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iTouch mobilises Council's housing repairs process

iTouch mobilises Middlesbrough Borough Council's housing repairs process

Press release, iTouch Business Mobility, Christchurch NZ, 7-Dec-04: New iService solution has increased productive operational time by up to three hours per person per day, and has automated and shortened the former seven-person administrative process needed to complete each repair request.

Mobile workforce solution provider iTouch Business Mobility has successfully rolled out a 24-month fully managed contract to supply a new mobile maintenance system to Middlesbrough Borough Council Housing Services.

The iService application on O2's XDAII devices and GPRS mobile network, enables the in-house maintenance division to deliver emergency and urgent responsive repair service to tenants. No matter where they are in the Borough, maintenance operatives can now exchange and update emergency service data and other information in real-time directly with the Council's housing system.

In just two months since roll out, iTouch iService mobile workforce solution has already benefited MBC, and has set the department up well for the future as it completes the transition to Erimus Housing. Transfer of data between the operatives and Saffron is now instant, measurable and 100% accurate, and with no repair paperwork to complete by hand.

The fully managed iService solution has not only significantly improved efficiencies and reduced administration and paperwork it has also:

· Increased productive hours of emergency repair and maintenance field staff,

· Halved the number of steps in the original 7-stage maintenance and repairs process and eliminated double entry of hand-written paperwork,

· Contributed to consolidating four operational depots down to one as part of the Change Management strategy,

· Enabled the reassignment of staff into other income generating positions within previously under-resourced areas - creating noticeable savings in head count and wages,

· Provided effective self-management autonomy for the operatives,

· Improved adherence to service level times and schedule of rate classifications,

· Enabled enhanced performance measurement and reporting, and

· Reduced the number of emergency and urgent repairs through improved visibility of job classification and priority.

Before iService

Last year the Housing Services Maintenance Division handled 26,886 emergency and urgent repairs to its housing stock of 13,200 properties. But the duplicative hand-written paperwork, excessive depots, lengthy administrative process, and lack of field staff autonomy were causing major quality and productivity issues.

David Jamison, the Maintenance Operations Manager, knew exactly where improvements could be made, and how mobile workforce technology could help. He explained, "Before the new system was implemented trade operatives would have to report into one of four depots positioned around the borough 2-3 times a day, collect and return repair job paperwork from their Supervisor, and gather the materials needed for the repairs. We estimated that this process was creating high levels of non-productive time - between 2 and 3 hours a day per operative."

"Also, from the tenant's initial call to the final billing of the work completed, every repair job would go through a lengthy 7-person maintenance process, involving call centre staff, data administrators, supervisors and trade operatives. It was clear that this process could be made more efficient if we had a mobile workforce technology solution."

As part of a Change Management process the depots were relocated to one central depot and the delivery structure was changed to enable faster, more effective and efficient response to emergency and urgent repairs. This meant that, for any tenant in the borough, mobile operatives would be available to do the job first time, on time, achieving customer satisfaction and involving as few employees as possible in the process.

"In addition to the new technology we also needed to change the mindset of management to become 'enablers', not task managers, and allow field staff the autonomy to manage their own time and workload. We achieved this by empowering field operatives, and, in return, they accepted the new level of trust and responsibility."

Demonstrating Persuasive Evidence

During his initial research David visited other organisations to see what they were using, but their systems were bespoke and couldn't be sold to or customised for MBC. He then met with the Local Government Mobile Data Solutions division of BT, who introduced him to iTouch Business Mobility.

Within weeks iTouch and BT presented a convincing workshop to MBC senior managers that demonstrated the benefits of empowering their trade operatives with mobile workforce technology. Management was so impressed with the potential of iTouch's iService application that they gave the go ahead there and then to proceed with scoping the project.

The Challenges

Dave Tinkler, Managing Director of iTouch Business Mobility explained, "We delivered a Proof of Concept system to MBC that identified the requirements and outlined the system specifications. Within this we recognised a critical requirement and potential risk area for us in ensuring that our data could be integrated with Comino's Saffron housing management system. If this area failed the project would have folded."

Other important criteria that iTouch had to meet included:

· Working with the Council's IT partner HBS,

· Management of the entire project,

· Provision of training, full system maintenance and support.

"We were impressed with iTouch's professionalism throughout the project. Their Proof of Concept highlighted potential integration risks, but we were confident in iTouch's ability to deliver," said Mr Jamison.

After a trial period the new mobile workforce system was installed on twenty XDAII devices from O2 and was rolled out during July 2004.

The iService Managed Solution

iService is an online mobile service management and parts ordering system that exchanges all customer and job data over wireless networks. The software empowers MBC's Housing Services maintenance department to:

· Automatically schedule and transmit service and repair jobs to the trade operative's mobile device in real time.

· Approve completed repairs either automatically for low-value repairs or electronically through the administrative web portal.

· Monitor operational efficiency through data reporting and analysis tools.

· Electronically record job completion data including parts used, schedules of rates and customer signature.

· Capture tenant satisfaction data.

Last Word

"iTouch knew we were lacking in IT expertise and they could have used this to their advantage, but they didn't. Their role in supporting us was admirable and thanks to iTouch we now have a modern workforce solution that has given us a competitive edge," said Mr Jamison.

This will be of crucial importance as the housing stock and services transfer to a newly formed Registered Social Landlord Erimus Housing from November 2004.

"Any improvements we can make to the responsive repair service is important to tenants, likewise RSL Erimus has to be able to demonstrate it is delivering a cost-effective and efficient service. iService definitely provides us the advantage in responding to emergency and urgent repairs," concluded Mr Jamison.

About Middlesbrough Borough Council (

Middlesbrough Borough Council services a population of 135,000. The Tenancy Services division provides services to the council's own tenants in its capacity as a social landlord, including: the letting of council properties, rent collection and arrears recovery, property repair and maintenance, and tenancy and estate management. The aim of the housing services division is to improve the service delivery, productivity and overall efficiency of the housing maintenance division.

About iTouch Business Mobility (

iTouch Business Mobility is one of the top international mobile solution providers. We were the first in the world to deliver market-ready business mobility applications that could run over the GPRS network. We have developed a number of leading-edge applications that run on hand held computing devices with wireless data connections over a full range of mobile voice, data and Internet platforms. These innovative mobility solutions are enabling businesses to work more efficiently and competitively by extending the enterprise system to the mobile workforce. The future of transport is wireless - contact us today to discuss your future.

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