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Low-code app for housing association

Business Critical Low-Code App for a Housing Association

GreenSquare Accord

About GreenSquare Accord

GreenSquare Accord, a local housing association, was formed in April 2021 from the merger of the similar sized Accord Housing Association and GreenSquare Group. Both organisations have a long history of providing affordable homes and support services for people in need.
Today, GreenSquare Accord maintains 25,000 homes and 100+ care and support schemes, providing services to over 54,000 housing customers. They employ over 4,000 people.

The Problem: An old, complex, and limiting application

GreenSquare needed to replace a costly, outsourced legacy management application, used for the purposes of ensuring housing standards were being met. In addition to functional limitations, it did not provide the critical business intelligence required to proactively manage housing assets.

GreenSquare were ready to build the capability in-house, at a fraction of the price, and retire the legacy application. With the merger pending with Accord, the new application had to be readily scalable to accommodate a step-change in the volume of data, number of users, and diversity of stakeholder needs.

The organisation had completed an analysis phase and documented the full requirements, as well as identified Microsoft Power Platform as a potential solution.

GreenSquare contracted UBDS prior to the merger to complete the design, build, testing and transition to live, whilst providing knowledge transfer for Greensquare’s own Power Platform capability.

The Solution: A 3-phased approach executed by a team of experts

GreenSquare had an ambitious deadline to go live with the application within 8 weeks of the project start.
UBDS deployed a development team comprising of data analytics experts, Power Platform solution architects and developers, as well as business analysts.

The team ensured the successful transition from GreenSquare’s legacy application to their own in-house system by breaking the project down into 3 phases:

Phase 1: Analysis

UBDS began by analysing ‘as-is’ data and user needs and worked with Greensquare’s stakeholders to fully define the technical solution and advise on the implications of each design decision.

The solution would now provide the ability to:

  • Capture Property Site Surveys – over 200 questions per property, with distinct branching and validation by 8 property types, and offline capability for a high number of images per survey
  • Manage Property Assets – assign properties to surveyors, plan repairs to keep properties safe, energy efficient and meeting standards, and inform Asset Management budgeting
  • Create a Decent Homes Standard Compliance Report with descriptive and predictive analytics to forecast when a property will no longer meet the required standard
  • Produce a Repairs Cost Forecast Report for 5, 10 and 30 years

Phase 1 enabled UBDS to accurately scope the related license requirements.

UBDS captured the User Personas which informed the design and user experience, ensuring that user needs remained at the heart of the solution.

By exploring the different requirements and varying skillsets, goals, and frustrations of the personas, UBDS was able to customise the solution and the training material so that all user types were catered for.

Phase 2: Development and Testing

With the Analysis phase complete, UBDS initiated the development of the solution. The team developed multiple model-driven applications and the related Dataverse database in Power Apps, Power BI dashboards and a Power Automate data integration flow.

Through the adoption of an agile delivery approach, the UBDS team ensured that feedback and engagement were sought early on from users. Subsequently, the test plan was agreed upon and executed, the data migration was completed, and the support model was successfully implemented.

Phase 3: Go-Live and Early-Life Support

An important element of digital change and transformation is realising the full value of the solution through knowledge transfer and user adoption. Therefore, UBDS provided early-life support, user training, and close support for the two weeks post-launch.

UBDS also provided knowledge transfer through documenting standard operating procedures, knowledge articles, and conducting workshops with the GreenSquare team.

This is a hallmark of UBDS projects, empowering our clients to enable them to become self-sufficient.

At all stages, UBDS executed meticulous stakeholder communications and adhered to GreenSquare’s governance and signoff processes. UBDS staff worked as an ‘embedded team,’ interacting with the business and technical stakeholders daily, and took full delivery and technical ownership of the end solution.

“The team at UBDS really stepped up to the plate and helped us achieve a working solution in 8 weeks using the Microsoft Power Platform. With their expertise in design, planning and deployment, our app was in the hands of the site surveyors and asset managers within record time. The training and knowledge transfer that UBDS provided for our technical and asset management teams, enabled us to adopt this new application quickly allowing for maximum user adoption. It has allowed us to bring our Surveying teams fully in-house and provide us with tangible cost savings.”

— Rob Glenister, Director of Strategy, Performance and Planning

The Outcome: A business-critical low-code app

The UBDS team designed, developed, migrated to, and went live with a business-critical, highly customisable low-code application. This project was completed over an ambitious 8-week period and catered for the operational requirements of the GreenSquare’s Site Surveyors and the Asset Managers.

The new application was built on Microsoft’s Power Platform which met all the requirements and provided additional enhancements. These included, but were not limited to:

  • The ability to function completely offline, including capturing 200 images on a mobile device
  • Integration with Line of Business systems
  • Automated reporting that demonstrated compliance with Government standards for housing
  • The ability to predict when assets will fail standards, as well as forecasting the associated repair costs

GreenSquare is absolutely delighted with the outcome. Having experienced the capabilities of Microsoft Power Platform, the company is planning future business application transformations using Microsoft’s Power Platform.

This will enable GreenSquare Accord to support their joint ambition of delivering greater contributions to local communities.

“The work with UBDS was delivered at pace, which was a real cultural shift for us. We loved it and want to keep this momentum up. What we achieved in two months would have usually taken our organisation more than a year!”

— Vicki Pinchbeck, Digital Development Specialist

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