De Woonplaats, a real estate company, created from a merger of 7 housing associations in the East of the Netherlands, can be characterized as an innovative real estate company with strong ambitions, which operates in a dynamic market. The transition from a more task-oriented to a fully process-oriented organization has been put in motion.
The challenge: more direction in business operations
The objectives here are to achieve a ‘smarter organization’ with ‘lean’ processes and more direction in business operations. It also necessary to anticipate and take into account the expectation that government, at a national and European level, will be taking (more) measures in the coming years that may have financial consequences.
Among other things, the 2014 wealth tax, corporate tax, the income assessment and an inflation linked rent policy mean that the processes must be managed much better. The board, managers and team leaders faced a big challenge because the reports used up until then were not sufficiently up to date and reliable.
The reports were also inconsistent with each other, the definitions were insufficiently clear and the management information was not fully linked to the strategy. It is therefore not surprising that the old information system could not be used to really manage really critical issues. “There is great need for better information and management. The staff experience this daily.” says the Director Fons Catau.
The management decided, inspired by among other things by David Parmenter’s book on KPIs, that this had to change and could be much better and they asked Passionned Group for their support in doing this. De Woonplaats then set itself the target of developing a simple system of key performance indicators (KPIs), key result indicators (KRIs) and performance indicators (PIs) and subsequently implementing this.
The result: towards a smart corporation
For the last two years, everybody has worked hard to eliminate the ‘backlog’ in management. This has led to the following results:
- More collaboration and managing together: a culture has arisen that is more focused on working together and recognising the interdependencies in the process.
- A system of KPIs and KRIs: the indicators are interconnected and are now showing interdependency and are linked to objectives. Interlinkages are made as transparent as possible.
- Role-based dashboards for everyone: the board, managers, team leaders and team members click on ‘my dashboard’ and immediately see their relevant indicators in the form of meters and charts. With one click of the mouse, you can analyze and filter the information. A new feature is that everyone can take on a different role. In this way, a team leader can ‘crawl’ into the skin of his or her manager and see how they look at him or her. And team leaders and managers can watch together.
- Supervisory Board Dashboard: the supervisory board has been given its own dashboard in the form of a fully automated quarterly report. It can be called up with one press of a button. This added a remote monitoring facility, which led to greater involvement.
- Clear definitions and one source: all indicators now have clear definitions and there is one source for management information for everyone.
- Reliable and current information: the indicator definitions are made as exact as possible. At the same time, the quality of the data is improved and dashboards are updated every day.
- Opportunities for immediate analysis: indicators which are in the red can be analyzed immediately, if desired, to the lowest level of detail.
“With the introduction of the (K)PIs, the performance of the various divisions became clear at a glance and actions were undertaken in order to improve this performance. Thus we could adjust our policy when it became clear that parking spaces have great influence on the vacancy rate. Now homes are rented including a parking space, where possible. Also it is now easier to determine the desired strategy on the basis of maintenance and quality of life expenditure per residential complex.”
Hannelie van Asselt
Phase 1: effective management and to get an idea of the indicators.
It was decided to start simply, but based on a clear framework and plan. A so-called strategy map was established with the management team and the board in a few weeks. Such a map provides insight into the critical processes for being able to continue to achieve the objectives such as ‘subsequent rental’ and ‘actively encouraging independent living’. The performance of these processes are translated into ‘measuring instruments’: the key performance indicators (KPIs) and key result indicators (KRIs). The residential and real estate teams went to work simultaneously to map, from their own perspective, initially independently of the strategy, the performance indicators (PIs) desired for them.
Phase 2: building cubes
Both sets of indicators are merged, aligned to each other, deduplicated and provided with the clearest possible definition. Subsequently we looked at the source systems to be used for the data to be obtained when queries are made. Their contents are collected in so-called cubes that are accessible to users through an integrated scorecard in Excel. The cubes were updated daily. Here they could follow the indicators that were specifically of interest to them.
