Covid-19 Update - HomeMaster Enables Seamless Switch to Remote Working
Published Date: 27th April 2020
Community housing associations have made a seamless switch to remote working thanks to HomeMaster, our web-based housing and financial management system. Following the introduction of social distancing measures, Cathcart & District and North View housing associations in Glasgow are protecting their staff while delivering almost all of their services as though they were in the office. Both housing associations have reduced maintenance to emergency repairs only, but all other services are running normally.
Effective Business Continuity
Cathcart & District Housing Association (CDHA) had been running HomeMaster for just under a year when the Coronavirus restrictions were put in place. Director, Christine Leitch, explains: “This is the first time that we’ve had to trigger our business continuity plan and it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, without HomeMaster. All of our office staff are working from home. Each person securely logs on to the system remotely and can continue working as normal. They are doing their usual job, just sitting in a different seat.”
The team is using a variety of devices to get online, such as a laptop, iPad or Chromebook, and HomeMaster has the same functionality, look and feel for all of them. They can manage all rent payments and interaction with third parties (such as Housing Benefits and Universal Credit) just as they would do in the office. Other services such as logging emergency repairs and managing contractors can also be completed quickly and efficiently.
North View Housing Association (NVHA) went live with HomeMaster less than three months before implementing remote working. Finance Manager at NVHA, Jean Price, says: “HomeMaster is very user-friendly, so by the time we needed to close the office every department knew what to do and how to use it. It’s been a God-send: every single thing that we could do in the office, we can do remotely without a problem.”
Because HomeMaster is a fully integrated housing and financial management system, all the information is stored within one system. Jean Price comments: “HomeMaster has made a big difference. When I’m authorising payments, I can actually see the purchase order, works order and invoice all in one place. I can follow a job through without having to go into different systems. It’s much quicker and easier. It’s also more flexible, so we can do more frequent payment runs to help out contractors who may be struggling at the moment.”
Jean Price adds: “That flexibility has helped ensure that the home work balance is as stress free as possible – which is good for the wellbeing of our staff.”
Efficient Communication & Support
Prior to using HomeMaster, CDHA communicated with tenants via letter, but now many tenants’ preferred method of communication is email. Christine Leitch adds: “Email is the modern way of working. I think it’s what people expect and in a rapidly changing situation, it’s invaluable in getting the message across quickly. HomeMaster is fantastic, enabling us to send out information and guidance to support our clients at a very difficult time. In the last 12 months we’ve moved forward in how housing services are delivered, becoming more responsive and achieving time savings and cost reductions.” She continues: “Since the Coronavirus outbreak, we have also been able to easily identify older tenants and offer them support via a telephone well-being system, which is the one we provide in our sheltered accommodation.”
Quality and security
As HomeMaster is an online system that is backed up on more than one secure server, it offers a more robust security process. Christine Leitch says: “We have the comfort of knowing that the back-up is not dependent on an individual running it correctly or on the constraints of an in-house server.” As well as the required security protocols, HomeMaster also has built-in checks and balances to ensure that work is being completed to the required standard.
Christine Leitch concludes: “The team at Designer Software are great people to work with. They know our business and have listened to our needs. Their support system is very structured, responsive and transparent. They are good at prioritising calls and we can log onto the system to see how our calls have been categorised and the expected response time. If there is an issue, we know that they are on it. I think that a number of other housing associations who are interested in HomeMaster is testament to the quality of the system and the potential efficiency benefits it can deliver.”