AIMLogic and how it was born
AIMLogic started to come to life in 2018, when we hosted a round table event for housing providers, attended by – amongst others – representatives from progressive landlord, ForHousing. Through this discussion, we hoped to uncover the income management challenges faced by the sector, with the aim of ultimately developing a solution that would answer that need.
Director of Income Maximisation at ForHousing, Justin Freeman describes the day: “It was a really fruitful conversation and one of the things that rapidly became apparent was that all the organisations represented around the table had very common issues that they were trying to resolve in response to prevailing sector problems.”
Core challenges included the ongoing reforms to the welfare system, staffing capacity and the increasing challenges involved in collecting the revenue needed to operate, meaning that it was becoming increasingly difficult to give tenants the level of support needed to sustain their tenancies. “Out of that little seed,” Justin explains, “grew the idea of preparing a piece of kit that could support organisations to achieve those outcomes.”
Through extensive consultation, this ‘piece of kit’ entered development to be shaped into AIMLogic. It was following this, that we first spoke with Cardiff-based, Taff Housing Association about what we were creating. Income and Communities Manager at Taff HA, Rhodri Thomas remembers that first meeting: “The way it was delivered to me, I was sold on the spot. We’d been looking at predictive rent collection systems, but we weren’t overly impressed. We were hoping there would be something else out on the market, but we were thinking we were going to have to wait a long time for housing systems providers to produce something. Then this came up and it was a perfect opportunity to build something that works for us without having to buy ‘off the shelf’ where you just have to take what you’re given.”
The speed with which change can be seen landing in the product that our officers are using, builds that confidence all the time. It’s great from a strategic point of view to be working with an organisation that has the cultural objectives that I do; openness and transparency!
Justin Freeman, Director of Income Maximisation, ForHousing
Developing our income management solution in collaboration with those working in the sector, has meant that AIMLogic is uniquely placed to function in a way that truly supports income management teams. Justin explains, “It’s the real step change for us in terms of how quickly things update and get in front of our officers. Functions like the daily refresher of data mean that we can be far quicker to react to the change in somebody’s account and we can make sure that we’re focusing our officers’ attention in the right places far more rapidly.
“It’s really driving our effectiveness on further than we have had in the past. One of the key things to remember is the relationship between us and Housing Partners in the development of AIM is ongoing and it’s a really positive collaboration, so as things change in the sector and as things change in our working environment and in the way that we understand income management, Housing Partners and the product AIM, are there to support the response to those changes and to hone the product.”
An ever-changing income landscape needs an income management system capable of evolving. With AIMLogic, the collaboration involved in its development has meant that it is the sector itself that has moulded the product and, as Justin has explained, continues to do so. Speaking on this way of working, Rhodri agrees: “There’s a real relationship with how you can develop the system; it’s working with the customer, rather than just providing the product and saying ‘this is what it is and if you want anything changed it’s going to cost you ‘X’ amount.’ We’re working as a team really, to develop the system and react to things that we’re coming up against. We can see that continuing into the future, so once the system is set up, if things change, the way the system is built is flexible enough that Housing Partners can respond and adjust according to what landlords need.”
The hurdles facing the sector are by no means few, but for Rhodri, “The biggest challenge that we’ve had is with the housing software that we use for our rent collection and monitoring arrears. It hasn’t fully supported the way in which we want to work and has resulted in a very manual way of working for our income team.” Historically, this has resulted in “a lot of time wasting, which can be better spent helping people; targeting the people who are really struggling and helping them resolve their rent arrears, as well as any benefit issues and looking at any financial problems they’ve got. That’s what AIM is starting to give us now; the ability to target our resources much better and free up staff time.”
The time to spend layering in tenancy support is one of the key outcomes that both Rhodri and Justin hope to see across the sector with the rollout of AIMLogic. Justin tells us, “AIMLogic is complementing the way that we work as an organisation; it’s really enhancing the ability that we have to focus in on the right cases at the right times. Our main focus as a team is about sustaining tenancies; it’s about providing targeted and effective support to tenants when they need help, to help them get back on their own two feet, to make a success of the tenancy for as long as they want it.”
We’re working as a team really, to develop the system and react to things that we’re coming up against. We can see that continuing into the future, so once the system is set up, if things change, the way the system is built is flexible enough that Housing Partners can respond and adjust according to what landlords need.
Rhodri Thomas, Income and Communities Manager, Taff Housing Association
Speaking on tenancy sustainment in the sector and in particular regards to the full rollout of Universal Credit, Rhodri tells us, “we know there’s going to be increased caseloads, so this will help landlords reduce their resource costs around managing income and Universal Credit. In the long and short term, it could free up resources to redirect into support roles. With regards to frustrations around income management systems, this has got the potential to really replace all of those and enable staff to do their jobs more effectively.”
Whilst across the sector, it has been clear from the start that housing providers are facing a common set of challenges, it has always been front of mind that each housing provider is unique and differs in working practices. Speaking on the development of AIMLogic in response to this, Justin tells us, “AIMLogic is hugely configurable by the organisation itself, so based on your own priorities, you can get this piece of kit working to support you.
“The speed with which change can be seen landing in the product that our officers are using, builds that confidence all the time. It’s great from a strategic point of view to be working with an organisation that has the cultural objectives that I do; that openness and transparency. As for frontline members of staff actually doing the hard graft and out there delivering the services, they’re also able to see their suggestions coming so rapidly through the development route and landing on the desktops in front of them.”
The journey that we are taking with ForHousing and Taff HA in the development of AIMLogic has been an incredibly fruitful one. The opportunity to shape a solution alongside those who will be using it every day and interacting with it has given us a unique perspective into all the things, both great and small, that are needed in a product to truly enable housing providers to deliver the outcomes that they want to see in the tenancies they manage. Speaking for all of those involved in the development of the solution, Justin sums up the experience when he tells us: “it’s empowering, it’s engaging, it’s motivating.”
For more information go to www.taim.co.uk or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.