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UK social landlord Sanctuary Group has replaced legacy HR, finance and customer service tools with a single SAP platform in order to improve delivery of digital services – the first in its industry to make such a move.

Sanctuary Group is primarily a social landlord but also conducts maintenance, manages care homes, student accommodation and develops housing projects, with a pipeline of 24,000 new homes in the next ten years.

In order to modernise its IT estate and provide mobile services both to tenants and the 5,000 staff members who are now using the system daily, the group saw the need for overhaul of its business and customer-facing applications. This led to the creation of a single software platform, named OneSanctuary, built on a real estate-specific ERP suite from SAP. This promised an easier route to implementation.

Staff are now using the system daily for back office functions such as finance, HR, payroll and procurement, as well as enabling front line housing officers and assistants to manage tenancies and estates. Customer service operators are using the CRM system to see the history of interactions with the tenant, any outstanding maintenance work and issues.

"We focused on what it would mean for front line staff and customers,” said Kevin Heslop, SAP programme director at Sanctuary Group.

“Housing officers deal with tenants, issues with neighbourhoods and provide opportunities for people to move on and progress in their lives. So we want to maximise their time and not have them in the office.

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"These were the differentiating factors, how we provide for the mobile worker, so things like SAP Fiori and Personas around being able to change the way we deploy the system for mobile devices."

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Service centres

Before moving to SAP the customer service call centre agents were interacting with three systems to get a view of the customer. Now, using SAP CRM the agents can see a full view of each customer straight away.

Heslop admits that call lengths remain the same since moving the system last year but "it used to be that the majority of time was spent on the phone with the customers and the wrap up time was minimal as we weren’t collecting as much information about the calls because the system didn’t support that," he said.

Housing officers app

Sanctuary is moving to more mobile working, with plans to give housing officers a mobile device and app to log interactions while in the field. Up until that point they have to write things down and return to the office to log them. "We don’t want people returning to the office, we want them doing more of that customer interaction instead", Heslop said.

Sanctuary is also looking to extend these integrated back-end processes to benefit the tenants themselves, with plans to build a mobile accessible customer portal in 2017. Here tenants will be able to log in and view information, make payments and log maintenance requests.

Future plans

Heslop says that organisations within the housing sector have been slow to adopt ERP and CRM systems, but others are starting to follow suit. "There is a change in the sector and we are aware of a handful of projects with the larger housing associations looking to do something similar. It will be interesting if they work with SAP or if things have moved on since we made that play with Oracle or Microsoft Dynamics."

Now that it has SAP in place Sanctuary is very much on the S/4HANA roadmap, Heslop says. "We will be doing more work with Success Factors but at the time we were making these decisions S/4HANA and the thinking wasn’t as defined at the time."

Read next: SAP baffled by lack of S/4HANA awareness in its UK and Ireland user group

Also, now that Sanctuary can log all of its properties into SAP it can track the condition of the property and make more effective reinvestment plans and forecasts. Heslop says that Sanctuary is even considering sensors and internet of things (IoT) use cases for more predictive maintenance of assets like boilers.

The total investment is in the "multi million pound" bracket according to Heslop, and "our return on investments plan for the project is an eight year return and we are ahead of that" thanks to the early gains in back end processes and service centre efficiency.