PanConnect Innovates in Service Delivery
In 2015 Solas (part of the POBL Group) partnered with Housing Insight to develop a system that could be used for case management across all types of Housing Related Support.
Tirzah Anderson – Quality Performance and Development Manager says ‘We chose Housing Insight, and their product PanConnect, as they were the most willing and open to developing a bespoke system and, most importantly, giving over the design of the system to Solas themselves’ Tirzah goes on to say that as PanConnect’s framework was already being used as a mobile operative application, linked to an organisation’s back office system. Solas wanted the solution as a standalone system with some specific requirements:
To provide a ‘whole system’ solution to record all accommodation based and floating support with a focus on the Welsh Government Outcomes Framework; Link interventions to outcomes; Develop a system that is mobile but not reliant on connectivity; Provide an intuitive interface for both staff and customers ensuring all aspects of support are effectively recorded at the point of contact; Successfully engage staff with the system & associated technology; Include the ability to measure additional ‘added value’ services provided by the organisation; Increase the ease with which all aspects of services can be monitored and reported on; The development of a ‘client portal’ to allow clients to access their files online and connect in to engagement and events within their community.
We wanted to make the process of risk and needs assessing as fool proof as possible. We needed a system that responded intelligently assessments by prompting staff to risk manage and identify goals. Housing Insight did this through the design of the ‘tasks’ menu. Now all staff are prompted when goals or risk management need to be set or reviewed and when risks or needs assessments are out of date. Managers can also check this at the touch of a button – negating the need for lengthy file checks.
Most importantly the solution needed to be mobile. Floating support staff especially needed to be able to use all aspects of the system when with clients in their own home or in the community. PanConnect does this even when there is no Wi-Fi or mobile signal by caching information recorded and syncing it when a data source is available.
This way staff can easily record client notes or support plan updates and PanConnect will do the rest. As soon as the data is synced it is automatically synced to all other staff (linked with the service) tablets and the information is available to everyone. This ensures everyone who works within a service has the most up to date information making support seamless even if provided by different staff members. Solas were aware that the design was simply the first step and the implementation style would be crucial to the success of the system. We knew where mistakes had been made before, where staff struggle with new IT solutions and that we had to try something new. We made the decision to use a gradual implementation and focus on each service individually. Senior Managers and IT staff members are present and involved in every implementation and assist with data entry, tablet setup etc. This helped lighten the workload and staff felt supported and able to take time to learn the most relevant parts of the system. They also had expert advice on site as they transferred to recording support digitally.
The rollout of PanConnect has been a success and without exception all services now use the system. Staff with limited or no IT skills have embraced the system finding the system intuitive and workflow easy to follow. In particular staff struggling with barriers such as dyslexia have flourished using PanConnect as they have no associated anxieties with regard to completing records, instead making use of spellchecks and the ability to record notes using the tablet’s built in microphone. Commissioners also use PanConnect to evaluate and audit services.
Mobilisation and Change at Wellingborough Homes
In November 2016, Wellingborough Homes launched PanConnect Mobile working to frontline staff, using PanConnect’s mobile app on tablet devices. Loreen Herzig Head of IT and Business Improvement at Wellingborough details the journey the organisation have taken.
Like a lot of housing providers, we had tried mobilisation before… Actually, we had tried twice before, each time unsuccessfully.
Why was it different this time? Why did the business suddenly embrace this new way of working whereas previously it didn’t gain any traction?
Lead from within the business To start with, the project was not run by corporate services. Of course, IT was heavily involved, as was the communications team, but they did not lead on the delivery of the project. They were support and advisory functions, implementing the solution wanted by users and needed by the organisation.
The lead for mobilisation came from within the business, a front-line services manager who liaised across the organisation and managed the overall project.
Ownership therefore came from within the business to identify and implement a solution that would meet their needs. Rather than feeling that they were ‘being told’, our staff actually felt they owned the project.
User involvement What users wanted and what the business needed had to be identified and aligned to ensure that buy-in was gained from across the organisation to successfully launch mobilisation. Workshops were held involving a quarter of the workforce to identify the specification for a new solution.
Our staff decided that they needed to be able to access their emails, have property and tenant information to hand, write notes back to the housing management system, and complete a number of forms which incorporated the most commonly used processes and tasks carried out when working in the community.
Users trialled different devices and, with guidance from IT, ultimately decided on the mobile device they wanted to use, again putting ownership in their hands.
The solution that could provide all of their requirements at a reasonable cost was Housing Insight’s PanConnect. We worked closely with them throughout the project and they were happy to support us until we had the solution that would work for us.