Phase 3: working with the scorecards and gaining experience
It is to be expected with this type of project is that the figures in the first reports and dashboards are almost never correct, especially in the user’s perception. The definition is not exact enough, the quality of the data is inadequate and/or people see no connection to existing reports that do show correct information in their eyes. This was also the case with the first version of the scorecards. Yet they started working with them to gain experience and at the same time to get the definitions clearer and to find out what indicators really matter and which do not. That year attention was also paid to the behavioral skills necessary to make Business Intelligence a success. These BI competencies are identified, discussed with the managers and team leaders and on the basis thereof the job descriptions are honed.
Phase 4: optimization & professionalization
We have been working with the scorecards for almost a year. All findings of the project organization and the users are collected and on the basis thereof an action plan was written to improve them optimization. Four matters were flagged as needing substantial improvement:
- Better visualization of indicators: too many indicators were still presented at once in the Excel scorecards. The amount of numbers on the first screen proved to be too much, hardly any attention had been paid until then to good visualization. That meant there was an excess of ‘information’. In various discussions, there was an examination of which indicators are really important and in which form these could be visualized. Only the most essential indicators are now presented in a dashboard with meters and graphs in a business intelligence tool. The details are displayed on subsequent pages, if they are wanted.
- Increasing the accessibility of management information: starting Excel, opening the correct scorecard and scrolling proved to take just a little too much time every time. Time that managers and team leaders often did not have. It was decided to turn the scorecards into personalized dashboard pages in a SharePoint portal. Immediately after starting up, the user sees his or her indicators linked to the strategic objectives and the relevant score in meters and graphs. Filtering and analyzing is possible with a single click of the mouse.
- Improving the structure of the database: the analysis database from which the dashboards get the management information is completely redesigned according to design principles associated with a robust, future-proof and reliable information provision.
- Minimising management costs: in order to minimize the costs for developing, building and maintaining dashboards, a dashboard generator has been designed. A dashboard page is generated based on meta definitions in SharePoint lists (organizational roles, objectives, indicators, filters and the interconnections between them) for each role. Building a new dashboard has become a matter of hours; modifying an existing dashboard is a matter of minutes.
“The performance management system was designed together with Passionned and the necessary key performance indicators, cubes and dashboards were built and put into use. The measurement results can be easily analyzed with the current dashboards and the impact of the improvement actions taken can be immediately measured. As a result, both the managers and the supervisory board are in a much better position to be able to steer the organization effectively towards its objectives.”
Success factors and points for attention
Much attention has been paid to cultural aspects and the processes. It was decided to learn from the results of short projects, as if playing a game. A big bang scenario was not at issue. Performance Management should be able to ‘land safely’. All levels in the organization are involved and started to influence the new way of managing (from the top down and from the bottom up).
Business analysts have been appointed who are responsible for the analysis of the figures, their distribution and the maintenance of the dashboards, among others. Managers and team leaders therefore know where to go for the answers to their questions.
Admittedly, the strategic objectives have been quite prominent, but too much emphasis was never placed on them. People have been educated by training-on-the-job to perform the ‘entire process’ themselves, with the assistance of external BI consultants and project facilitators where necessary.
Services and products used:
- The Netherlands Quality Institute (INK) for Intelligent organizations
- Strategy & smarter managers and strategy maps
- Data warehouse architecture
- Business Intelligence Tools survey
- BI Project Management
About the role-based dashboards – framework
The dashboards are defined by organizational role as well as by objectives, indicators and filters. This concept ensures that meta data is used to automatically generate interactive dashboard pages for each role. This makes the system easy to maintain, easily expandable, fast and very flexible. The main features of the dashboard framework:
- It works on the basis of roles, with their associated TCRs;
- It is driven by meta data and is therefore easy to maintain and expand;
- Results are cached, so very fast response times are possible;
- BI apps can be created in a few days.