Transformation programmes don’t come much more thoroughgoing than Kevin Corbett’s. His ERP implementation means every single process in the business is being redesigned, including target operating model and complete service offering. Its effects are felt right down to the culture of the IT department. It’s no longer about bespoke solutions to unique needs, but an “adopt not adapt” mindset.

Name and job title
Kevin Corbett, director of IT, Affinity Sutton.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I was responsible for instigating the move towards an ERP solution, which has since evolved into the biggest transformation programme the organisation has been through, which includes the service offering to our residents. This programme will make services easier to access for our customers, allowing us to respond to changing customer demands by providing the best possible solutions and tools.

These things together mean we can deliver ‘brilliant basics with magic touches’ and make it easier to do business with us. We will give customers more choice about how they access our services and improve our ability to resolve customer enquiries at the first point of contact.

To achieve this we are designing simple, clear processes, a clear service offer and clearly branded products and services. We are providing a “digital by choice” service for customers – we will remain omni-channel, but our primary route will be digital. To assist with this, we work with residents’ groups to improve accessibility to the internet in their homes and increase their digital confidence. The introduction of universal credit means going online is the only way for most people to apply for and manage their benefits.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
Moving to an enterprise-wide IT strategy has a big impact on the culture of the organisation. No longer do we look to provide bespoke solutions to unique needs; we now follow an “adopt not adapt” approach, which brings its own challenges. We have invested significant money and resources in managing the cultural change element of the transformation, including an extensive change network made up of over 50 staff from across the company at all levels to help us maintain effective and regular two-way communications.

We also hold annual roadshows, which include our CEO and other executive team members travelling to our offices nationwide to explain the importance of the transformation programme in person. We hold regular staff surveys to measure the level of awareness of the programme and what it means for specific roles. In the most recent survey 95% of staff felt like they were well informed.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
As well as the significant progress made in our transformation programme we have delivered a number of key business outcomes. They include:

  • The insourcing of 50% of our repairs business, which required us to source, design and deliver the appropriate technology toolset to help maintain approximately 30,000 properties through a fully mobile workforce. This has seen customer satisfaction improve to over 85%.
  • The delivery of a customer portal, allowing our tenants to access their account details, schedule and amend repair appointments, report issues and access relevant services.
  • The extension of our BYOD programme, including providing the appropriate security wrap and access to an interest-free loan to help all our staff purchase devices.
  • Growth of our VC offering to include mobile devices, which has vastly improved access and had a significant impact on our green agenda as well as delivering cash savings.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
We have developed a single customer view, which has allowed us to better understand customer behaviours and is being used to plan resources accordingly on a day-to-day basis. Asset and market data are relied on to inform decision-making about where and when to build/renovate or dispose of our properties. Alongside this we have developed an enterprise data strategy; as well as customer data, it covers all the information we hold and require in relation to our significant asset base and financial data.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Currently IT is split into three distinct parts. The team which is delivering the ERP elements of the wider transformation programme sits outside of the IT service, with a number of staff moving over to that project on a secondment basis. There are approximately 70 people working full time on that project alone, made up of our staff, external consultants and the systems integrator workforce.

We then have our internal IT function, which covers support and operations, providing first and second-line support and infrastructure services.

Finally we have a business systems team who manage our wide range of business applications. We are now designing a new approach based around a business solutions centre (or centre of excellence), which is intended to provide a more holistic service when the ERP has gone live. It will incorporate all the element currently delivered by our business systems team but also areas such as BI, change management, process management and training in a one-stop shop, which is better suited to supporting our new enterprise environment.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
We don’t see the delivery of a digital strategy as just an IT thing. I work closely with our director of customer services and other peers to develop the strategy and activities which are designed to help us be a digital business.

Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
The ERP strategy has resulted in us redesigning every single process in the business. It affects every aspect of our service and requires us to reconsider our target operating model, including organisational structure and complete service offering. The transformation programme was born out of the ERP strategy, which was initiated and promoted within IT.

