Following the merger between Great Places and Equity Housing Groups on 1 April 2020, we are creating a new, ambitious company combining the values and balance sheets of the two organisations. It will be an ethical, customer-focused business that delivers efficient, fantastic services that is geared up to play its role in meeting the housing supply crisis head-on.
At the point of merger we embarked on a two-year Integration Programme to realise the benefits of the partnership, as outlined in the Business Case.
Over the past 12 months we have been delivering our transformational change programme to deliver the objectives of our merger, which include:
On 1 April 2021 we celebrated our achievements including the launch of a new two-year tactical Corporate Plan, “Building Greatness”. The Plan sets out our targets and ambitions associated with growing and improving as an organisation while remaining a vision-driven and values-led housing association. It articulates our strategic objectives for the future, framed around our vision of “Great Homes, Great Communities, Great People” – with a focus on stability, collaboration and ambition.
The Board was heavily involved in developing the new Corporate Plan and the targets and ambitions that are contained within it. In addition, we captured the views of over 400 customers and numerous colleagues through workshops, conferences and team meetings. In our most recent colleague survey 96 per cent said they know and understand what Great Places’ purpose, vision and values are.
Within the Corporate Plan, we have clearly articulated our ambition to develop 9000 new homes by 2028, with an expectation that the vast majority will be for social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership. In addition, we have a ‘support and sustain’ focus around working with more vulnerable customers through tenancy support services, and collaborative programmes including Greater Manchester Housing First.
Away from the Plan, the focus for the first year of the Integration Programme was primarily on aligning corporate services, and all of the year one milestones were achieved in the 12 months following the merger.
Two members of the former Equity Board joined the Great Places Board from the date of the merger.
Following a six-month transitional period, all teams are now aligned under single senior leadership, providing the necessary support and direction to colleagues as we progress through integration and beyond.
Even before the merger date, colleagues from across both legacy organisations were engaged in developing the target operating culture for the new Great Places. This has now been launched, and will really come to life through the new colleague deal and colleague behaviours, which will be launched in year two. We really are GREATER Together and during our first year, we have established ONE:
There’s even more to come in the second and final year of our Integration Programme, in which the focus shifts to the customer-facing aspects of our business. We’ve already seen the launch of a new Dynamic Resourcing Scheduler in our Repairs team that is minimising travel time and allowing us to deliver improved services to customers.
In the coming months we will launch our Centre of Excellence, aiming to make real waves in the shared ownership market.
A huge area of focus is around the launch of Aareon, the new housing management system for the whole organisation. Aareon is the single biggest project within the programme, and it’s the means by which we can have true integration in many of our customer-facing services and realise some of the customer and efficiency benefits of the merger.
Implementing Aareon will make us more efficient, allow us to better manage all key processes and provide enhanced services. Having everything in one place will make colleagues’ lives much easier too by automating some processes and helping us deliver a joined-up approach. Critically, Aareon’s customer relationship management functionality will allow us to reorganise our data to provide a single view of the truth.
By the end of the Integration Programme in spring 2022, there will be a ‘one organisation’ thread running through everything that we do and we will be capable of evidencing our success by having a good reputation internally and externally; improving services by delivering on our ‘best of both’ approach; and being an organisation that our colleagues are proud to work for.