Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC) covers an area made up of six different towns, with a population of around 325,000 people. The council provide a wide range of services including education, adult social care and the maintenance of social housing.
In the social housing sector, the council is responsible for carrying out repairs and service checks to approximately 28,000 properties across the Sandwell area. SMBC had a number of suppliers for various elements of its IT infrastructure; scheduling, mobile working, housing management/asset management system and text messaging. This caused a number of performance issues due to integration of the above systems.
Previously the council was using an alternative back office system, to manage repairs and maintenance requests. This created a significant amount of paperwork, which not only had an environmental impact but meant staff were duplicating effort.
There were also issues with information not synchronising between field-based employees using mobile technology and the back office. This coupled with ageing legacy mobile hardware, operatives were making unnecessary trips to the office for paper copies of tenant information. All this led to increased administration and frequent downtime.
The council decided to procure new mobile and back-office systems that were fully customisable to handle complex workforce management. The programme of work initiated by Sandwell was ambitious in terms of scale and given timeframes, with the business case only viable if the solution was in place by March 2018.
In order to streamline the process, the council wanted to reduce the number of suppliers it appointed. Through a number of procurement tenders, Kirona was successful for the supply of the mobile solution, the dynamic resource scheduler (DRS) & the JM Work Hub including their text messaging. As a trusted partner of the council, Sandwell knew that Kirona was small yet agile enough to help deliver a programme of work, within the tight time constraints to benefit the council’s departments and services.
SMBC and Kirona scoped the specification of the requirements, to keep the solution and workflow as simple as possible. They were keen to avoid cumbersome process steps imposed by other applications, and the focus was on the core activities of getting a job in to the system, scheduled, allocated and completed, all whilst keeping the customer informed through text messaging.
With the time pressure of the go-live date, it was decided that as part of Kirona’s software delivery cycle for the activity, they would form a collaborative software testing team made up of Kirona and SMBC staff. The team co-located in Kirona’s offices to perform the software testing as it was being developed.
The collaborative software testing ran until early 2018, when the software — Work Hub — was released to SMBC for formal User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Work Hub unites back office teams, mobile workforces and customers by providing a single, centralised source of information and delivers real-time information to mobile workers.
The UAT of the new Work Hub uncovered very few issues, and allowed the team to transition the solution to live in good time for the end of March 2018; the critical date required to meet the objectives of the business case.
In addition to launching the new back-office and mobile systems, Sandwell also provided operatives with a choice of mobile hardware and encouraged them to use the devices as personal handsets. This reduced the need for extra training on using the handsets as well as the reduction in costs of repairs to the handsets.
Next phase of digital transformation
After going live with both mobile and the new back-office platform in its Repairs and Voids Service in March 2018, Sandwell and Kirona embarked on the next phase of the roll out. This involved Gas Servicing by introducing dynamic resource scheduling, mobile job management and further developing text messaging solutions already in place within the Repairs Service.
Historically the Gas Servicing engineers were assigned their work on paper, which made compliance to gas certification more challenging. Introducing Kirona’s Dynamic Resource Scheduling provides greater transparency with what work has been assigned to contractor operatives, along with real time progress on how each external contractor is performing.
The cyclical module automatically identifies properties due a gas service, based on the last gas servicing anniversary date. DRS assigns around 500 jobs per week, scheduling them and sending out appointment texts and reminders, to not only minimise no-access, but also keep customers better informed and help avoid unnecessary calls.
Collaboration between parties was critical, wider than the relationship between SMBC and Kirona. SMBC had already made some key decisions around their strategy for resident self-service for example, and the solution for that needed to be incorporated using seamless integration to the Kirona product suite.
The SMBC and Kirona partnership agree that the success of this implementation is attributed to a combination of planning, innovation and commitment, but mainly to working in collaboration as one team with a single focus, making the most of the very best relationships, which have been heavily invested in by all parties concerned.
Sandwell Council has seen a number of benefits, following the rollout of Kirona’s Work Hub. The real-time information sharing and improved text message system for tenants, means customers can be kept up-to-date with the state of repairs. The introduction of the Kirona products has helped improve customer satisfaction from 87% to around 94%.
The text messaging service has also helped see an improvement in the reduction of no-access rates. No access rates have dropped to below 10% with a target of around 7%. This has also resulted in a saving of £32,000 for this financial year.
Neil Martin, Business Manager in the Asset Management and Maintenance Service at Sandwell Council says: “The cultural change that Kirona’s software is delivering is really important to us. We’ve achieved a greater degree of transparency than we ever have before. We are able to carry out more work in-house and have consolidated a lot of datasets into a unified and dynamic format. Managing contractors effectively depends on having good visibility. Kirona’s software is enabling us to manage the performance of the contractor. We are looking forward to generating more benefits from the technology in the future.”
Neil Harvey, CTO at Kirona adds: “Our suite of field service management solutions has given Sandwell Council a streamlined, stable and dynamic way of managing repairs and gas servicing across thousands of properties. Handling these tasks effectively is critical to the council’s ability to house people safely, and we’re delighted to be supporting them.”
Following the success of the latest rollout, SMBC plans to extend the application of Kirona’s suite of products to other services such as estate management, repair waste collections and fire checks to flatted accommodation.