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How to choose service charge software

Service charges remain a perennial source of pain to housing associations, but if you’re looking to procure software to remove that pain, nothing is more important than the tender process.

First and most crucial is to establish clear objectives. What exactly do you want the software to do? What functions must it include? And how must it integrate with existing housing and financial systems?

Clear and documented objectives are the only way to make a well-informed decision about which solution to choose.

The second factor is: who scores the tender? After many years serving the sector, we’re clear on the most important stakeholder, and that’s the service charge team. These are the people who will use the software on a daily basis. These are the people with the business problem that the system has to solve.

Only the service charge team can ensure a system that meets your objectives, that gets the desired results. Frequently we find tenders run by the IT department – simply because “it’s software” – and yet IT’s concerns are often completely at odds with the business need.

Thirdly, all tenders nowadays have to consider social value – indeed, the Government’s Social Value Model (2020) mandates a minimum weighting of 10% of the overall score. Government guidance seems aimed at construction projects, where environmental and social concerns are more easily defined. But even in software procurement you can identify social considerations in your tender, such as job creation, charitable donations and the nature of the shortlisted companies themselves.

Finally, do your research. Narrow your shortlist by visiting housing associations who have already implemented service charge systems. See the issues they’ve encountered and the lessons they’ve learnt. See how well the various suppliers have provided support.

A successful tender for service charge software needs careful consideration of all of the above. Clear objectives, the primary involvement of the service charge team, and business needs front and center. Awareness of the software landscape – which products are available, how successfully they’re being used – will give added confidence in your shortlist. And considering social value in your tender will help you demonstrate a commitment to wider social and economic objectives.