Stonewater completes latest IT project as part of its digital transformation programme

Stonewater has become one of the first housing providers to transform its data management processes as part of a holistic solution to improve how data is managed, handled and stored across the organisation.

Darren Regis Williams, Quality Assurance Analyst In Stonewater’S IT Governance Team, Using The New System

Prior to its announcement that the organisation will be moving to a hybrid model following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Stonewater has been working alongside technical and project delivery advisors, 3C and Blacklight Software to upgrade its analogue data handling solutions.

With more than 75,000 customers, Stonewater generates a great deal of data and documentation relating to payments, maintenance, tenancy management and much more. The aim of the project was to improve accessibility to Stonewater’s systems, whilst also meeting stringent compliance and security requirements.

Amit Patel, Stonewater’s Director of IT said: “To support our digital transformation ambitions, we knew we needed to explore replacing our existing Documotive electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), e-post and invoice processing systems to be fully digital and integrated with our housing and asset management systems.

“Whilst we couldn’t find any other examples of this currently being done by any other housing associations, we were determined to implement systems with electronic post system and purchase to pay (P2P) capability that would integrate with our web-based, collaborative platform SharePoint.”

3C has been supporting Stonewater for a number of years with its broader data innovation project and earlier this year successfully supported the housing association with integrating its two cornerstone software systems to improve how its development data is managed and processed.

Charles Brooks, Consulting Director & Partner at 3C added: “It was important that a project of this size had the appropriate governance in place, and we worked alongside the internal team to map out and deliver the transition over a two-year period, most of which was achieved remotely.”

According to Ian Heuston, Technical Director at Blacklight Software: “The combination of a cloud-based strategy and the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), tightly aligned to existing software and processes was key.

“We started this project pre-Covid, and our cloud strategy proved invaluable when the pandemic hit. For us, embedding AI into Stonewater’s processes has been valuable in the face of present challenges but also positions Stonewater for future demands and will give sustained improvements.”

Amit Patel explains the impact of the AI: “When our suppliers upload their invoices onto our contractor payment portal DigiPay, Microsoft’s AI is able to extract the data from the supplier invoice to match to the order, gain approval and then integrate the information into our finance system, Microsoft Dynamics GP.

“This has led to a significant increase in invoice approval, which has also improved the efficiency of our payments to suppliers and maximised security to protect our suppliers’ data.  We’ve found that the only time human intervention is needed is if there is a reported mismatch or data error.  But even then, the queries can generally be resolved online.

“Our vision has always been that technology should help drive service efficiency and improvement across the organisation. The transformation of our systems means that we are able to offer a more flexible, responsive and improved service to our customers, whilst also ensuring we can manage and access data more effectively to support our decision making.

“The changes have also dramatically improved how our colleagues access any systems and information they may need whilst working on-site or remotely in non-office locations, which has become increasingly important following our transition to hybrid working.”