcGIS apps to deliver business insight directly to employees and has successfully transformed its cost efficiency, financial sustainability and customer services.
ArcGIS web apps put customer data at the fingertips of neighbourhood teams on mobile devices
An Esri Operations Dashboard allows managers to make better decisions to improve asset performance
Collector for ArcGIS enables employees to gather and share up-to-date data in the field
When four housing associations came together in July 2017 to establish Thirteen, the newly founded company found itself faced with the enormous challenge of managing thirty seven separate IT systems. Data about the organisation’s 70,000 customers and 34,000 properties was spread across a myriad of databases and spreadsheets with little or no integration. Consequently, employees could not easily access the information they needed to enhance the quality of services for tenants and improve the operational efficiency of the new business.
“ArcGIS has been a game changer for us. Before, we may have had an intuition about why properties remained empty or needed repeated repairs, but now we have hard evidence.”
Mark Arnold, Senior Sustainability Manager, Thirteen
The organisation began to investigate ways to simplify its IT landscape and integrate data from all parts of the business. “Discovering ArcGIS was a lightbulb moment,” says Mark Arnold, Senior Sustainability Manager at Thirteen. “The challenge of how to integrate data went from extremely complicated to extremely simple.”
Thirteen now has twelve different IT systems, but does not integrate them directly. Instead it has assigned a geospatial reference to all its business data and links everything together through the medium of Esri’s ArcGIS platform. “We can use the right systems for the business, without having to worry about integration,” Arnold says.
The organisation also streams data from external sources, such as government data on deprivation, and makes this external data, together with its own internal data, instantly available to employees through a range of ArcGIS apps. Rapidly growing in number, these bespoke solutions currently include:
- An ArcGIS web app for neighbourhood teams, allowing them to access customer information on mobile devices about everything from recent property repairs and rent arears to anti-social behaviour reports.
- An ArcGIS web app showing grounds maintenance teams the land owned (and not owned) by Thirteen and the precise locations of the hedges, grass and flower beds they need to maintain.
- Collector for ArcGIS apps enabling employees to report changes and issues, ranging from flower beds that have been grassed over to fly tipping and graffiti.
- An Esri Operations Dashboard, known as the Sustainability Modelling and Regeneration Tool (SMART), that brings together data about repair costs, property values, investments, and social and environmental factors and assigns a performance score to each property between 1 (best) and 5 (worst).
“Thirteen is making annual cost savings of £158,000, by allocating grounds maintenance staff to the right places with the right equipment.”
Mark Arnold, Senior Sustainability Manager, Thirteen
“Game-changing” intelligence about the business
Using ArcGIS, Thirteen has been able to take information from multiple IT systems and external sources and turn it into true business intelligence. For the first time, it can clearly see how external factors such as anti-social behaviour impact on the condition of its properties and monitor property ceiling prices by street, to understand return on investment at individual properties. “ArcGIS has been a game changer for us,” Arnold says. “Before, we may have had an intuition about why properties remained empty or needed repeated repairs, but now we have hard evidence. We can see the correlation between crime, anti-social behaviour and empty properties and make smarter decisions.”
Significantly improved financial performance
The development of the SMART dashboard has given senior managers an unprecedented overview of the financial performance of Thirteen’s assets and provided a springboard for significant business improvement. “The Esri dashboard helps us make smarter decisions about where to invest to convert underperforming assets into financially sustainable ones,” Arnold explains. “When the dashboard was first launched, 10% of the organisation’s assets had a score of 4 or 5 and were therefore deemed to be underperforming; now, using this same scoring system, the number of underperforming assets has reduced to zero.”
£158,000 annual saving on grounds maintenance
Thirteen has been able to significantly reduce its ground maintenance costs, because the organisation can now see how to allocate its grounds maintenance staff and equipment more appropriately. According to Arnold, “Thirteen is making annual cost savings of £158,000, by allocating grounds maintenance staff to the right places with the right equipment. We can now be confident that we are only maintaining land owned by Thirteen and only investing in the right quantity of high-value equipment, such as ride-on lawn mowers.”
Personalised and professional customer services
Teams working in neighbourhoods from the Scottish Borders to Suffolk have data about customers at their fingertips, which they can use to deliver highly personalised and professional services for customers. They can see information on rent arrears, voids, customer satisfaction feedback, local anti-social behaviour and outstanding property repairs, all on one screen, and have more meaningful conversations with their customers as a result.
“ArcGIS gives our employees working in communities the data they need, when they need it,” Arnold adds. “We can therefore customise our services for our customers and treat each tenant as an individual person.”