Digitisation For Housing Association Efficiency
Woonstad Rotterdam Transforms Tenant Administration Using Iron Mountain’s Comprehensive Information Management Services
Need to improve access to tenant files and relocate physical files to rationalise office space
Digitisation of active files with off-site storage of paper-based records and secure destruction option for time-elapsed documents
Immediate file access has improved business efficiency and customer service while reducing costs
Woonstad Rotterdam is a housing association that provides affordable homes for the people of Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands. Woonstad Rotterdam is a not-for-profit foundation, governed by an elected supervisory board. Woonstad Rotterdam owns and manages around 48,000 houses in the city, as well as a small number of shops and other commercial properties.
One of the world’s largest shipping ports, Rotterdam has a large immigrant population, which means that there is a high demand for rented property. Woonstad Rotterdam had five primary offices across the city, each serving clients in the local area. Property rental contracts and other important paper documents specifying details of the rental property and the individual renter, combine to form comprehensive dossiers known as tenant files.
The custom had been to store these files on site at each office, but a plan to consolidate office space called this policy into question. Jeroen van Gent, Project Manager Information and Automation at Woonstad Rotterdam, explains: “We are always looking for ways to minimise our operating costs. Our office accommodation came under scrutiny. We decided to concentrate our service to clients in three offices and to make better use of the space available. In this way we created a more unified environment for our administrative functions.”
Under this new arrangement, space would be at a premium and there would be no room to store tenant files on site. Moreover, as tenants would be able to work with any of the three offices, each would need ready access to all tenant files.
“We chose Iron Mountain because it tabled a comprehensive proposal and we considered it a company we could trust. Information management is its core business and it offered us a complete solution at a fair price.”
Jeroen van Gent, Project Manager Information and Automation
Digitising the tenant files looked like the answer for Woonstad Rotterdam. Following a routine sales call some months previously, the housing association had learned more about Iron Mountain’s broad range of services and so, along with three other organisations, it invited Iron Mountain to tender.
“Overall I don’t think the project could have gone better. Iron Mountain was very professional and flexible throughout and everything has been completed on time and on budget. What more could one ask?”
Jeroen van Gent, Project Manager Information and Automation Woonstad Rotterdam
The proposal from Iron Mountain included the scanning and indexation of all active tenant files, off-site records management for the paper documents, plus the option of secure disposal of files when they were no longer required. It also included the services of a pre-sales consultant to help plan the project.
Jeroen van Gent says: “We chose Iron Mountain because it tabled a comprehensive proposal and we considered it a company we could trust. Information management is its core business and it offered us a complete solution at a fair price.”
The first phase of the project was executed over a four-month period and involved the collection and scanning of around 50,000 active tenant files contained in some 3,500 boxes. This was achieved at a rate of 200 boxes of documents a week. Each file can typically contain 50 pages of information and each was scanned into a sectionalised structure and stored as a PDF file. Advanced optical character recognition was used to ensure the quality of each scan and help validate document integrity.
Rather than being hosted and made available over the web via the Iron Mountain digital records centre for images (DRCI), Woonstad Rotterdam chose to have images delivered on a hard drive for direct upload to its internal IT systems. Jeroen van Gent adds: “Iron Mountain provided people to work at each of our sites to prepare the paper records for transfer. Business disruption was kept to a minimum. Within 24 hours of collection, we were able to retrieve any file, either by accessing the electronic record or by requesting the return of the paper files for next day delivery.”
Having tenant files available online has transformed the association’s administration department. Any tenant file can now be referenced at any location at any time by authorised staff. Another advantage is that files are now available to other departments across the business, such as the building maintenance division. This has enhanced teamwork and improved efficiency throughout the organisation.
Jeroen van Gent says: “Having our files available digitally has given us a much more productive working environment. We no longer need to waste time searching for physical files and we’ve been able to make much better use of the office space we’ve freed up. In addition, our records are far more secure because people can’t walk off with them, misplace them, or misfile them.”
As well as enabling cost savings from more effective use of premium office space there has been a spin-off customer service benefit. With tenant files more immediately available, customers can be served quickly in a single transaction, so the need for them to revisit an office or be called back after a phone enquiry has greatly reduced.
“Overall, I don’t think the project could have gone better,” concludes Jeroen van Gent. “Iron Mountain was very professional and flexible throughout and everything has been completed on time and on budget. What more could one ask?” With the success of the tenant file scanning project Woonstad Rotterdam is planning for Iron Mountain to conduct a similar project to digitise HR files for its 500 employees.