Affinity Sutton gives housing officers iPad BI tools to better serve tenants

One of the UK’s largest housing associations is using mobile reporting to better allocate funding to areas most in need.

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One of the UK’s largest housing associations is using mobile reporting to better allocate funding to areas most in need.

Affinity Sutton armed 150 housing officers with iPads and mobilised SAP BusinessObjects to give them Business Intelligence (BI) information on the go.

Employees visiting the housing association’s 590 estates, from Plymouth to Newcastle, can access and update details about customers, including personal details and history, possible rent arrears, due housing benefit as well as maintenance requests.

Mobile access to the SAP business reporting software has improved data quality and security, Julian Pimm-Smith, head of business intelligence at Affinity Sutton, told ComputerworldUK.

“It absolutely helps in terms of better customer service. If a housing officer goes around and hasn’t had time to log in to a CRM system, they can see it on-the-go.

“But it has a drastic affect on data quality. The information that we hold about our tenants and household members within our properties sculpt our support services for them, so improving our profiling and demographic data is absolutely critical for us and service development.”

The business had a full Citrix environment, but following an SAP Business Objects deployment found that it was “fiddly” for employees to access reporting on mobile devices.

The business intelligence team began looking for a mobile solution. It trialled tools including Roambi, SAP’s BusinessObjects Dashboards, BusinessObjects Explorer and Tableau, but struggled to find a product that was cost effective, featured necessary tools and integrated with backend systems.

Lucky find

It settled on Business Object’s lesser-known mobile functions.

“We have ended up using the web intelligence reports," Pimm-Smith said.

“You have two options. You can either just take an existing web intelligence report, flick a category on it and click publish to mobile and it automatically looks absolutely gorgeous on the iPad. It takes no effort whatsoever.”

With the help of implementation partner itelligence, Affinity Sutton added to this, customising with its own supplier and corporate balance scorecard with features like trending, indicators and RAG status (performance indicators in a traffic-light system red, amber and green) as well as an “incredibly popular” mapping element that integrates with Apple maps on the iPad.

“Companies with BusinessObjects do not tend to go down that route because it is not massively well advertised,” Pimm-Smith said.

“I found it by luck and it has completely taken over the business and proven incredibly popular.”

Affinity Sutton can use the mapping tool to cluster regions where tenants may be behind on payments or need more access to funds, so it can re-allocate funds to different regions where necessary.

Further, Pimm-Smith said: “It [mobile reporting] becomes a proxy planning tool. Housing officers can see where all their tenants are and if they want to see a certain type of issue with a tenant they can filter just to see, for example, ‘tenants that are moving out in the next three weeks because I need to do a void inspection’.

“Seeing that mapped, rather than on a list, means that they can much more easily plan their work day or work week.”

Mobile reporting has helped raised the significance of BI with senior executives who previously may have looked at Excel spreadsheets, Pimm-Smith, who will be speaking at the SAP User Group conference in Birmingham this weekend, added.

“Now they are set up with BusinessObject logins they are realising the value of reporting.”

The project has set the agenda for the firm’s mobile strategy and allow employees access to more of the backend applications.

Pic: Affinity Sutton Newton Le Willows estate

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