Stonewater transforms data management amid wider digital overhaul

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

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 large amount of data and documentation relating to payments, maintenance, tenancy management, and 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, including earlier this year, where it helped the housing association integrate its two cornerstone software systems to improve how its development data is managed and processed.

Charles Brooks, Consulting director and partner at 3C, said: “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.”

Ian Heuston, Technical director at Blacklight Software, said added: “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.”

AI integration

On the impact of the AI, Patel added: “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.

Latest Stonewater news:

“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.”

Social housing provider Stonewater manages around 33,600 homes in England for over 75,000 customers.

Image: Darren Regis-Williams, quality assurance analyst in Stonewater’s IT governance team, using the new system

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