Coastal Housing Group – Virtual CTO

The Organisation

Coastal currently manages over 6000 homes across South West Wales. In addition to renting homes, Coastal develops properties for sale through a dedicated home sales company, Pennant Homes.

The Challenge

Coastal has a great reputation for people focussed service delivery and much of this down to the commitment of the passionate people who work there. It was essential that the staff team was properly supported in delivering the quality of service that Coastal is known for and that its customers have come to expect. Many of the business systems were ageing and needed replacement; and because of this the applications did not support process automation, tying up staff time in manual processing and preventing the service offer being taken to the next level. 

Coastal needed independent expertise to: 

Support culture change by building engagement, inclusion and gaining contribution to the overall transition 

  • Identify priorities for investment in hardware, software and people
  • Maximise value from arrange of investment 
  • Future proofing technological change 

The Solution

A 3C CTO was assigned to Coastal working 3 days per week, working with the Executive Team and the CHG Board. 

3C initially assisted with key projects which included the yearly rent change review which was delivered on time and within budget. This was followed by a transformation programme for the next 3 years identifying key systems replacements following the 3C IT Strategy. The CTO introduced a project management structure within the organisation to give structure to all operational activities associated with technology.

The preliminary need was to restructure and re-brand the Coastal Tech Team IT team and assist CHG in developing the recruitment and selection of appropriate personnel. The Tech Team consisted of a new Business Services division and enhanced Service Desk responsibilities. 

A procuration of an integrated Housing Finance and Asset Management system and a separate HR and Payroll application was fulfilled. Some work was also undertaken in Property Services to implement the validation of Electrical and Gas Certificates.  At the same time the CTO helped the organisation to touch base with some key vendors to examine the infrastructure and address some key weakness leading to a fully OJEU procurement and implementation and also set off the project to introduce Office 365.  In addition, the CTO was also involved in a Telephony options appraisal exercise and procurement. Some of these took place during the Covid 19 disruption and work was able to be seamlessly continued during this period. It was also necessary to oversee and assist with a Mobile Phone contract tender

By the end of 2022 it is envisaged that CHG will have replaced all major systems. The cost of investment will be significantly offset by the knowledge and experience of the CTO to save time and effort and a knowledge of the marketplace.  The CTO fees have been completely offset by the cost-saving made in procuring these systems.  As the work progresses it is expected that the CTO will be able to reduce as the transfer of knowledge takes place, to the extent that at the end of the programme CHG will be totally self-sufficient and able to plan the next stage of their tech Journey through their internal Tech Team, without external assistance.

The Benefits

As a result, Coastal has been able to: 

  • Manage and prioritise the transition to gain maximum benefit from technology, reducing double input, manual processes, manual trawling for event management and eradication of spreadsheet management 
  • Successfully implement large scale systems (which ones can we say or be generic I.e finance or asset etc?) in a consistent time orientated fashion which has increased overall buy in  
  • Engage the whole organisation of 300 employees with a well communicated change programme 
  • Achieve a return on investment through business efficiencies and other cost savings that is at the very least cost neutral as far as CTO expenditure is concerned
  • Worked with the Board and the Executive team to careful assess risk and realistically plan through the various stages of a long-term technology programme.  
We recognised that we needed help to focus on key areas of technological development that will allow us to continue being one of the leading social housing providers in Wales. Access to 3C’s Virtual CTO service allowed us access to someone with Board level strategic technology experience who has done this before and who was able to plan sequentially the major events we needed to undertake and then lead our internal teams to achieve. The CTO was instrumental in securing the confidence of the board and was able to set out a 3 year vision which provided assurance that the investment was well thought through and necessary and his assistance with providing clarity on the options was vital. The work undertaken by 3C with us over the last 12 months has been significant and it’s fair to say we relied heavily on them. I would have no hesitation in recommending 3C’s Virtual CTO services.
Debbie Green CEO of Coastal