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RPs are currently seeking a more commercial approach to running their maintenance services, many with a transformation programme in place.

We work with Executive teams in the social housing sector to help them to achieve the repairs and maintenance model that is right for them and each have different decisions to make unique to their circumstances. However all have to consider the role of their asset management and ‘client’ functions in terms of their internal maintenance options.

Does the group who might bring their R&M services in-house need to client their internal ‘contractor’ in the way it does its external contractor?

Does the group who has a strong client over its DLO continue to ‘man-mark’ its performance?

And does the group who hadn’t even considered clienting their internal service start to do so?

Some deeper issues start to arise in this discussion, primarily coming back to performance management and trust.

  • What additional value does the Clienting function bring?
  • What confusion can it cause in accountability?
  • Does it end up in a dog fight with the client/contractor at the cost of the customer?
  • Does it actually make sense that Senior DLO staff are being run by less experienced client officers?

Given that other key functions of the organisation delivered by internal teams do not have a ‘Big Brother’ watching over them we don’t believe that an internal maintenance team should be treated differently.

Organisations often think they are being more commercial by using a clienting function, but in our experience, it is often more wasteful and a blocker to progress and service improvement.  One option is for the internal maintenance director to reports into the same executive director as the head of assets which provides the opportunity to attribute the accountability for both services with the executive team.  However, with many RPs attempting to join assets with development functions, for understandable reasons, the need for clear ownership and accountability becomes even greater.

At Vantage we believe that accountability for financial performance and service delivery should sit with both the service manager and the executive team.  Otherwise, the management conflict creates a distraction from what’s really important – being able to improve and develop the service.

This establishes the right culture and creates a golden thread of accountability from the bottom up.  Executive Directors need to understand how the internal maintenance service works and what good performance looks like in order to influence change.

If you insist on clienting the internal maintenance service, you need to ask why. Is it down to trust? Is it down to the size of the budgets in those areas? Have previous and even current governance requirements driven this requirement? Is it really steeped in out-dated thinking that does not really get to the root causes of performance issues?

One thing that is clear and proven with our work setting up and transforming services is that you can build a very successful maintenance service by establishing and embedding the right infrastructure and culture, without the need for creating duplication, fragmented accountability and the inherent divisive behaviours that it can bring.

Vantage are repairs and maintenance specialists, working with housing providers to transform services and drive business improvement.