Bracknell Forest Homes is using a GIS for digital transformation and to create new streamlined processes.
The GIS helps the business from reducing under-occupancy rates to helping find new development opportunities, and it now underpins an increasing number of operational processes.
Andy Keljarrett, Business Improvement Manager, commented: “Bracknell Forest Homes uses a mix of Esri UK’s mobile, cloud and web-based GIS, integrated into a single mapping system to create ‘one version of the truth’ that our staff can depend on. This platform approach allows us to achieve a great deal of what we need using out-of-the-box tools, avoiding expensive development costs and giving us more control. They are also easy to use, so staff do not need any special training to get up and running and start achieving results.”
Andy Keljarrett added: “Our journey with GIS began by giving us a better method of managing our trees. Trees are of particular importance to Bracknell Forest Homes as we have 10,000 to look after, in addition to our 6,000 homes and 1,075 leaseholder properties. This presents us with a much larger risk from trees, such as damage to properties, roads or vehicles, and extensive maintenance, compared to the average housing association. We needed to create the most efficient approach to tree management as possible.
“And this is where GIS has excelled, helping our Tree Team take a measured approach. Using a mobile GIS app, the team can now manage all 10,000 trees with just two staff, carrying out double the amount of tree surveys in a day on handheld devices, compared to the old paper method, which is saving us around £50,000 a year.
“Out in the field, any ambiguity is eliminated, as staff can see exactly which trees belong to us and avoid any misunderstandings around which trees still belong to the council, following the stock transfer. For tree surveys, operatives go out with handheld devices and can instantly see what has been done and what action needs to be taken.”
Once any necessary work has been completed, staff update the live system, so there is no duplication of effort once they return to base. Similar, adjacent trees can also be surveyed in groups which saves a lot of time, considering that dealing with a single tree can take up to 40 minutes. The central record of all tree data is held in the GIS, which means it is quicker for staff to respond to queries residents might have about tree condition or pruning, as it is all easily accessible.
The GIS approach has also allowed staff to prioritise trees for inspection, depending on their potential danger level to the public or property. Using red, amber and green codes for different locations, there is a more intelligent way of working, which further reduces risk.
Better use of assets and information
Bracknell Forest Homes has started looking at how GIS can help make strategic, value for money led decisions. One example is loading data about the stock condition of garages into a map application, then analysing it using variables such as location, condition, repair costs and rent revenue. This will help us make strategic decisions on how best to utilise these garage sites. Examples include further investment in stock, alternate use such as brightly lit parking spaces or even redevelopment. This will improve facilities residents, reduce long-term maintenance costs, and create new revenue opportunities.
Improved customer service
Other streamlined services are based on mobile GIS, which make internal processes more efficient and reduce response times to customer enquiries. For example, when there is a report about graffiti or fly-tipping, staff drop a pin on the map with the details and assign staff in the field to carry out any work. Using handheld devices, the field staff confirm tasks are complete, attach photos and then update the status.
Andy Keljarrett added: “By continuing to examine the business to see where mapping can act as a catalyst for change, we are set to achieve yet more efficiencies and value for money.”