We interviewed Kathy Brooks, Performance Team Leader from Northamptonshire Partnership Homes about facilitating the organisations’ change and driving performance improvements. Here’s how she explained the fundamental shift being implemented.
Northamptonshire Partnership Homes came into existence in 2015. We are an ALMO, which is an arm’s length management organisation. We manage the homes on behalf of Northampton Borough Council.
What were your key issues and challenges facing the organisation?
The ALMO in Northampton was initially setup because services in the area were recognised as needing considerable improvement and reform. The Borough Council had to do a stock option appraisal which meant hard decisions needed to be taken with tenants on whether to sell off the housing stock, keep in-house or set up an ALMO.
In some cases, void times (the time properties are left empty) were up in the 40+ days, a clear indicator that everyone needed to align collectively around performance. The decision was made to convert to an ALMO which could focus more on the critical priorities for the customer.
As this was a completely new organisation it meant we had no performance management framework in place. The framework, we knew, would be the cornerstone of our goals, strategic priorities, projects and actions. It was needed to enable the business to focus in a single streamlined and unified direction. We worked closely with the Board to establish what they wanted for our tenants in a Corporate Plan outlining our strategic objectives and priorities.. Our job was then to implement the process by which this disseminated to front line services.
Describe the process of you working with the team to implement InPhase?
The end game we wanted to get to as a business was to enable everyone to make better business decisions more quickly. To do this we recognised that our managers need access to critical information, which, in the initial phases focused on enabling everyone to have an understanding of our performance metrics and how critical these are to the business. By doing so we enable mangers see what is important and they can self-analyse elements like performance over time, direction of travel, likely outcomes.
We added the strategic Corporate Plan and all operational service plans and risk reporting into InPhase, this had the huge effect of bringing all key actions into one system and giving visibility of their alignment to the service goals and strategic priorities.
At the same time, we recognised the importance of managing and keeping track of recommendations flowing from internal audits. We see these as critical to improving the quality of service delivery, yet in some cases recommendations would be made and would not be revisited until the audit turned up again! Managing audit actions has worked incredibly well in InPhase and the actions now done, and the performance impact can be clearly seen.
Inevitably the metrics changed and evolved over time as new and more demanding issues, such as stringent cost cutting came into place. Having InPhase really helped us in this regard as it gave us an easy way to evolve the model over time and reposition priorities.
However, during this evolution, service and delivery plans were handled in other systems outside of InPhase. It was difficult to manage with plans in lots of different places and we needed the organisation to have a better level of accountability.
In 2017 we added all service plans, delivery plans and risk reporting into InPhase, this had the huge effect of bringing all key actions into one system and giving visibility of their alignment to the service goals and strategic priorities.
At the same time, we recognised we had some serious issues when managing internal audits. We see these as critical to the quality of service delivery, yet in some cases recommendations would be made but just disappear into the ether and would not be found until the audit turned up again! Managing audit actions has worked incredibly well in InPhase and the actions now done, and the performance impact can be clearly seen.
The outcome has been that InPhase is the one place to view and input information, to make decisions and to comprehensively manage our business in real-time. Interestingly it has also enabled us to make our service planning more robust each year. Bringing it all together and making the connections, giving us that golden thread.
Sounds amazing but how does it all work?
As well as automating the whole process online, InPhase creates all the necessary reporting output too. The reports are used live in management meetings. We have produced what people really want to see, therefore it fits the requirements of all our different audiences. The Board are very engaged with the reports and they receive them every quarter.
We are now creating tailored reports for Heads of Service, so they can take those reports to the team meetings, attend Executive Management Team (EMT) sessions and scrutinize performance and with the ability to input commentary alongside the data before it goes to the higher level of the governance structure. They can just see it and update it, it’s just there, and this encourages managers to use it as a management tool.
If you could summarise the benefits to you and your organisation what would they be?
We have achieved several costs saving benefits which are important to our organisation. We have made reporting significantly more efficient and more fluid, a lot of my team’s time would have been taken up with unproductive “find and fetch” activities, going out and chasing people for the information. I’m realising significant and tangible saving in regular and ad- hoc report production.
As we now spend less time chasing people and that people feel comfortable using the solution we are finding that they are proactively engaged giving updates where needed. That has released time in our team to be users of the data rather than just chasing for it. The benefit of this is huge, we can now focus our time addressing the critical issues, making decisions based on fact and process and not by second guessing.
The days of using different spreadsheets are gone and it’s just all in InPhase. This has given us huge efficiencies not only in process but in better decision making, allowing us to become more effective as a team.
An example of this is Voids. This is one of the biggest issues of any Housing organisation. The quicker we get a house back into use the better our performance is and the happier our customers are. This is because we: a) don’t lose rent on it and b) get another family homed. We’ve struggled with that process for a long time. To streamline this we’ve integrated InPhase with our core housing system, Open Housing, No, we haven’t done this connectivity. significantly speeding our problem finding processes thereby saving time.
The days of using different spreadsheets are gone and it’s just all in InPhase. This has given us huge efficiencies not only in process but in better decision making, allowing us to become more effective as a team.Kathy Brooks - Northampson Partnership Homes
What would you do, if you were told that InPhase was being taken away?
Arghh! We would revert to spreadsheets! Back to siloed working. The good thing about having everything all in one place is the transparency InPhase gives you across the business. All our performance reports are scrutinised at senior meetings. If you take it away and we cannot co-ordinate effectively that visibility disappears, we would suffer death by spreadsheet and become very inefficient and less effective.
The future of InPhase?
We plan to leverage the data management and business intelligence capabilities of the tool more. We have a real opportunity to scrutinise the operational data, blending new and interesting data sets together to find other areas of the business we can improve.
For example, we are looking at producing live reports on ‘repairs’ to improve performance by creating a live dashboard highlighting ‘what is going on’ and spotting key trends. This will enable us to understand what stage they have issues at, so they can be ironed out and fixed to enable us to achieve even greater cost savings.
We have achieved the visibility aims on our journey, now we want to start combining data from multiple core systems and performing new types of analysis on what it is telling us.
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Case Study for Northampton Partnership Homes
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