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PFM Award for Peterborough City Council software solution

How Peterborough’s Cross Keys Homes’ stock transfer placed its faith in facilities management systems specialist FSI to deliver expert services and form a template for local government best practice. As the transfer of housing stocks continues apace across England and Wales, one of the pioneering authorities has developed a unique partnering agreement to revolutionise its maintenance regime across 10,200 dwellings benefiting more than 14,000 tenants. Peterborough City Council in partnership with Cross Keys Homes, the company which is due to take over its housing stock in October, contracted a consortium led by FSI (FM Solutions) Ltd (www.fsi..co.uk) to provide state-of-the-art asset management systems, including IT and mobile telecom systems and support which ‘went live’ in July.   The relationship is unique for a variety of reasons, and alongside FSI partners Cognito and Xmbrace, the Partnership is set “to provide the template for best practice for local authorities and housing associations”, according to Wayne Seaborn, Head of Asset Management at Cross Keys Homes (www.crosskeyshomes.co.uk). Key innovations include the integration of new and legacy systems, the implementation of work scheduling with transparency of activities and costs throughout the client organisation in addition to the agreement of a partnering charter. FSI as lead contractor and project manager provides the core business and work management system, together with a range of professional services managing the integration with existing Council business systems. Cognito provides the hand-held mobile technology as a fully managed and supported service to enable real-time communication between the call centre and some 60 trades people operating across the city. Xmbrace has delivered the appointments diary and work scheduling system. The challenge set by Cross Keys was to establish an appointment-based system for provision of services under the Government’s Better Housing strategy – providing centralised management information tools to incorporate FSI's Concept, Help Desk, Asset Management Systems, Planned Maintenance Tools plus a range of Management Information reporting. Importantly, the integrated systems will need to provide these functions working with social housing teams who in turn need to work with, and satisfy tenants who previously have experienced difficulties in arranging repairs and maintenance appointments. The focus of the FSI-led option followed successful and pioneering work conducted on a smaller scale with Denne Group, which had partnered with a housing association in Kent. Through an industry seminar, ‘the Appointment Challenge’, Peterborough gained its first exposure to how work-scheduling systems could be deployed. In a break from usual practices with housing associations, Cross Keys Homes will partner with Peterborough City Council’s Contract Services department utilising its workforce. The objective was to provide integration of asset information, which was able to satisfy three key requirements, namely, integrate fully with Council legacy systems; added value to tenants and to underpin a smarter way of working. Cross Keys Chief Executive Mick Leggett tasked Wayne Seaborn, Head of Asset Management at Cross Keys Homes with implementation of the partnership agreement with FSI, Cognito and Xmbrace. The strategy for development of the Cross Keys asset management project has evolved over the past nine months. From the outset Cross Keys Homes has embraced partnering and sees it as the answer to long term change required to dramatically revolutionise ways of working and drive efficiencies for the benefit of tenants. Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) projects have large-scale considerations, says Wayne Seaborn. “We started talking to FSI and created a working party as the essential kick-off for the partnership route, which we were determined to put in place. Part of the selection criteria was a presentation to staff, which enabled all parties to examine key questions well in advance of procurement. Then senior managers agreed the terms & conditions and worked a range of criteria into the Project Management team.” A key strategy adopted by the Project Management team was to develop a Partnering Charter, which was signed-up to by all constituent parties. “Essentially it meant that no partner would allow failure by other parties to get in the way of our objectives. Instead we’d help solve any issues before they got in the way of the project progress. It focused everyone. By way of an example, in a novel departure from traditional project management, we assigned responsibility for the Cross Keys Call Centre to the Direct Labour Organisation schedulers,” explains Seaborn. Cross Keys Homes - Improvement Programmes – a snapshot of the promises to tenants Cross Keys Homes plans to invest £108 million on repairs and improvements in the first five years after transfer on 4 October: > 9,000 new secure front and back doors > 5,000 modern kitchens > 4,900 modern bathrooms > 4,000 homes to get new double glazed windows > New electrical wiring and sockets > 5,000 modern fuel efficient central heating systems > Conversion of small bedsits into 1-bedroom properties > Improvement to sheltered schemes As well as investing millions in a wide range of environmental and social improvements such as setting-up a dedicated anti-social behaviour unit. John Owen, project manager for implementation with Cross Keys Homes, explains the key issues confronted by the project team comprising FSI, Cognito and Xmbrace together with client representatives: “The constricted deadlines were a challenge in their own right. On top of that we were working with a range of individuals, however the project management ethos of a shared vision kept our eyes firmly on what had to be done!” Legacy platforms, according to Compton Darlington, Operations Director at FSI, in addition to information from a disparate number of sources all added to the challenge. For FSI, the fact that the ‘Expert Partners’ had cut their teeth on a smaller project in Kent meant that trust had been built and paved the way for fast-track analysis and implementation. Cascade systems were also adopted with FSI training client teams to instigate a process of training for 200-plus users. The new landlord, Cross Keys Homes, will become a completely separate body from the Council, with its own management board and staff. The transfer follows an overwhelming 82 per cent vote in favour by the council tenants. In creating this maintenance framework the Council and Cross Keys Homes recognised the need to develop a better system of work scheduling and communication between call centre staff and field-based trades people. "With a project of this scale we realised that it would be essential to have in place a modern scheduling system and the ability of the repairs and maintenance team to communicate with each other in real-time," explains Seaborn. Adrian Sibley, Head of Strategic Support for Peterborough City Council, adds: "This technology will enable us to deliver a vastly improved service, by handling more appointments, reducing unnecessary delays in processing work, keeping our trades people better informed and reducing costs." The arrangement between the FSI-led team and the City Council and Cross Keys Homes is a unique partnership, says Seaborn, which could in time be adopted by other authorities undergoing similar transitions. "This is a flagship project designed to deliver real value to our Cross Keys Homes tenants," he explains. "We’re very confident of its success and urge others looking to achieve similar objectives to follow our progress closely over the coming months." The process supports operatives for any form and mix of job despatch from one or more day's work at a time through to one-job-at-a-time. When used in conjunction with the Cognito mobile data solution used on the operative’s hand-held device, in addition to retrieving job details, OPTI-TIME allows dynamic events to be captured, responded to and fed to the FSI Integration Engine; for example, job started, revised duration estimate and completed information. The Cognito “managed service” also offers an audit trail that returns message status including job arrived on hand-held and viewed by operative. This information is available to enhance real-time scheduling.