How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organisation, and what impact is this having?
Effectively daily, as I see engaging with the business as part of my day job, but of course that is on a small but regular scale. In terms of a wider audience, I usually speak at the annual managers’ conference and quarterly at our directors’ meetings, and attend various other speaking engagements within the business, which equates to something like once a month.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
Affinity Sutton uses social media extensively to engage with our customer base, tracking comments to see if they can develop into service requests or to address negative commentary. Personally I use Twitter and LinkedIn to gain insight from fellow technology leaders, innovators, providers and commentators.

How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
Monthly IT steering committees are held, which include representatives from across the business at all levels.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
As well as review social media and other media outlets on a daily basis, I use the Gartner Executive CIO programme extensively. I attend all their major CIO events (Symposium, Forum, etc) and review the regular research papers.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Recently I personally implemented a Women in IT working group to address the lack of female staff within the IT workforce, which was not representative of the user base. To do this I liaised heavily with our head of diversity and inclusion to look at how we took positive action to ensure our service was as female-friendly as you would expect it to be in 2015.

The steps we took included ensuring female representation on interview panels, and some of our female staff blogging about women working in IT and speaking at a local girls’ school to promote the career to the younger generation. Over the past 12 months, we have seen the numbers of women in our IT department double as a result of these actions.

In our transformation programme, which was put together during 2015, approximately 50% of the team are women. As an organisation we also have active staff networks for our BAME and LGBT colleagues. Affinity Sutton is recognised as a diversity champion and among the top 100 employers selected by Stonewall. Finally, we also proudly carry the two ticks symbol awarded to employers who make commitments regarding the recruitment, training, retention and development of disabled people.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I’m very much a face-to-face person, spending the majority of my time at our head office location to sit among the rest of the organisation’s leadership to build a rapport and develop my understanding of the nuances of the business. I try to make sure all key stakeholders are on board before key decision meetings or at least understand the major hurdles.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
During 2015 I’ve attended regular leadership mentoring sessions with an external service, funded by my employer. This has helped me greatly in further enhancing my leadership skills. I have also taken on the role as a mentor myself to help develop some local young talent in my role as a trustee of a charity.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
Tracking progress in many, generally through our Gartner relationship, with a specific interest and some dabbling in IoT and enterprise apps.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
I don’t believe in rigid strategies, technology or choices. We maintain an overarching IT strategy which allows choice to be taken on a case-by-case basis as the best way of delivering requirements.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes, it is part of our ongoing staff development and action plan.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
As an organisation we generally lean towards insourcing of core services (hence the recent insourcing of our repairs business). The IT service reflects this culture, with a strong and highly regarded internal team delivering the large majority of services, backing off to third-party maintenance providers or expert consultants when required. We retain a small number of preferred suppliers where appropriate, but adhere to OJEU procurement rules for more significant needs.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
Digital publishing of our forms and information packs to housing officers’ iPads has allowed tenants to review terms and conditions, watch promotional videos, gain on-the-spot information and sign up electronically to tenancy agreements immediately rather than waiting days/weeks through paper/post processes as previously,

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
We've signed a contract with Hitachi to act as systems integrator of our Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution, being the first ever housing association to follow this route. Hitachi brings the expertise and experience in delivering this particular solution to us, and potentially the wider sector.

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

  • Always referred to: CIO peers.
  • Often use: analyst houses, consultants, industry body, media.

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Yes.

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
It is the responsibility of IT to manage, reporting into the group finance director, who is the SIRO, and the audit committee, which is made up of a number of non-executives. It is a regular standing item at this committee, and any exceptions are reported to the group board.

When did you start your current role?
2012.

What is your reporting line?
CFO.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
No.

What is the annual IT budget?
£17m 2015/16.

How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
£12m capital (increased due to ERP costs), £5m revenue.

What is your budget’s operational/development split?
40/60.

How many users does your department supply services to?
1,500.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
No.

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Yes.

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

How many employees are there in your IT team?
45 in central IT, 70 in transformation programme team.

Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Yes.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
95/5 in central IT, 50/50 in transformation programme team.