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Trace Simplifies Housing Association service charges

Posted 22nd December 2015

Housing Association Family Mosaic provide affordable housing to over 45,000 people in London and Essex. They’ve just announced their intention to use Trace software to manage allocation of service charges.

Trace software will be integrated with their existing systems to streamline a process that at present is massively complex and disjointed.

Pam Moran, Head of Customer Accounts at Family Mosaic explains: “Like most housing associations, our systems were designed to accommodate a reasonably straightforward rent management process.”

“However, our business model has now evolved and we manage a complex mixture of rented, owned, and part-owned accommodations - sometimes all within the same property. The need to allocate and charge costs on an individual basis makes the process much more difficult, yet these days it happens all the time.”

“Our existing systems just couldn’t cope with this new demand and the only way our staff could get anywhere near a suitable solution was to prepare Excel spreadsheets for each property.”

"The service charge process touches every part of our business. By streamlining it we realised that we could put the organisation on strong building blocks"

“In cases where you have 100 tenants to a building, this became a recipe for disaster! Manual input is open to human error which, if made once, is quickly replicated throughout the process. It’s labour intensive, time consuming and inefficient, and can’t be audited easily. We knew it was time to change.”

Saul Stevens, IT Director at Family Mosaic adds: “Our old systems were hindering service improvements so we decided to look at things differently. We realised that the lack of automation in service charge management was not only leading to inaccuracies - it was fundamentally preventing our organisation from growing.”

“The service charge process touches every part of our business. By streamlining it we realised that we could put the organisation on strong building blocks; freeing up time, but more importantly, allowing us to deliver a better and fairer service to our customers.”

Pam Moran continues: “We knew this was an area of weakness. Time and money was being spent that could be better used to help us grow, and making Family Mosaic more stable and sustainable.”

"We’re now in control of our business!"

Graham Davies, Business Development Director at Trace Solutions, explains: “We’ve been offering software solutions to the commercial property sector for over 30 years but this is the first public sector project we’ve been involved in. Interestingly, the accounting issues are very similar. Many property managers set up their own Excel spreadsheets to manage their property portfolios, with the risk that they replicate errors and invest time doing things that could be automated quite simply.”

"We're being pushed to manage larger portfolios with the same number of staff and simultaneously achieve economics of scale. The only way to do this is through automation"

“Automating cash management is our expertise and while we haven’t employed this knowledge in the public sector before, working in partnership with Family Mosaic we have now integrated their existing systems with our BlueBox software, allowing them to free up time and money.”

Pam Moran: “Our industry is changing very rapidly. As the public sector gets squeezed with every change of Government there’s more and more pressure to deliver efficiencies. We’re being pushed to manage larger portfolios with the same number of staff and simultaneously achieve economies of scale. The only way to do this is through automation.”

“Of course change is something that’s naturally uncomfortable for most people and by plunging into this area of the business we knew we were opening up a Pandora’s box. But it isn’t as tough as we thought it would be. It’s taking time and effort but alongside all the extra efficiency, the team now look forward to getting involved in more rewarding work - work that drives the business forward and also adds more value to the community we serve."

"Automation takes the day-to-day problems out of our hands ... we now just deal with the problem areas that need specific attention"

Graham Davies adds: “Family Mosaic have been extremely forward thinking in their approach to IT. BlueBox software provides an extremely sophisticated system of Management by Exception (MBE), an approach that is relatively new even in the commercial property sector.”

MBE makes widespread automation possible. Quite simply, the system identifies any ‘exceptions’ that need manual attention and presents that information to the user. The user thus has confidence to automate a huge proportion of the detailed running of the property business, allowing property managers to focus their time on more highly skilled and profitable activities."

Says Pam Moran: “By improving our service to leaseholders we also reduce the grounds on which they may decide not to pay. Automation takes the day-to-day problems out of our hands and lets the system run itself. We now just deal with the problem areas that need specific attention - which frees us to focus on the future of our business and the potential we have to grow.”

Pam concludes: “Pressure on the public purse show no signs of abating. So we’re proud to be the first public sector organisation to adopt BlueBox and use techniques from the commercial sector that give us this level of efficiency and transparency.”

“We’re now in control of our business. And that’s the only way we’ll continue to grow and be around in the years to come.”


Find out more about how Trace's BlueBox software can solve your service charge problems, here.

Or, ask for a demonstration.