Carrying on from the success of involving users early on, staff have since been involved in and shaped the baseline of Wellingborough’s IT strategy for 2017-19, with consultations carried across senior management, middle management and front-line staff. They have identified their priorities aligned to our overall objectives and a clear two-year action plan has been created to deliver the necessary IT developments.
Milestones At the beginning of the PanConnect project, staff clearly identified their requirements which included the creation of 15 forms , two tasks and two system extracts to be set up, and five data write-backs to be implemented.
Issues arose during the form design stage which was very labour intensive, with many iterations of some of the forms. There was also little prioritisation of tasks, leading to conflicts of interest and slightly delaying the final delivery of the project.
Milestones are important to measure the successful delivery of a project and to show clear progress, but they are also good motivational tools for the staff involved and to gain further buy-in from across the organisation. Being able to show tangible outputs throughout the project delivery keeps the momentum going.
User acceptance testing is the other area that can really make a difference in gaining buy-in. It’s where users see the benefits of their involvement and continue to feel that they make a difference. They are the ones who sign off the outputs and vet what the final solution will look like, again putting ownership into the hands of the business.
SMART benefits At the time, project management was only just being embedded within Wellingborough Homes and Housing Insight provided the initial Project Initiation Document. While high-level benefits were identified, such as allowing staff to work much more flexibly, minimising preparation time before going on site, and having all the information at hand to deal with more than just an isolated customer query, many of the benefits were only discovered during our review of the lessons learnt.
While there is no doubt that mobilisation is beneficial to both staff and the organisation, defining SMART benefits at the beginning ensures that everybody is clear about why mobilisation is being done in the first place and what to expect once it’s in place.
Every organisation has different reasons and there are many levels to mobilisation; our implementation using PanConnect is only the start of the journey. There are two major projects on the horizon for Wellingborough Homes – channel and culture shift, which will shape the next level of mobilisation.
During this project, we never actually used the word ‘change’, or ‘mobilisation’ for that matter. Even though, having involved users early and throughout the delivery, we could have done. Staff were prepared for what was coming; they led the change.
Can mobilisation be done without change? The simple answer is ‘no’. Processes have to change, staff have to change and the organisation has to change for mobilisation to be successful. It’s a way of working which involves much more than just providing people with the right technology. It’s more of a cultural shift but that doesn’t mean it needs to be overwhelming.
We simply asked our staff to begin. There was no ‘big bang’ approach. Wellingborough Homes is implementing lots of different parts of our channel shift agenda, with mobilisation merely being one of them. And it’s only the first stage of the PanConnect project. The second phase will see us review some of the forms and implement additional functionality.
Did we get it right first time? Of course not. We probably didn’t get it completely right the third time but it doesn’t matter as long as we learn from the experience, review and continue to look for improvements. Change will continue; it just becomes part of business as usual.
PANCONNECT IMPROVES EFFICIENCY AND DATA QUALITY AT COASTAL HOUSING
Coastal Housing Group is a not-for-profit industrial and provident society, existing only for the benefit of the community, operating in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Carmarthenshire. It owns 5,500 properties for rent and sale and is expert at regeneration of city centres, supporting older people and those who require adapted homes, as well as people who need help managing their tenancy.
Coastal introduced PanConnect as part of a transformation strategy to reinvigorate its end user environment to a modern, access anywhere system. Within a very short time the organisation was seeing the benefits of the new system.
Rhian Waygood, IT Systems Business Partner at Coastal Housing, said:
“Our Gas team are the first to use PanConnect for capturing data and creating CP12 certificates. The next phase of the programme will see it introduced into our voids and letting process and then rolled out to other functions across the organisation.
“We’ve already seen immediate benefits since PanConnect was introduced. The CP12 arrives much more quickly into the back office and the quality and consistency of tenant data, such as mobile numbers and email addresses has improved significantly. The system allows the team to complete more gas checks in a day so it has improved efficiency as well as quality of data.
“The gas engineers love using the PanConnect app and find it much simpler to use than filling out the previous paper forms. It lets them to do more ad-hoc jobs throughout the day without having to fill out extra paperwork and they love the fact that the mail merge fills in most of the information quickly for them.
“The introduction of PanConnect enables our remote staff to work offline with data feeding back to our servers as soon as they are in a connected area.”
Housing Insight’s PanConnect solution is a unique system that takes advantage of the latest mobile technologies and integrates with back office systems to provide fast, location specific data and information to mobile users.