"Everyone 'did whatever', while we wanted more control."
About 10 years ago, roller cabinets full of paper documents were replaced by digital storage. This internal digitization also marked the start of the collaboration with SmartDocuments. Housing corporation Trivire was ready to improve their external communication.
With its 15,000 rental units and 190 employees, housing corporation Trivire is the largest housing lessor in South Holland South. Trivire accommodates specific target groups with lower incomes and mainly rents out single-family houses, maisonettes, flats, ground-floor houses and upstairs houses. Many different types of housing, for many different types of tenants. It makes the work versatile, but also challenging. The same goes for the external communication. Raymond van der Vlies, advisor on information management, and Wilma Hamar de la Brethonière, employee digital communication & information, know all about it. They have been working with SmartDocuments for about 10 years now and have experienced the improvements made in communication up close.
Left: Raymond van der Vlies, information management consultant
Right: Wilma Hamar de la Brethonière, Digital Communications and Information employee
"You are 'forced' to make your letters in a certain way. Something that leads to uniformity."
Overflow of documents
A lot of communication send out to tenants equals a lot of documents. Documents that used to be stored in large filing cabinets, until the digital archive arrived in 2010. A radical change that was accompanied by the wish for more uniformity in communication. A wish with which SmartDocuments could help. Raymond: "The communication department felt the need to standardize more documents. Until then, everyone wrote their own letters. Everyone 'did whatever', while we wanted more control. This was made possible by working with SmartDocuments". Wilma also remembers this well: "There used to be a chaos of documents. So we asked SmartDocuments: how can we standardize documents and automatically store them in our DMS?” Since then, SmartDocuments is the software used by Trivire for correspondence with tenants. Wilma: "Thanks to SmartDocuments, we now work with standard letters. This 'forces' you to make your letters in a certain way, which automatically leads to uniformity."
The user's opinion comes first
Within each organization, existing work processes and associated systems are periodically reviewed. And so, it came to pass that Trivire implemented a change in working methods in 2013. A change that led to a reconsideration of the collaboration with SmartDocuments. Wilma: "We switched to a different way of working. Because the SmartDocuments software was well integrated with our other systems, everyone was satisfied with it. The users indicated that they wanted to continue working with SmartDocuments.” A change on the SmartDocuments side also made a difference. "Initially, SmartDocuments outsourced the maintenance of their templates to an external party," says Wilma. "Unfortunately, we have had less good experiences with this. When SmartDocuments sent its own consultants in 2014, it gave us the opportunity to collaborate directly. That worked much better. They have more knowledge than an external party and are able to contact their own programmers directly in the event of problems. This was a key point for us to regain satisfaction with the cooperation".
Office of Trivire
The link with a new ERP system
Like many organizations, Trivire prefers to work with as few different systems as possible. When they switched to a new ERP system in 2017, this was a reason to re-examine working with SmartDocuments. Raymond: "It was another moment of reconsideration. Even then it was decided to keep SmartDocuments. This was a strong wish from our colleagues.” Wilma adds: “The correspondence module in the ERP system did not offer the extensive possibilities that SmartDocuments offers, such as the question and answer fields and working with building blocks. The obvious advantages of SmartDocuments were the deciding factor. We are really spoiled by all the possibilities the system offers. You don't want to compromise on those possibilities. This was a strong argument in favour of keeping this package. In principle, you don't want to have too many applications alongside each other, unless it really adds something". In order to be able to use both applications side by side, Trivire had an integration built - an integration that they are the first corporation in the Netherlands to use.
Reduce susceptibility to error
Wilma: "We have more than 100 document templates in SmartDocuments. Few new templates will be added". Raymond confirms this: "All our rental agreements are now in SmartDocuments. This enables our users to find the right agreement quickly and easily". And the latter is important is due to the many types of agreements Trivire has to deal with. Because no matter how simple it may seem to draw up a rental agreement, the many different versions make this a rather complex process. Wilma: "Imagine for example a house where there is no gas and where one has to cook on electricity. There are additional conditions for this, which are included in the tenancy agreement. Or think of assisted living, or a home for young people. Different conditions apply to each type of rent. When you select the right type of housing in SmartDocuments, the right additional conditions will automatically appear in the document. This used to be very error prone", adds Raymond. "In those cases an incorrect contract was signed. So from a legal point of view you had a problem". Thanks to SmartDocuments this is largely a thing of the past. Although there will always be a bit of manual work left. Wilma: "If you are going to build a tenancy agreement and you have a choice of 10 to 15 different options, then of course you have to click on the right one. Using SmartDocuments, it is already a lot less prone to errors. In addition, we experience much more ease of use: it provides uniformity and letters are well archived in our DMS".
"We are really spoiled by all the possibilities that the system offers.”
On way to the cloud
Trivire is currently working on a full migration to the cloud. The last steps will be taken in 2022, but SmartDocuments is already fully migrated. This means that Trivire is now working with the web version, which has been extensively tested prior to going live. There were some difficulties, according to Raymond, 'which is logical'. "People often think about these sorts of things too easily", says Wilma. "The whole process took a lot longer than anticipated. Even in cases when it takes a little longer, it's worth it when you find a solution together. The final result counts.’' And both of them agree: the result is good. Going live went well from the start. What's more: hardly anyone in the organisation noticed anything about it. The web version offers numerous new functions. The preview function really stands out for Wilma and Raymond. "A real added value," says Wilma.
Another digitisation battle to be waged
The new web version of SmartDocuments is mainly a change within the organisation. The tenants of Trivire are not noticing much of this at the moment. Raymond: "We still have to make steps in digitisation towards the tenant. There are nice new modules in the web version of SmartDocuments, but they will only become interesting once the digitisation process has been completed. You cannot force people to digitise”, Wilma and Raymond emphasise. However, that doesn't mean that nothing has yet been digitised for the tenants. For example, Trivire works with a digital tenant portal, in which tenants can find all correspondence sent from the moment it goes live. About 20% of the tenants currently use this digital portal, but the aim is to approach as many tenants as possible completely digitally. Of course there will always be options for tenants for whom this is not possible.
Customisation and the right support
There is no doubt that the relationship with SmartDocuments is good. Wilma: "SmartDocuments delivers a piece of customisation, but they also offer me the necessary support. I manage it on my own and I don't have anyone within Trivire with whom I can discuss the content or consult with. The support from SmartDocuments is therefore important.’' Raymond is also positive: "The relationship is good. The advantage is that you can talk about anything. If you're not satisfied, there is always a solution. With other parties we sometimes have an escalation that has to be resolved at executive level, but never with SmartDocuments, for example. They're always prepared to think along with us.”