elha.com and My Home

Summary

Talk of “websites” and “online” is not allowed at East Lothian Housing Association! The elha.com logo is now over 7 years old, and the Association considers itself a .com company – just like any good service provider in any other sector would. The language instead is of elha.com and My Home.
Although elha.com is one place, it has two distinct areas. Static content (i.e. information pages) are held within elha.com and can be accessed without any login. The Association’s digital services are provided through “My Home”, which is accessed from elha.com but tenants must login first, and is therefore considered a dynamic service provision area within elha.com.

ELHA still provides services by telephone and in person, but these services only operate for less than 30% of the time. elha.com never closes and services are available 24 hours a day.

Who was it aimed at?

Tenants.

How was it funded?

By ELHA with development costs part-funded by software and hardware partners.

HA Resources Provided

As this is core business, it doesn’t feel as though anything other than normal business development resources have been used. Development has been contained within and run alongside other development tasks contained within our recent Business Plans.

What Partners were involved?

SDM housing (housing management software system suppliers), Castleton technology (hardware and cloud infrastructure suppliers) and Intimation Creative (digital graphic designers).

Challenges

The core of this project is about service development, not IT development. However, in this case the supporting IT also needed to be developed, and as ever this requires careful specification and patience. Whatever the timescale is, double it!
Digital graphic design was probably the most difficult part. Design by committee is impossible, as is pleasing everyone. But using digital graphic designers (as opposed to graphic designers) made this process much more straightforwards.

The key though is about stepping back and putting yourself in the position of a tenant using the service. Design in the way you would want to use them and the rest should follow. Keep your existing practices and processes and try to put them “online” though, and you are simply preparing to fail.
Or SDM customers (45% of Scottish RSLs) can avoid some of these headaches by just adding the new digital module to their existing system, deciding what features to use, agreeing on a digital graphic design, and implementing within one to three months!

Lessons Learnt

Continually emphasise that this is not an IT project – it is a service delivery and digital graphic design project. And communicate as much as you can – this sort of project will affect just about every staff member in some way – you can’t meet with them all continually though! If it doesn’t affect some staff, you have to wonder what their role is in a service delivery organisation? So don’t accept “this doesn’t apply to me / my department”, or “this is just a housing issue”.

Transferring administration tasks, control, and in a sense power to tenants, may make some feel uneasy, at least until they understand the approach fully. Go into the project to “make savings” and this will exacerbate the situation. Go into the project to deliver first class digital services though and that is what you will achieve – and as a consequence you will become more efficient. Staff then generally welcome tenants taking over routine tasks like filing and posting rent payments. What you and your staff do instead is then up to you.

Contacts

Martin.pollhammer@elha.com
Scott@sdmhousing.co.uk