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Shine Like It Does

This blog post from Tony Smith (thathousingITguy) reviews the Illumar product and how this provides “a major leg-up to pull in off the shelf data definitions, with the added layer of innovation around data quality.”

Around reporting, sadly “The Story Since Time Began”, has been that most standard software reporting is pretty poor, an afterthought if you are lucky, maybe some columns that go to a ‘spooler’. (FTAF is a ‘spooler’?). Now this amazes me as so many people are looking to procure new solutions, especially integrated housing systems and then will need a BI tool to make the undoubtedly pretty graphs that make it easy for the Board to understand the data. .

Have you ever attended a software demo, where the supplier opened with all their space cadet reports, blowing the audience away, before all that stuff that will support your core processes? Nor me during my time in Social Housing or before that in Healthcare.

I sometimes, especially these days see some sexy PowerBI reports wheeled out, unfortunately excitement going flat, like a day old opened bottle of Prosecco, when these are just ‘examples’ for this particular demo. I despair when the excuse is, “well your organisation might not have the necessary PowerBI licences”. Suppliers don’t seem to see those ‘examples’, if given free, would be the gateway drug to selling much more report consultancy further down the line. Its not how your local ‘Mr Pharmacist’ works.

More likely your prospective supplier will describe how some ‘train the trainer’ will happen and your staff will then be capable of knocking out your 35 KPI’s and board reporting pack. Even more likely, you will realise the 35 reports are missing the week after go-live and you will spend an arm and a leg with your supplier to do them for you, over the next 12 months.

And after having done all this one of the operational departments will turn up with a spreadsheet showing that in fact the performance isn’t as bad as reported because of “data issues” between the different systems. Is this sounding familiar?

See diagram here >

Well meaning visionaries for getting on for a half a decade, have sold many seminars & conference slots around agreeing a ‘UK Housing Data Standard’ to overcome the data issues created by the different ways databases hold, structure and update data. Interestingly, software providers have not been killed in the rush to re-write all their solutions to any of these templates. Its costing many of them short of £10m each to just port solutions to the cloud and browser presentation. The chances of them all reorganising their data structures, is next to zero. Chances of all their customers paying for a project like that, would get even lower odds.

So, clearly a different and much better approach is desperately needed by many, who are struggling to hand craft and hand crank a bespoke framework for reporting. I am aware of two local RSL’s, near me in the North West of England, who are utilising a new innovative solution called Illumar, to organise, cleanse, manage and (at last) properly make data work for them.

Illumar is part of Inprova, best known for hosting PfH, have worked with NHS systems data and is now starting to crack the more popular integrated platforms, such as Orchard/Promaster, Aareon QL and others. From what I have seen, this provides a major leg-up to pull in off the shelf data definitions, with the added layer of innovation around data quality. Readers of this blog will be well aware of my protestations in this area. So many performance teams are massaging/correcting their stats, rather than correcting core data. Its unique ‘Jail-IT’ facility shines a spotlight on poor quality and nonsense data, rather than sweeping it under the corporate carpet. This allows audit right back to source, whether that is in multiple tables or in many solutions. Thus tackling the traditional low levels of confidence in data quality internally and externally when reported.

A productised data management structure, driven by low code, provides the ‘major leg up’, taking 85% or more of the legwork out of the data discovery phase. Most organisations have some disparate applications and these can be easily knitted in, to a full Microsoft/SQL Server cloud delivered product stack. One of the key benefits is that the structure documents itself, overcoming one of the major Achilles Heel’s of the traditional internal ICT developer led data management and application strategies that of building technical debt as the systems typically outlast the tenure of the particular developer who has done the coding.

See diagram here >

As more of the ‘usual suspects’ major solutions are mapped, a true off-the-shelf route looks to be available at last, for better corporate reporting. As last many will finally be able to exploit the real value of the data we all hold.

Chatting to Zahir Yasin at ForViva, it’s clear that with the Illumar tool, they have moved faster in four months, than possibly that same number of years. He describes it as “the fastest way to get an enterprise data warehouse up and running. We’re integrating our finance system, QL and Promaster then starting with automating SDR and our board PI’s”. If I have the chance over the next few months I will try to organise a webinar together with Zahir.  

This shows just what is possible, when with our existing data, we take a very different approach. For those RSL’s considering building new solutions with Microsoft D365, they could also use Illumar in reverse. Start with the unified social housing data layer and use that to organise their new solution, rather than get tied up in MVP and potentially another bespoke data structure.

As the Michael Hutchence lyric goes, ‘You Will Find It’, Illumar will help you find it faster, clean it up and drop it into your initial KPI & board formats. Do check it out and let me know what you make of it – INXS –  Shine Like It Does

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